I heard Ms Schaap interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago and her take on life-- by the bars she frequents--seemed an interesting way to approach a memoir. She takes readers through her life from the bar car on the train as a teenager, to an Irish bar, college bar, grad school bar and various dives she has known and loved throughout the years.
Drinking With Men (because she finds women are often uninterested in bar culture) is a valentine to bars. She writes so poetically about what it means to be a regular patron of a bar in a city that I actually found myself envious that I have never been a regular in a bar. I am not even sure I have ever been in the kind of bar she frequents and has written about. Maybe, I thought, I should even consider opening my own bar.
So yes, I enjoyed this book. It was fun to read and enjoy her observations of life in the bar and watch her grow up in bars and with their patrons. I did observe early on, that she really did not seem like my kind of person. That for all her romance about bars and drinking, I didn't really like her. (Although on NPR she sounded quite likable.) I feel torn: interesting book, good writing, unlikeable narrator.
The biggest criticism I have of her memoir is that she unfairly dodged, what I would consider the central question of the book. About half way through the memoir, in a chapter about skipping all her classes in grad school to hang out at her current bar of choice, she is one day reading her roommate's journal and reads her roommate's observations that she, Rosie, is an alcoholic. It never occurred to her that she was an alcoholic, and she begins to consider the question. It is a moment for me that the memoir began to quicken and picked up my interest. I read it in rapt attention, how would this realization change her life?
But suddenly, she changes the subject, and meanders off to another topic, even though it seemed she was about to conclude she had a big problem. She never went back to the question again. So, although I certainly loved her stories in bars and her love of even the divey-est of them, I wonder if she will ever consider the big question again.
A good book, worth the read, available at your public library.