A book explores a Midwesterner’s boyhood, loves, losses, immersion in the 1960s protest movements in California, and ultimate recognition of a damaging drinking problem.
The author bills this work as “fictionalized memoir.” It ends up being somewhat of an addiction/recovery tale. Born into a traditional working-class Roman Catholic household in Missouri, the narrator—calling himself David Crobak—loses his World War II veteran father early to tuberculosis and feels betrayed when his struggling single mother, haunted by a family history of suicide, uproots and moves to the Cleveland suburbs with a new, unreliable husband. Significantly, they open a small saloon business. David is a bookish youngster, as thrilled by literature and film as by the girls he hormonally pursues in high school and college in Ohio. Eschewing a liberal arts career, the hero gains a stable job with the post office and a less-stable marriage that takes him to California, where he experiences the ’60s protest movements and upheavals. Throughout, he indulges in the seemingly minor vices of racetrack betting, indulging in casual affairs, and drinking. While his marriage apparently crumbles amid mutual anomie and feminism, David gradually realizes that he suffers from alcoholism and grudgingly seeks help (no longer religious, he decides that the “higher power” is the collective will of the group members in a meeting). The way that Sedlock (The Nightdream, 1974) backs gracefully into the addiction topic saves the material from becoming 12-step program pamphleteering (although he has nothing but compliments for Alcoholics Anonymous). The narrator refuses to wallow in self-pity or blame any single trauma, bad gene, or setback (and there seem to have been a few) for his liquor habit, although in middle age, an amends-making trek to his Missouri hometown (now drug-ravaged) sorts out the truth from long-held misconceptions and inaccurate memories. It leaves him feeling that going to Cleveland probably was indeed a bad idea. Sedlock’s prose (especially when evoking childhood) is as sharp, glittering, and dead-on as the edges of a broken bottle, and he shows considerable generosity of spirit in granting even minor background figures deep inner lives and intellect.
An evocative narrative of one thoughtful man’s American life in the 20th century, overshadowed by politics, sex, guilt, and too many Happy Hours.