Have you ever seen that interview in which Rik Mayall’s talking about his ego? “I’ve got a big one,” he says knowingly, with his eyes fixed firmly on the camera.
Reading Dry, the memoir by former advertising copywriter Augusten Burroughs, is similar to watching that moment on a loop. It’s funny, even charming, to begin with. But the novelty soon wears off.
And damnit, it shouldn’t. This book has all the ingredients that would normally make me swallow it in one go “” drink, drugs, love, death, redemption, fortune, hubris, the lot.
The problem is that, for all his openness, Burroughs has produced a very clever conjuring trick.
Yes, you get to see the squalor of an alcoholic’s life “” the endless empty bottles of whisky and the fruit flies buzzing around the flat. But the revulsion and disgust is mostly to be found in the external things, not the day-to-day horror of being trapped in an alcoholic mind.
It’s as though he has built a protective wall around what he really felt, and instead projects a persona “” one who somehow manages to control and triumph over his affliction.
And I don’t think it works like that. Try reading Chris McCully’s Goodbye Mr Wonderful and you’ll get a much deeper insight into late stage alcoholism and early recovery. It’s a painful self examination that helped the author face up to his condition and build a life.
Dry, I think, is something very different. A series of dramas with an alcoholic ego at their centre.
And, sadly, that makes me begin to disbelieve parts of his story. Not because he claims an English character grew up eating Vegemite (oh yeah?), but because I don’t think he’s properly recovered. Some of the loose ends in the plot are, well, much too tidy.
That said, as a page-turning tale from a ballsy, bolshie and undoubtedly gifted copywriter, it’s definitely worth whacking on your Kindle.
Just try not to dwell too much on what he’s not telling you.