Relit: Smokin’ Good Reads Worth a Rekindle – Ablutions by Patrick deWitt.
If you’ve ever spent much time around bartenders you know they aren’t normal people. How could they be? There are few jobs on earth that put one into almost daily contact with a societal cross-section of the successful, the soon to be, once was, never was, thought they were, could-have-been-contenders, and the generally warped and twisted. Bartending is near the top of those jobs.
There are the irritating lover boys – and guys be warned, female bartenders have heard all the lines you haven’t and most of them are much, much better than yours. You best hold your tongues. She can put you in your place and make you the laughing stock of the day should she so choose. They really have heard it all before and better looking men than you have gone down in flames. Even if you get lucky it’s a sure bet you are the chosen, not the chooser and were probably the one who showed enough intelligence to carry on decent, respectful conversation absent of sexual innuendo.
If you are a Popeye it shows quickly. “Popeyes” are the weaklings who pop the top on a can and turn into the baddest mofo in the place. In the real world, Bluto kicks Popeye’s a*s every time, and the more can tops Popeye pops the easier.
Maybe the worst are the crying drunks. Bartenders don’t want to hear that because they’ve already heard more confessions than a 70 yr-old Parrish Priest.
The book jacket’s summation: “deWitt’s Ablutions is a realistic look at the bartenders world alternately hilarious, pitiful and viciously real.” The book description sums it up: “In a famous but declining Hollywood bar works a barman. Morbidly amused by the decadent decay of his surroundings, he establishes tentative friendships with variously pathologic and darkly comic regulars, watching them stumble into nightly oblivion as he makes noted for his novel.”
“But as his tenure at the bar continues, he begins to serve himself more often than his customers. His damaged life starts to unravel completely; he loses his wife, his way, himself. Trapped by his habits and loneliness, he hatches a terrible plan of escape, his only chance for redemption.”
“A good strong tale of addiction and its consequences, with a comic twist – Ablutions is as mordantly funny as it is trenchant and insightful, and it takes us behind the bar, below rock bottom, and beyond the everyday.”
Review by Rick Thomason