The Recovering

The Recovering

Intoxication and Its Aftermath

“Riveting . . . Beautifully told.” —Boston Globe
“An honest and important book . . . Vivid writing and required reading.” –Stephen King
“Perceptive and generous-hearted . . . Uncompromising . . . Jamison is a writer of exacting grace.” —Washington Post
“Brilliant . . . The Recovering leaves us with the sense of a writer intent on holding nothing back.” —Los Angeles Times
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams comes this transformative work showing that sometimes the recovery is more gripping than the addiction.
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction–both her own and others’–and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.
At the heart of the book is Jamison’s ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and David Foster Wallace, as well as brilliant lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison’s own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes a book about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, “broken spigots of need.” It’s about the particular loneliness of the human experience-the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are.
For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.
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Genre: Nonfiction / Psychology / Psychopathology / Addiction

On Sale: April 3rd 2018

Price: $15.99

Page Count: 544

ISBN-13: 9780316259620

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"Jamison's story makes for riveting reading...Desire and romantic love are major themes, explored with aching vulnerability and unsparing honesty...Jamison shows us the human animal in all its wildness, its messiness, and its failure...She orchestrates a multi-voiced, universal song of lack, shame, surrender, uncertain and unsentimental redemption...It is a pleasure and feels like a social duty to report that Jamison's book shines sunlight on these creepy, crepuscular enchantments. Wisdom floods the scene, and genius never flees. Quite on its own terms, The Recovering is a beautifully told example of the considered and self-aware becoming art."—Priscilla Gilman, Boston Globe

"Like Mary Karr's Lit or Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story, Jamison's perceptive and generous-hearted new book is uncompromising on the ugliness of addiction, yet tenderly hopeful that people can heal. Not simply a memoir, The Recovering is also a shrewd critical study of the addiction literature genre it joins, a biographical Who's Who of alcoholic writers...This reckoning with drinking is also a reckoning with writing, especially personal writing...Jamison is a writer of exacting grace...Her prose reaches a new register in conveying the rawness of early sobriety...She captures with fullness the feeling of growing up and growing into oneself."—Nora Caplan-Bricker, Washington Post

"'s as if Jamison has shrugged off her restraints...We are aware, most fundamentally, of her urgency. This, of course, is as it should be, for Jamison is writing to survive...The Recovering leaves us with the sense of a writer intent on holding nothing back."—David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"Jamison turned heads with The Empathy Exams, her 2014 best-selling collection of insightful, Didionesque essays, and this new book, which blends her memoir of recovery with cultural history, can only add to her growing literary reputation."
Paul S. Makishima, The Boston Globe

"The Recovering is a typically adroit offering from Leslie Jamison, who has been deservedly compared to Joan Didion. The work and lives of Jean Rhys, John Berryman, William Burroughs, Marguerite Duras, and many others are featured in fascinating detail, but the thread drawing them all together is that it is told from the perspective of a former alcoholic. Now recovered, Jamison dissects the fetishization of 'whiskey and ink': the romanticization of the 'old, mythic drunks' such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner . . . The book is a compelling work made possible by Jamison's formidable knowledge . . . but the real subject of The Recovering, its driving force, is Jamison herself. This is a memoir of alcoholism deftly mediated through the lives of others, where trauma and abjection (and, equally, seduction) are patched together with collective experience to produce a nuanced, tender portrait of life with and after alcohol."—Lucy Watson, Prospect

"Such is Jamison's command of metaphor and assonance that she could rivet a reader with a treatise on toast. We perhaps have no writer better on the subject of psychic suffering and its consolations."—Gary Greenberg, The New Yorker

"Leslie Jamison's forthcoming 544-page door-stopper, The Recovering, promises the same blend of memoir, reportage, and cultural history as her excellent 2014 collection of essays, The Empathy Exams. In The Recovering, Jamison details the ups and downs of her own struggles with alcohol. Looking to famous alcoholic writers, Jamison additionally battles her fear of the boredom of sobriety, describing it with arresting, brutal honesty. This is so much more than an "addiction memoir" -- it is the work of a singular voice at the top of her game."—Jeva Lange, The Week

"Leslie Jamison's poignant The Recovering is part memoir and part history, a careful investigation of addiction and recovery stories, including Jamison's own and those of iconic figures in the arts, and of the culture and treatment of alcoholism in the US. Thoughtful, fiercely honest and intimate, The Recovering is a must-read that is Jamison at her best."

