Posts Tagged ‘lifelike characters’

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

Bodega Dreams

April 14, 2009

Author: Quinonez, Ernesto

Title: Bodega Dreams

Genre: Urban literature

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages: 213

Geographical Setting: Spanish Harlem

Time setting: Present day

Plot Summary: Love, murder, idealisms and Latin American emotion all play a part in the day to day world of Spanish Harlem. Julio Mercado, better known by his street name, Chino, has lived in Spanish Harlem since he was a young boy and has always been there for his lifelong friend Sapo. While Sapo went to work as a collector/enforcer for the neighborhood crime boss, Willie Bodega, Chino went to college, married his very religious grammar school crush and now has a child on the way. Chino is summoned by Bodega, through Sapo, and is asked by Bodega for a favor. At first he doesn’t like Bodega and denies him, but his affinity grows for him when he realizes Bodega is using money from his criminal enterprise to help the residents of the neighborhood better their lives. Chino helps Bodega with a favor, but no-one, especially Chino and Bodega, realizes that they have been double crossed by someone who they both considered an ally, until it’s too late.

Subject Headings: Puerto Ricans; Latin Americans; Latin American–religion; Latin American–growing up; Latin American–neighborhoods; Crime; Friendships; Latin American—marriage; Young marriage—problems.

Appeal Terms: Measured pace,unhurried , lifelike characters, strong secondary characters, well drawn characters, dramatic characters, flashbacks, menacing atmosphere, optimistic atmosphere, conversational language, candid language, natural language, plot twists, strong language, details of Latin American life, details of Latin American street life, details of Latin American family life, urban, dialect language.

Red Flags: Drug use, offensive language, violence.

Fiction read-a-likes

Carlito’s Way by Edwin Torres. Urban, Details of Latin American street life, plot twists.

A Nation of Amor by Christopher Connell. Details of Latin American street life, menacing atmosphere, urban.

Affinity for Trouble- A Puerto Rican story by Hector Varlea. Lifelike Characters, details of Latin American family life, natural language.

Non-Fiction read-a-likes

Down These Mean Streets By Piri Thomas. This is the classic memoir about the author’s life growing up in Spanish Harlem and the problems he faced as a Puerto Rican. He also recounts how he turned his life around after he hit rock bottom, going to prison, after a life of crime and drugs.

Barrio Dreams by Arlene Davila. This book examines the feelings of Latin Americans who live in Spanish Harlem and the feelings towards progress, politics, development, schooling and family, as well as other social issues in this very tiny and compact part of a large city.

My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez. Take a firsthand look inside the most fierce and largest Latin American gang, which started out a social movement to protect the interest of Latin Americans, but transformed into a criminal empire.


Hondo by Louie L’Amour

March 11, 2009

Author: Louis L’Amour

Title: Hondo

Genre: Western

Publication Date: 1983

Number of Pages: 191

Geographical setting: South East Arizona, Desert

Time Period: 19 century, During U.S. Westward expansion

Plot Summary: Army scout, part Apache, and very deadly with a gun, Hondo Lane, along with is dog Sam, are tactfully making their way across the desert on their way back to the fort after a run in with the Apache’s left Hondo horseless and the Apaches’ dead. He comes upon a ranch where he hopes to borrow a horse and finds the ranch is home to a woman and her son, whose husband is out with cattle, at least that’s the story she is telling. They are in a very dangerous situation, being all alone in Apache country without a man around, and Hondo tries to take them with him, for reasons other than their safety. The woman refuses to go, but later will regret that decision. After arriving back at the Army fort Hondo hears of the Apaches continued attacks on the “white man” and decides he is going back out to the dangerous desert to rescue the woman and her boy. Hondo is anticipating trouble from the Apaches as he makes his way across the desert, but unbeknownst to him, there is also trouble following him from the fort that has a particular interest in making sure he never makes it back to the ranch. Hondo must use his knowledge of the desert, his knowledge of the Apaches, as well as his colt rifle, if he wants to ever see the woman and her son again.

Subject Headings: Western; Arizona; Desert; Desert living; Indians–Apaches; Indian–wars; Tracking; Horses; Man–dog relationships; Man — boy relationships; Man–woman relationship; U.S Army–Apache wars; Gunmen.

Appeal: Steady pace, engaging characters, lifelike characters, realistic characters, action oriented, semi-violent, straight forward plotline, detailed setting, desert setting, accurate setting, details of life in the desert setting, details of Apache life setting, menacing atmosphere, foreboding, candid language, natural language, western dialect language.

Red Flags: Scalping, descriptions of death by guns, stabbed dog, horses shot.

Suggested Fiction

The Searchers by Alan Lemay. Man–Child relationship; Desert setting; Indians

A Town Called Fury by William Johnston. Indian aggression; Details of Western life; Man–Woman relationship.

Gunmen of the Desert Sands by Ralph Cotton. Details of Western Life; Gunmen; Man–Women relationship.

Suggested non-Fiction

Frontier by Louie L’Amour. A history of the people, the places and the ideas that shaped the West. This book will help the reader understand where one of the greatest writers of Western novels, L’Amour, gets his motivation and characters.

Shadow’s at Dawn: a Borderland Massacre and the Violence of History by Karl Jacoby. The True account the massacre of Apaches Indians performed by Americans, Mexicans and other Indian tribes early one morning in the desert. The book looks at the attack form all four viewpoints of the groups involved. The reader will gain a better understanding of the thoughts of the inhabits of the west in regards to each other and why they acted the way they did.

Elite 91: U.S Army Frontier Scouts 1840-1921 by Ron Field. The true stories of U.S. Army scouts who were used to guide soldiers, advise the Army about Indian war tactics and knew how to live off the land. Western readers will recognize the survival tactics described in this book as ones that characters in westerns often employ.

John B.