Leslie Jamison, author of the extraordinary essay collection (and surprise bestseller), The Empathy Exams, returns with a very different but equally captivating book. The Recovering intertwines Jamison's story of her journey to sobriety with her thoughts about other addicted writers, their work, and their struggles with dependency; it's an incredibly self-aware, unusual, and engrossing memoir. At the beginning of the book, Jamison writes, "I wanted to know if stories about getting better could ever be as compelling as stories about falling apart." With The Recovering, she has proven that in the right hands, they can be even more riveting. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"An honest and important book...Vivid writing and required reading." — Stephen King
"A Tolstoyan study of the human condition." — Andrew Solomon
One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018: Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Elle, Newsday, The Millions, Huffington Post, Nylon, Bustle, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Bitch, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, Boston Globe, The Week
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, a transformative work showing that sometimes the recovery is more gripping than the addiction
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction — both her own and others' — and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.
At the heart of the book is Jamison's ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and David Foster Wallace, as well as brilliant lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison's own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes a book about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, "broken spigots of need." It's about the particular loneliness of the human experience-the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are.
For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.
"You don't need to be an addict to be enthralled by The Recovering. This book is for anyone interested in a dazzlingly brilliant, uncommonly compassionate, and often hilarious study of human nature. Leslie Jamison's work will definitely make you feel smarter — I'd like to borrow her brain to pick a fight with a couple of people — but The Recovering also reads like a gripping mystery as written by a subversive and deeply passionate philosopher. Her writing is unexpected, profound, and perverse — in short, a thrill to read. Best of all, for a writer so gifted at locating the excruciating commonalities of isolation, Jamison manages this greatest feat of magic: when I read her words, I come away feeling less alone."
Mary-Louise Parker, author of New York Times bestseller Dear Mr. You
"Leslie Jamison writes about the highs of dependency and also about the highs of recovery. Her prose is so sharp and evocative that the reader feels the thrilling trickle of alcohol down the back of the throat, and breathes the struggle for health and freedom. Jamison demonstrates great wit, penetrating intellect, and an enormous heart. This strangely exhilarating book is about recovery, but it is more resonantly a book about desire, consciousness, kindness, self-control, and love — and hence a Tolstoyan study of the human condition."
National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon By Andrew Solomon
"Leslie Jamison has written an honest and important book. It will be important to recovering alcoholics who wonder if there really is life after booze, and I think it will be important to writers and critics, because she weaves her story of recovery into those of other artists (mostly writers, but also Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse) who also made the jump from soused to sober. And some who didn't. The most important thematic thread may be its insistence that the talented artist who needs booze or drugs to support his work and withstand his own vision does not, in fact, exist. It's important to debunk what Todd Rundgren called 'the ever popular tortured artist effect.' All in all, vivid writing and required reading." Stephen King
"Leslie Jamison's poignant The Recovering is part memoir and part history, a careful investigation of addiction and recovery stories, including Jamison's own and those of iconic figures in the arts, and of the culture and treatment of alcoholism in the US. Thoughtful, fiercely honest and intimate, The Recovering is a must-read that is Jamison at her best."
Buzzfeed By Jarry Lee
"Leslie Jamison's forthcoming 544-page door-stopper, The Recovering, promises the same blend of memoir, reportage, and cultural history as her excellent 2014 collection of essays, The Empathy Exams. In The Recovering, Jamison details the ups and downs of her own struggles with alcohol. Looking to famous alcoholic writers, Jamison additionally battles her fear of the boredom of sobriety, describing it with arresting, brutal honesty. This is so much more than an "addiction memoir" — it is the work of a singular voice at the top of her game."
The Week By Jeva Lange
"Jamison turned heads with The Empathy Exams, her 2014 best-selling collection of insightful, Didionesque essays, and this new book, which blends her memoir of recovery with cultural history, can only add to her growing literary reputation."
The Boston Globe By Paul S. Makishima
About the Author
Leslie Jamison was born in Washington DC and currently resides in Brooklyn, where she moved after graduating from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Jamison's first novel, THE GIN CLOSET, was one of the San Francisco Chronicle's "best books of 2010" and was a finalist for the LA Times First Fiction award. In 2014, Jamison's essay collection The Empathy Exams, published by Graywolf Press, became a New York Times bestseller.
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