…an engaging graphic novel …Throughout the book, the synthesis of words and images creates a rich portrait of Jonathan: from a whimsical, imagined photo-booth strip that shows the thinning of his hair from 1991 to 2001 to a stirring sequence in which Jonathan mourns his parents, who died in a car accident in the late 1980s.
The New York Times
Long before he was a novelist of some repute, Ames was a teenage drunk of fearsome abilities. As Ames relates in this autobiographical graphic novel, he got drunk for the first time at the age of 15 in 1979 and found he loved it. The years that followed might have been a vomit-soaked mess, but that didn't stop Ames from keeping on with it. Even later, once Ames gets sober and becomes a writer, he continues his romance with alcohol by having the hero of his mystery novels be a serious drinker. Told in flashback fashion (with occasional sardonic asides) from a particularly horrendous postdrinking blackout, Ames's novel is primarily, and admittedly, a self-obsessed narrative of self-destructive behavior, with a particular emphasis on bad breakups and sexual misbehavior. The insular narrative is given drive by Haspiel's characteristic slash and jab illustrating style. But with the exception of the hauntingly unresolved story of Ames's painfully fraught childhood friendship with Sal, his original drinking partner, this is standard-issue graphic confessional, enlivened by the occasional bit of debauchery. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Rarely does a collaboration produce a graphic novel of such literary and artistic merit. Ames (Wake Up, Sir!, 2004, etc.) has distinguished himself as both a novelist and an essayist/journalist with a confessional intimacy and self-deprecating humor that sometimes blurs the line between memoir and fiction. He has found his artistic match in Haspiel, who brought a revelatory new dimension to the graphic memoirs of Harvey Pekar (The Quitter, 2006). Here, the whole is even better than the anticipated sum of its parts, with Ames exploring darker depths than he has in previous work, matched by Haspiel's noir-ish black-and-white illustrations, which make the lacerating, brutally funny story of a lovesick, self-destructive writer come alive on the page. With a protagonist named Jonathan A., the narrative invites the reader to identify the fictional novelist with his creator, though the string of mysteries penned by A. don't match the literary output of Ames. Yet it matters little what of this is "true" in the factual sense-the drugged-out debauchery, the coming-of-age sexuality, the opening tryst with an elderly woman that launches a series of flashbacks-for the truth of art rather than autobiography provides the richness here. In the wake of September 11, the self-absorbed narrator finds revelation outside himself: "It's perhaps too apt a metaphor, but collectively man was like a giant alcoholic-he knew better but he couldn't help but destroy himself and everything around him." The protagonist's attempts to come to terms with the tragedy as well as his addictions include cameos by President Bill Clinton and (hilariously) Monica Lewinsky. If the dinner with the latter never happened, itshould have. There's also an orgy instigated by students at the school where the writer attempts to find refuge, and where he discovers that five women can't help him forget one. And there's a tender undercurrent throughout of a boyhood friendship complicated by suppressed homosexuality. Could be the most compelling and provocative work from either collaborator.
With stints as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter under his belt, Ames tries his hand for the first time at the graphic novel. Beautifully illustrated in moody, expressionist panels by Haspiel, The Alcoholic tells the story of Ames' alter ego, Jonathan A., and his self-destructive love affair with the bottle. Jonathan's taste for liquor begins, as for many with his affliction, during illicit high-school parties. From there, his binges follow their own unique trajectory, keeping pace with an undistinguished college career and following him into an oddly successful livelihood as writer of hard-boiled detective fiction. Ames lends a quirky flavor to Jonathan's occasionally nightmarish narrative by eavesdropping on his relationship with his aging great-aunt; the perplexing estrangement of his best friend, Sal; a heartbreaking romance with a woman he refers to as "San Francisco"; and a drunken midlife tryst with an octogenarian dwarf. Yet Jonathan's tale is ultimately a universal one, reflecting the struggles all of us have in navigating the tributaries of career and relationships while keeping personal demons at bay. --Carl Hays
Rarely does a collaboration produce a graphic novel of such literary and artistic merit. -- Kirkus Reviews June 16, 2008
THE ALCOHOLIC is gonna be hard to top as my favorite original graphic novel of the year. -- Brian K. Vaughan, writer Y: THE LAST MAN
this hilarious, wrenching story gorgeously illustrated in a graphic novel is a flat-out thrill. -- Bret Easton Ellis, author LESS THAN ZERO, AMERICAN PSYCHO