So, This Is Drink
by Sean Lovelace,
reviewed by Matt Bell
As for kinship, my liver. (It whispers in my sleep.) As for bedding, a futon mattress and floor. As for music, Frank Sinatra, who sings, "Alcohol is your enemy, but you should love your enemies." As for drink, one Mexican beer in the refrigerator. The linoleum sags under pyramids of empty cabernet. Amber quart bottles squat in cobweb corners, their silvery caps astray, thrown sparks of phosphorous, spinning beneath the stove, under bookshelves, wadded shirts, the waxy gravy of the kitchen sink. The blender is cracked, swollen with residue, a milky orange sky, then clear demarcation, a horizon, most likely rum. The sun fills the room; sweat pulls from my skin. I squint; the windows glare yellow, mean—they bellow light. The sun wears the face of Jesus. The sun says, "Name my first miracle."
"Name my first miracle" is a hell of a way to start a story (and an easy question, if youíre a good Catholic boy like myself). Like the biblical water turned to wine, Lovelaceís story is full of hallucinatory changelings: "The bottles... morphed, this morning, into artillery shells," "Vodka is translucent for an instant, frozen, a flicker of time. It then turns to blueberries, which immediately ferment, and the shadows of black swans appear..." Just as Christís first miracle began his transformation from man into God, so do the transformations surrounding the narrator signal his descent into alcoholic delusion.
Each section brings with its own mood, its own rules. Section 5 has an orderly feel to it, the categorizing examination of a life, "the power of a routine"—it is one of two sections that contains a list, exhibiting surety instead of confusion, a reckoning of what has been lost so far. In this section there are also preferences disguised as rules, such as "Green glass is a good glass. I like to tip twenty percent, always. I like jukeboxes and girls with vertical hair. Summer, light beer; winter stout." There are proper ways to conduct oneself, even at this stage. There are methods to the madness, if it is madness. The following section considers societal rules (as opposed to personal ones), disregarding the ones that get in the way of the narratorís drinking in favor of looser propositions.
As the work continues, we eventually reach the twelfth section, a midnight exposure where the narrator prays to be hidden, asking for someone to "hide me. Hide me tufted, in a foxhole, limbs tight. Hide me naked below a pile of musty quilts, a willow, or a stream-side oak; let my energy enter its roots, transfer—Newton's law." There is no conclusion here, no answers to the confusion and despair that has invaded the work from the first sentence onwards. Instead it ends with a series of cyclical images, suggesting not an end to drink, to despair, to loneliness, but instead an inevitable repeat of the dayís complications. In Lovelaceís story, there is no search for redemption or epiphany—Instead there is only the paranoid, hopefully peering through dirty windows at a world slowly getting drunk, slowly passing out, sad and lonely, watching and waiting for something to change.
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