Drunken Angel: A Memoir

Drunken Angel: A Memoir

by Alan Kaufman

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Alan Kaufman has been compared to Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Hubert Selby Jr., even Ernest Hemmingway—his life reads so much like a great movie that the world of cinema has just optioned his first memoir, Jew Boy, for a feature film. Drunken Angel, his new autobiographical work, drops like a sledgehammer. It is the most gripping, chilling and inspiring account ever written of a life-long battle with alcoholism and the struggle to write. Graphic in its grit, an education in pain, Drunken Angel is being hailed as "the Naked Lunch of memoirs." The book chronicles Kaufman’s headlong plunge into the piratical life of a literary drunk, and takes us shamelessly through noirish alleyways of S&M sensuality, forbidden pleasures and pitfalls of adultery, the thrilling horrors of war, plus raging poetry nights, mental illness, homelessness, literary struggle and his strange, magnificent rise into a sobriety of personal triumph as crazily improbable as the famous and notorious figures he meets along the way. Drunken Angel contains revealing portraits of such literary figures as Allen Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, Barney Rosset, Anthony Burgess, Elie Wiesel, Ron Kolm, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jim Feast, Bernard Malamud, Hubert Selby Jr., Bob Holman, Sapphire, not to speak of the gutter dreamers, Nuyorican Poets, Unbearables, Babarians, Slammers, Black foot Indians, commandos, criminals, junkies, renegade cocktail waitresses, hoboes, painters, and a host of others who each in some way, big or small, play their part in peopling the wildly exilerating drama of Kaufman’s passionate and exotic life. Whether the addiction be booze, women, violence, writing or fame, Kaufman honors us with an explicit honesty that only a writer of enormous power and artistic greatness can attain, and his life, as Drunken Angel poignantly shows, is a profoundly meaningful quest for truth and spiritual values.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936740475
Publisher: Viva Editions
Publication date: 04/22/2013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 464
File size: 600 KB

About the Author

ALAN KAUFMAN's novel Matches was published by Little, Brown and Company in the Fall of 2005. David Mamet has called Matches "an extraordinary war novel," and Dave Eggers has written that "there is more passion here then you see in twenty other books combined." Kaufman's critically-acclaimed memoir, Jew Boy (Fromm/Farrar, Straus and Giroux), has appeared in three editions, hardcover and paperback, in the United States and Great Britain. He is the award-winning editor of several anthologies, the most recent of which, The Outlaw Bible of American Literature, was recently reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. There are two more volumes in Kaufman's Outlaw anthology series: The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry and The Outlaw Bible of American Essays. He has taught in the graduate and undergraduate schools of the Academy of Art University and in writing workshops in San Francisco. His work has appeared in Salon, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Partisan Review and The San Francisco Examiner. Kaufman has been widely anthologized, most recently in Nothing Makes You Free: Writings From Descendents of Holocaust Survivors (WW Norton). Kaufman is a member of PEN American Center. Kaufman's papers and manuscripts are on deposit in the Special Collections Library of the University of Delaware and he is profiled in the Europa Biographical Reference Series.

Read an Excerpt

Book Eleven

Why an angel? Because I believe that, in time, that is what we become in sobriety, if we last long enough, to the end. Not the winged kind, no. Not some haloed cupid or sword swinger but a kind of flawed angel, without wings, that belongs to no religion but rather to a species of human heartbreak unlike any other known.

Alcoholics and addicts are unlike any other people I’ve ever met. I am unlike most people. A blazing mutant of some kind. A wondrous freak. In my mind lurks an urge that will be with me to the end, to put a bottle to my lips and drink myself to death. A judge and jury that I wake up to each morning has pronounced a verdict of guilt on me for no crime that I have committed, just for being alive, and has sentenced me to death, not by guillotine or rope but by a single drink.

It is the strangest thing, this sentence of death, this disease I have which tests me to the max and each day holds my existence accountable to the very universe, a god no religion can know as we drunks know it.
A god of drunks who goes with us into our prisons and gutters, bedrooms and businesses, flophouses and alleys, hospitals and mansions, and patiently waits with hand on our shivering shoulders as we groan through yet one more night of near death, waits to see if maybe this time we’ve had pain enough, loss enough, enough hangover, illness, fear, to ask for help.
And yet many cannot ask, and die right before the god of drunks, who I think must weep helplessly when this occurs.

So many lose heart and fall. I have seen so many of my brothers and sisters in recovery fall. I have seen so many beautiful people die. The poet found in his room OD’d with a needle in his arm. He was my best friend. The twenty-year-old drummer who killed himself over a romance gone wrong. Nice kid. The young artist who drank and was found murdered in her Tenderloin hotel room. She was so talented. The buddy who drank and wound up facedown in a river in Pennsylvania, drowned. The ones, so many, who jumped off the bridge or the roof or put a gun barrel to their heads and squeezed the trigger, or in private ate painkillers until found on the floor brain-dead, or perished young of a destroyed liver. That young nurse, a mother of three, who had everything, beautiful children, loving husband, looks to die for, a house with two cars in the garage, who also had this little problem that she couldn’t stay sober or stop smoking crack, no matter how many meetings she attended or advice she tried to follow, and one day returned home to that garage, ran a hose, turned on the ignition, and gassed herself to death.

When you have seen as much of that as I have in my sobriety, in the last twenty years, how can I not regard my own reflection with amazement that I am still here. Why me? How did I get so lucky? Really, I don’t know. I want to think that I’ve done something right, but in truth, I know better. I do believe in a Higher Power and I do work the 12 steps and go to meetings and work with drunks of every kind and description, yet it doesn’t seem like enough, it never does. I never feel that I can repay what has been given to me. The love that has been shown. The patience and straight-shooting counsel that has saved my butt time and again. I have met in recovery men and women who are the greatest human beings I have ever known but don’t want their names advertised. Anonymous, quiet angels, invaded by death, propelled by light, who move among us with quiet grace and private suffering and seek each day to help those around them without fanfare or reward.

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Drunken Angel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is excellent! Alan Kaufman is a great writer and such an inspiration! I was so engrossed in his tale the whole time. Definitely recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book was amazing. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of picking up another recovery related biography, but I was thoroughly surprised. Kaufman has a gift and it shines through in this book. Its an amazing story.