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Autobiographical confessions of an alcoholic novelist. Gold is remembered for his first story collection, Nickel Miseries (1963), and first novel Sick Friends (1969). Then came 20 years of silence. Apparently, until 1975 he taught creative writing in Boston and practiced noncreative drinking. Here, Gold's alter ego Jason Sams (the hero of Sick Friends) starts out in a kind of Lost Weekend after he loses his job in Boston and drunkenly goes down to Manhattan to reenter ""the literary wars."" (His wife, by the way, goes to Al-Anon.) Over double Scotches at lunch, he tries to sell a new novel, without a word written, to an editor who resists all badgering and explains to Sams the new lay of the land in publishing Meanwhile, Sams touches old bases in Greenwich Village, recalls old drinking bouts at the White Horse and the San Remo, and muses about the many members of his Jewish family. The top scenes are between Sams and his all-forgiving father, and Sams passing out at the funeral of his father's twin brother. At last it's back to Boston, with an anxiety attack on the train. Sams finally confesses to his wife that he's an alcoholic, goes on Antabuse, and the subsequent AA scenes, despite being poorly dramatized, have a warmth that the earlier chapters of solitary handwringing lack. But this present novel is a great improvement over Sick Friends (called Slow Dying here, which even Sams/Gold dismisses as trivialized by obscenity). The opening chapters imitate the mind of the drinking writer, with his endless dependent clauses, which seems a mistake. And Sams, drunk or sober, is never a gripping character. How will Sams/Gold do as a writer now that he has sobriety? Gold himself needs another novel to get his forces fully together and write with impact. On this one: The jury is still out.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1990
ISBN: 0671755374
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin