Recovery : A novel by John Berryman
New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973. Second printing. Hardcover. 253 pages ; 21 cm. $6.95 dust jacket. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
RECOVERY BY JOHN BERRYMAN
Foreword by SAUL BELLOW
In the author's words, Recovery is a novel about "the disease called 'alcoholism,' recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association only in 1964." Mr. Berryman began writing it in 1970, signed a contract for it with his publisher in the summer of 1971, and had completed all but the final section of the first draft when he died in January 1972. Even unfinished, even without benefit of the intensive revisions and improvements he applied to all his work, it is so powerful that it had to be published.
It opens with the central character, Dr. Alan Severance, standing between two policemen in the door of his home, as his wife holds out a glass of whiskey and says, "This is the last drink you will ever have." It ends with one of the alcoholic patients admitting he wants to feel sorry for himself in order to drink. The corridors, bedrooms, and lecture rooms of the institution are the main setting of the book. There are scenes of suffering human beings in confrontation, self-recognition, humiliation, self-delusion, re-enactment and panic. The characters form a cross-section of American life—intellectuals like Severance, housewives like Jeree, businessmen like Charlie Boyle, an "extremely bitter bearded poet" like Jasper Stone.
The style has much of John Berryman's wit and verbal wizardry. As we witness Severance's repeated and heroic efforts to climb out of the pit, as we read the passages in his journal laying bare his heart, we realize that Recovery is not only a moving and highly individual work of fiction but a testament to the courage and strength of the human spirit.
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