In 2009 Elspeth Muir's youngest brother finished his last university exam and went out with some mates to get drunk. Later that night he wandered to the Story Bridge. He put his phone, wallet, T-shirt and thongs on the walkway, climbed over the railing, and jumped thirty metres into the Brisbane River below.
Three days passed before police divers pulled his body out of the water. When Alexander had drowned, his blood-alcohol reading was almost 0.3.
Why do some of us drink so much, and what happens when we do? Fewer young Australians are drinking heavily, but the rates of alcohol abuse and associated problems—from blackouts to sexual assaults and one-punch killings—are undiminished.
Intimate and beautifully told, Wasted mixes memoir with reportage to illuminate the sorrows, and the joys, of drinking. Muir traces her own history with the bottle. She speaks with the father of a boy who died in a drunken attack, and returns to Schoolies on the Gold Coast. And she tries to make sense of her much-loved brother's death.
Elspeth Muir is a Brisbane author whose writing has appeared in the Lifted Brow, The Best of the Lifted Brow: Volume One, Griffith Review, Voiceworks and Bumf. She is a postgraduate student at the University of Queensland.