Friday, April 16, 2004
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Cheever

A while back, I heard Susan Cheever give a delightful interview about her new book, My Name Is Bill. But I wasn't really that interested in a biography of the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, so instead I grabbed a used copy of her Note Found in a Bottle.

This is a memoir of a drinker, but it's a remarkable book in part because drinking plays such a small role. The vulgar mythology right now is that drugs are wonderful if they're prescribed (Prozac, Xanax, Lipitor) or if they're "natural" (St. Johns' Whortelberry) but evil if you really like them or if they help you break the Home Run Record. Make your own steroids, you're a hero; eat 'em, you're a goat. Go figure.

Anyway, this delightful little book avoids all the predictable scenes of trial and temptation preceding sainthood and sobriety. Cheever liked to drink. So did lots of people -- her dad (famously), her friends (trendily), everyone. No ghastly scenes, no skid rows, nothing so terrible. When she stops drinking, that's when bad stuff happens. Drink doesn't really get her into trouble: love, on the other hand, sometimes does.

But, it turns out, maybe the good times weren't so good. And maybe the bad stuff has to happen for the good stuff to get better. Cheever is always interesting, amusing, and witty, and though one might still detect traces of wry ironic foreshadowing here and there, she tells her story with a plain, unassuming craftsmanship that's enviable and original.