Drinking: a Love Story

Knapp, Caroline. Drinking: a Love Story.New York: the Dial Press, 1996.

Reason read: Prohibition was repealed in December

It is difficult to ready any story about a fall from grace, especially one written as honestly and bluntly as Caroline Knapp’s. The story winds its way around different out-of-control drinking; when Knapp drank, why she thought she drank so much, the people she affected with her drinking, the denials along the way. At times her stories seemed repetitive and meandering but that perception comes from the why of it all. Knapp was clearly in pain and had trouble rationalizing her rage. She brought two points home: you don’t need to have suffered a trauma to become addicted to anything and once you recognize your problem, your addiction is never again a normalized behavior. In the world of alcohol, most people think nothing of having a cocktail with friends, a beer after work. All of that became off limits to Knapp once she accepted her addiction. IAnd speaking of addiction, it is clear Knapp had an addictive personality. She was drawn to obsessions and performed rituals while drinking, rituals about food consumption to the point of anorexia, rituals in how she fought with her boyfriends. Even after sobriety, Knapp was drawn to obsessions concerning cleanliness and being constantly aware of how large a role alcohol plays in our society. Even the words “champagne bunch” grated on her abstinence. This latter point I often refer to as the “pregnant woman” syndrome. Fearing pregnancy or craving pregnancy causes one to see pregnant women everywhere. It’s all in the level of need want. In the end, Knapp was resolved to take one day at a time. She couldn’t set large goals for herself while her drinking was larger than her resolve. She was smart to know that every day was a major victory. Her story ends unresolved but hopeful.

As an aside, someone went through my copy of Drinking and marked a bunch of interesting passages. Here are a few, “Perception versus reality. Outside versus inside” (p 15), “”It is not so much that people like me hide the truth about our drinking from others (which most of us do, and quite effectively); it’s that we hide from others (and often ourselves) the truth about our real selves, about who we really are when we sit in our offices dashing off memos and producing papers and preparing presentations, about what is really churning beneath the surface” (p 16-17), and “…tension would hang over the room like a fog, a preoccupied silence that always made me feel wary, as though something bad was about to happen” (p 36).
My favorite line was “Add venom and stir, my own personal recipe for rage” (p 168).

Author fact: As I was checking out other reviews for Drinking I kept noticing reviewers would refer to Knapp in the past tense, “she was a writer.” Turns out, she died of lung cancer when she was just 42 years old. Strange how her smoking wasn’t really part of the story, and yet it was another addiction.

Book trivia: no photographs.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lost Weekends” (p 147).

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