One of the most fascinating things that I have discovered about the graphic novel is how many depict writers’ attempts to plumb the depths of their (or their families’) souls in poignant and uncomfortable ways. Uncomfortable for them. Uncomfortable for us. Sometimes, the best literature is the kind that leaves us feeling unsettled afterward.
When it leaves you feeling somewhat apathetic, that’s either a sign that you haven’t done something correctly…or that your audience reads too many disturbing memoirs.
I think Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic falls mostly into this latter category. I’ve read several graphic novel memoirs of darkly revelatory natures. I’ve also read several regular memoirs that deal with similar issues and vices as those of Ames’s protagonist (admittedly, though, Ames is the first one to feature an “octogenarian dwarf” in his storyline). Ames falls somewhere in the middle of these previous reads. His story about his submersion into alcohol and drugs is compelling, his writing style is engaging, and the accompanying artwork by illustrator Dean Haspiel is clean and sometimes clever. However, I think the cover art is the most appealing design work from this book. I love the components of the bar scene used in such a tantalizing tableau.
I don’t mean to come across as so dismissive of Ames’s novel. If you aren’t like me and make a habit of picking up similar works on a regular basis, you might find this to be a provocative memoir. Ames is honest and oftentimes quite funny in that self-deprecating way mastered by the damaged. The ending is patently predictable, but that can be forgiven in light of a solidly and entertainingly told story preceding it.
Final Verdict: Again, it was an interesting diversion, but not something that I foresee purchasing for my library.