Alan Kaufman recounts with unvarnished honesty the story of the alcoholism that took him to the brink of death, the PTSD that drove him to the edge of madness, and the love that brought him back. Son of a French Holocaust survivor, Kaufman was a drinker so mauled by his indulgences that it is a marvel that he hung on long enough to get into recovery. With his estranged daughter as inspiration, Kaufman cleaned himself up at age 40, taking full responsibility for nearly destroying himself, his work, and so many loved ones along the way. Kaufman minces no words as he looks back on a life pickled in self-pity, self-loathing, and guilt. Reading Drunken Angel is like watching an accident to see if any of the victims crawl away barely alive. Kaufman did, and here he delivers a lacerating, cautionary tale of a life wasted and reclaimed.
Whether the subject is parental abuse, alcoholism, or the travails of the writing life, Kaufman s (Jew Boy; Matches) memoir violently grabs your attention, refusing to let up until he s had his say. This is a brutish and riveting trek through a talented and severely alcoholic psyche. Those who persist are rewarded with stylish, intense writing and the intimate details of the author s metamorphosis. Kaufman grew up in the Bronx with an abusive mother who was a Holocaust survivor. Obese as a child, he was attacked and humiliated by neighborhood bullies, and began drinking in high school. After throwing away an opportunity for a football scholarship, Kaufman studied American literature and Jewish studies at the City College of New York, but his drinking hinders any attempt at serious writing or forming stable, healthy relationships. He becomes a minor star in the emerging spoken word scene in New York, but was soon stumbling around onstage, incoherent, a drunken nightmare figure. The second half of Kaufman s memoir details his recovery; his move to San Francisco; his burgeoning literary career; and his acknowledgment of the daughter he abandoned: And so I look back on my life and it is divided in parts: my drunk years and my sober ones, and I can hardly believe the beauty, meaning and victory that have attended my sober years.