Monday, 30 November 2009

Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will by David Levinson

I picked up the habit of choosing books by their titles far too long ago for me to shake it now and Most of Us Are Here Against Our Will originally fell into that category, but this remarkable collection of short stories made me wonder if there was some sense in the practice after all.

A parade of perpetually disappointed characters gives plenty of scope for self destruction, and among all the other tribulations Levinson throws at his cast, alcohol pops up enough times for an inclusion here.

In A Perfect Day for Swimming, Kate Burnett travels down from New York to Austin to see her father, now living with his partner Howard and Howard’s two young sons. Kate, fleeing from the wreckage of a relationship that she’s just destroyed, decides that Sun, margaritas, and a heart-shaped swimming pool are just what she needs to recuperate. Sadly, her hard working and harder drinking father promptly derails that.

Thrown out of his home by Howard, Kate’s father eventually reappears after midnight on Christmas Eve, his truck abandoned on the highway where it’s run out of petrol. She finds him swimming naked in the pool, drinking Chivas Regal from the bottle.

He took a swig and passed me the bottle. I took one, too, a healthy gulp. The flavour of it, strong and medicinal, exploded in my mouth.

An expedition to get glue for a broken Christmas decoration gets hijacked as well:

“How about we stop for a teensy-weensy little drink to celebrate my daughter’s brilliance,”... Once inside it became clear my father was a regular.

But it is Christmas, so the barman gives them each a shot of peppermint schnapps:

We lifted our glasses, clinked in succession, and downed the schnapps, which tasted corrosive, like fermented mouthwash. I asked for a glass of water and a beer while my father ordered a scotch, neat...

As her father abandons her at the bar while he dances with a man no older than her, Kate reflects that they made it look so easy. It never is, of course, and Levinson’s controlled prose describes these little tragedies so well...

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