A memoir of drinking and its hold on all the other aspects of life.
In this set of joined essays, Coulter describes herself as “a grown, multi-degreed, loved, moneyed, professionally powerful woman.” For all that, she adds, she could not control her drinking, could not time it so that she wasn’t drinking all the time; she was, as the adage has it, powerless over the wine (and whatever else was on hand). Finally summoning up willpower, she quit in an evening she recalls mostly for its drab ordinariness: wait for the longing to hit, resist it, go to bed after “wandering and wanting and saying no.” As she writes, the author was fortunate to have a companion who, having enabled her drinking, enabled her sobriety as well; she was also fortunate to have the resources, psychic and otherwise, to be able to negotiate a path through a grown-up culture in which alcohol is everywhere. In a strong opening gambit, she describes being newly sober and working her way through a Whole Foods store choked with sale wines and through a business day in which “meeting” too often equals “drinks.” “Booze is the oil in our motors, the thing that keeps us purring when we should be making other kinds of noise,” she writes. There are some winning moments throughout the narrative, but too often the notes in Coulter’s book are repetitive, and the humor is more often forced than laugh-inspiring (“Croutons count as dinner. The starving people of the world will tell you croutons count”). On the plus side, the author deconstructs and often finds wanting the usual chipper here’s-how-to-quit advice, such as the thought that one shouldn’t drink in moments of sorrow, anxiety, loneliness, or other emotional stress, to which her knowingly world-weary answer is, “That’s funny.”
A readable but minor contribution to the literature of problem drinking, without the depth of now-classics such as Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story.