Jarry Lee, Buzzfeed

"Using a blend of memoir, investigative reporting, and literary criticism, Jamison deftly tells a new narrative about recovery, the history of recovery, the criminalization of addiction, and more."—Liberty Hardy, Book Riot

"Masterful...beautifully honest...Essential reading...The most comprehensive study of the relationship between writing and alcohol that I have read, or know about. Jamison is an excellent researcher of her subject. Plus she's a natural storyteller, and her inside looks at the worst moments in the lives of alcoholic writers and other artists-addicts are spellbinding...Elegantly braided into these biographical studies is Jamison's own story, written with complete, often embarrassing candor--the mark of a real writer. The prose is clean and clear and a pleasure to read, utterly without pretension. Although the subject is dark, Jamison has managed to write an often very funny page turner...The Recovering is a good old-fashioned love story, a love triangle between Jamison, the bottle, and a very kind and patient man named Dave...Jamison's greatest strength is her ability to show honestly the outrageous mental gymnastics every alcoholic masters in the attempt simultaneously to quit drinking and, above all, to continue drinking...In short, The Recovering is terrific, and if you're interested in the relationship between artists and addiction, you must read it."—Clancy Martin, Bookforum

"The Recovering is Leslie Jamison's incredibly honest and
personal memoir of alcoholism, and also a larger investigative history of
substance abuse in America. Jamison examines iconic artists shaped by their
addictions (including David Foster Wallace and Denis Johnson), and the
complexities of their recovery stories, which are often untold, as well as her
own. You'll find Jamison's personal story especially moving if you've known
someone who struggled with their drinking or another addiction. This is a
poignant, heartfelt, deeply brave masterpiece that opens up an important
conversation, and Jamison writes so eloquently about such a difficult

Jamison has written an honest and important book. It will be important to
recovering alcoholics who wonder if there really is life after booze, and I
think it will be important to writers and critics, because she weaves her story
of recovery into those of other artists (mostly writers, but also Billie
Holiday and Amy Winehouse) who also made the jump from soused to sober. And
some who didn't. The most important thematic thread may be its insistence that
the talented artist who needs booze or drugs to support his work and withstand
his own vision does not, in fact, exist. It's important to debunk what Todd
Rundgren called 'the ever popular tortured artist effect.' All in all, vivid
writing and required reading."

Stephen King

"Leslie Jamison writes about the highs of dependency and also about the highs of recovery. Her prose is so sharp and evocative that the reader feels the thrilling trickle of alcohol down the back of the throat, and breathes the struggle for health and freedom. Jamison demonstrates great wit, penetrating intellect, and an enormous heart. This strangely exhilarating book is about recovery, but it is more resonantly a book about desire, consciousness, kindness, self-control, and love--and hence a Tolstoyan study of the human condition."

Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon

Jamison has done a magnificent job of rescuing an age-old social problem
from the clichés that surround it, and making us see it anew for the cruel
assault on the human spirit that it really is."—Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments and The Odd
Woman and the City

"You don't need to be an addict to be enthralled by The Recovering. This book is for anyone interested in a dazzlingly brilliant, uncommonly compassionate, and often hilarious study of human nature. Leslie Jamison's work will definitely make you feel smarter--I'd like to borrow her brain to pick a fight with a couple of people--but The Recovering also reads like a gripping mystery as written by a subversive and deeply passionate philosopher. Her writing is unexpected, profound, and perverse--in short, a thrill to read. Best of all, for a writer so gifted at locating the excruciating commonalities of isolation, Jamison manages this greatest feat of magic: when I read her words, I come away feeling less alone."
Mary-Louise Parker, author of New York Times bestseller Dear Mr. You

