From the author of Booker Prize finalist The Sisters Brothers: “Viciously hilarious . . . deWitt’s portrayal of the drinking life is staunchly unromantic.” —Time Out New York
In a famous, but declining, Hollywood bar works a barman, morbidly amused by the decadence of his surroundings. He quietly observes as the patrons fall into their nightly oblivion, taking notes for his novel. In the hopes of uncovering their secrets and motives, he establishes tentative friendships with a cast of variously pathological regulars.
But as his tenure at the bar continues, he begins to serve himself more often than his customers, and the time he spends outside the bar becomes more and more painful. He loses his wife, his way, himself. Trapped by habits and loneliness, the barman realizes he will not survive if he doesn’t break free. And so he hatches a terrible, necessary plan of escape and redemption.
“Sharp and bitter and funny” (Los Angeles Times), Ablutions steps behind the bar and goes below rock bottom for a brilliant new twist on the classic tale of addiction and its consequences “so punctuated with tiny, heartbreaking moments of grace—it becomes impossible to put the book down” (Portland Mercury).
“Dark and provocative . . . ‘Ablutions’ has achieved something remarkable.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Melancholic, sentimental, and very funny.” —Harper’s Bazaar (UK)
“As heartbreaking as it is hilarious . . . an utterly compelling novel.” —The Believer
Charles Bukowski's ghost hovers over deWitt's grim first novel about a bartender at a Hollywood watering hole and its down-and-out regulars. The unnamed bartender's observations on his co-workers and customers comprise a good chunk of the novel. There's Simon, the manager, a coke-addled failed actor; Merlin, a freelance life coach in his 70s; the unemployed Curtis, who distributes as tips used electronics from his apartment; Terese and Teri, known as The Teachers, who have slept with all the doormen at the bar; and the former child star for whom oblivion can't come soon enough. The bartender himself is also a lush, and after losing his wife he embarks on a halfhearted cleanup. When this fails to take, he returns to the bar and plans one last ploy to break free of his increasingly onerous existence. The downward spiral is a hellish descent that seems bottomless, and while the character sketches are fascinating in detail, the plotless ramble can make this relatively short novel feel overlong. Fans of Bukowski and the Fantes, however, won't mind.