Window on a sleazy world

Ablutions: Notes for a NovelLiving in a drunken stupor may not seem like palatable reading matter, but Patrick deWitt’s unique style in his debut novel Ablutions: Notes for a Novel is – well – addictive.

The story, set in a sleazy Hollywood bar and told by the observations of an alcoholic barback, brings to life pathetic derelicts with energetic, colorful honesty.

Written in the rare second-person viewpoint, as if the nameless barback is taking notes for a book, Ablutions creates impact beyond a typical addiction story by the protection of the distant “you” pronoun and the  intimacy of its uninhibited judgments and descriptions.

I was, on the one hand, disgusted with how the drugged-up, liquored-up characters behave and, on the other hand, compassionately fascinated. Their lives are completely foreign to my own, or those of anyone I know.

Perhaps because of that foreignness, I read Ablutions with rapt attention.