I finished Ablutions by Patrick deWitt a week ago. Images from his prose continues to invade my thoughts. I say “invade” because Ablutions is not a pretty book. It deals with acute and chronic alcoholism from the point of view of the alcoholic – an alcoholic in denial. It’s powerful stuff. If you know someone like the protagonist, this book hits like a brick in the face. Yet, there’s a wry humor in it.
I encountered Ablutions by a circuitous route. I spotted the cover of deWitt’s newest book The Sisters Brothers on a blog and immediately fell in love with the artwork. After discovering the paperback wasn’t out yet (it may be out now) and that a copy was not available at the library, I started a search for his other works. Ablutions is his first novel. The cover graphics are exactly what this book is about, but do not have the visual impact of The Sisters Brothers. I’ll be reviewing that novel in the coming weeks.
The author writes in second person, a point-of-view of which I’m not all that familiar, but it gives a conversational aspect to the prose which makes it much like a chat in a bar. Since much of the novel takes place in a bar, the style is appropriate. Also, deWitt laid his work out much like a notebook of thoughts beginning many sections with “Discuss . . ..” There is the feel of each section having been written on a large index card with all the cards then put in order for the final manuscript. My description sounds like it the work would be choppy, but it’s not. Ablutions is a smooth, fast read – but it’s message and images remain. I highly recommend it.