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Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
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Ablutions (2009)

by Patrick deWitt

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2691861,890 (3.49)29
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English (17)  French (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
DeWitt’s debut novel is a fascinating – and depressing - slide into addiction and self-loathing. If it is true that DeWitt’s resume of past employment includes six years bartending, that may explain the eerie realism that permeates this story. Told in second person narration, the story is a series of connected vignettes…. random descriptions of people and events being complied as material for a future novel by our narrator. I tend to love this more epistolary style of writing, even if it might not work for all readers.

The descriptions of the dank interior of the bar (think seedy dive bar in the wrong part of town), its flawed staff, the down and out ‘regulars’from teh fringes of society, the senseless acts of violence (and the just 'bad' random sex) coupled with the downward spiral of addiction (both alcohol and narcotics) are all perfect fodder for the dark, biting and off-colour humour DeWitt is known for with his award-winning story [Sisters Brothers]. While the majority of the "story" is focused in the dive bar and neighbourhood of Hollywood, the middle part of the story involves our narrator embarking on a driving journey/adventure that takes him into Arizona. Even though the mission is to “dry out”, our narrator’s tour has its expected results: more bars, more fights and more damage.

One might wonder just what is so fascinating about a book filled with flawed characters, drugs and alcohol? It all comes down to DeWitt’s skill as a writer. Through the vignettes, we get to see our narrator flow through a series of stages: new employee innocence to disenfranchised, light inebriation to a perpetual, hazy insulation by drugs and alcohol. One reviewer has described our narrator perfectly as being ”akin to a medieval idiot saint, wandering through a world of violence and pain with drunken equanimity.”

Overall, a quick and interesting read if you are prepared for the level of personal degradation the characters voluntarily sink into as the story progresses. A tantalizing blend of dark comedy laced with a dash of horrific realism. ( )
  lkernagh | Sep 24, 2018 |
Above-average Bukowski/Guare knockoff, redeemed by its nasty sense of humor and the author's commendable refusal to make his protagonist likeable or his ending uplifting. ( )
  MikeLindgren51 | Aug 7, 2018 |
I didn't find this amusing in any way. Rather, I found the litany of ills and travails of the characters relentlessly sad and depressing.
This surprised me, as I greatly enjoyed both his 'Undermajordomo Minor' and 'The Sisters Brothers'. There was a subtle humor to both of them that I felt came through, unlike 'Ablutions', which I found simply depressing. ( )
  Aula | Apr 4, 2018 |
This book was AMAZING! Such a interesting fun read. Plusm it was written in 2nd person. Which anyone who has tried to write themselves is not an easy feat to complete. ( )
  armysquirrel | Jan 1, 2018 |
God. Okay.

Patrick deWitt is nothing short of a genius. I will read anything by him because I love the way he writes. And this book is pretty classic deWitt -- as classic as it can be when there are only a handful of novels to take into consideration. The neurotic characters, the bizarre plots, the specific sentence construction, the focus on the unpleasant, the weird humour and running gags...

It's also really uncomfortable to read. A boozy, druggy, fever-dream spiral towards rock bottom, Ablutions doesn't pull any punches, doesn't shy away from grotesque descriptions and pathetic characters.

The book is written from second-person perspective, which pulls you directly into the life of the main character. This is possibly the most immersive, least distracting example of second-person I've come across. In other pieces of writing, I've found it contrived and distracting. Not so here.

But this is also the kind of book where I least appreciate the feeling of immersion. Because, you know what, this book was not the most enjoyable thing to read. I found myself cringing through parts of it. (The spit handshake thing was almost too evocative and I had to put down the book for a moment after that.) There were also a few unfortunate, dated-seeming moments in the narrative involving transgender women.

The book is largely well-done though. Part 3 was a delight. Even though I'm basically Captain Squeamish, and even though I was uncomfortable during much of the book, I have to admit that it was kind of brilliant. If you like Patrick deWitt and you don't mind feeling uncomfortable or disgusted on a regular basis, hey, you might love this one. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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For my father, Gary deWitt

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0151014981, Hardcover)

In a famous but declining Hollywood bar works A Barman. Morbidly amused by the decadent decay of his surroundings, he watches the patrons fall into their nightly oblivion, making notes for his novel. In the hope of uncovering their secrets and motives, he establishes tentative friendships with the cast of variously pathological regulars.

But as his tenure at the bar continues, he begins to serve himself more often than his customers, and the moments he lives outside the bar become more and more painful: he loses his wife, his way, himself. Trapped by his habits and his loneliness, he realizes he will not survive if he doesn't break free. And so he hatches a terrible, necessary plan of escape and his only chance for redemption.

Step into Ablutions and step behind the bar, below rock bottom, and beyond the everyday take on storytelling for a brilliant, new twist on the classic tale of addiction and its consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:53 -0400)

Working at a decaying Hollywood bar while making notes for the novel he hopes to write, a bartender is drawn into the alcoholic oblivion that affects his customers, losing his wife, his goals, and himself in the process.

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