Jamison's The Recovering is a definitive investigation
of both the romance of intoxication and the possibilities for recovery. Whether
interviewing veterans of a communal rehab house, digging through the
archives of alcoholic writers, or examining her own motives and thoughts,
Jamison shows ways of living alongside contradictions without
diminishing their confusion and pain. Graceful, forensic, and intimate, The Recovering sets a new bar in
addiction studies. It is a courageous and brilliant example of what
nonfiction writing can do."—Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

is beautifully written, brutally honest, formidably intelligent,
emotionally powerful, and absolutely fascinating. Leslie Jamison captured my
attention in the very first sentence and didn't let it go for a second
until--with reluctance--I finished the very last. Addiction literature has just
welcomed a new classic."—Anne Fadiman, National Book Critics Circle Award
winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Spirit Catches
You and You Fall Down

The crawl back up to sobriety is as engrossing as the
downward spiral in this unsparing and luminous autobiographical study of
alcoholism...The dark humor, evocative prose, and clear-eyed,
heartfelt insights Jamison deploys here only underscore her reputation as a
writer of fearsome talent.—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Jamison's questing immersion in intoxication and sobriety is exceptional in its vivid, courageous, hypnotic telling; brilliant in its subtlety of perception, interpretation, and compassion; and capacious in its scholarship, scale, concern, and mission."—Booklist

"Deeply honest...At the heart of this poignant work is an insightful exploration of the loneliness and pain that fuels addiction."—Bookpage

"Throughout Jamison's somber yet earnestly revelatory narrative, she remains cogent and true to her dual commitment to sobriety and to author a unique memoir "that was honest about the grit and bliss and tedium of learning to live this way--in chorus, without the numbing privacy of getting drunk." The bracing, unflinching, and beautifully resonant history of a writer's addiction and hard-won reclamation."—Kirkus

"A staggering investigation into cultural assumptions about
addicts, and a necessary critique of a literary scene that idolizes the drunken
genius. . . . In her essay collection, The Empathy Exams, Jamison more than proved herself as an
incisive witness to the complicated, messy lives people lead. Her blend of
reportage and personal insight, in the tradition of Joan Didion, is on full
display here. . . . Empathetic and unflinching, The Recovering offers
a refreshing antidote to narratives that would marry substance abuse to
creativity."—Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness


"Extraordinary. . . . she calls to mind writers as disparate as Joan Didion and John Jeremiah Sullivan as she interrogates the palpitations of not just her own trippy heart but of all of ours. . . . Her cerebral, witty, multichambered essays tend to swing around to one topic in particular: what we mean when we say we feel someone else's pain. . . . I'm not sure I'm capable of recommending a book because it might make you a better person. But watching the philosopher in Ms. Jamison grapple with empathy is a heart-expanding exercise."—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"Extraordinary and exacting. . . . This capacity for critical thinking, for a kind of cool skepticism that never gives way to the chilly blandishments of irony, is very rare. It's not surprising that Jamison is drawing comparisons to Sontag. . . . There is a glory to this kind of writing that derives as much from its ethical generosity, the palpable sense of stretch and reach, as it does from the lovely vividness of the language itself. . . . It's hard to imagine a stronger, more thoughtful voice emerging this year."—The New York Times Book Review


"In The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison positions herself in one fraught subject position after the next: tourist in the suffering of others, guilt-ridden person of privilege, keenly intelligent observer distrustful of pure cleverness, reclaimer and critic of female suffering, to name but a few. She does so in order to probe her endlessly important and difficult subject--empathy, for the self and for others--a subject this whirling collection of essays turns over rock after rock to explore. Its perambulations are wide-ranging; its
attentiveness to self and others, careful and searching; its open heart, true."

Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts and Bluets

"Leslie Jamison has written a profound exploration into how empathy deepens us, yet how we unwittingly sabotage our own capacities for it. We care because we are porous, she says. Pain is at once actual and constructed, feelings are made based on how you speak them. This riveting book will make you a better writer, a better human."

Mary Karr, author of Lit and The Liars' Club

"THE EMPATHY EXAMS is a book without an anaesthetic, a work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain. Leslie Jamison is alternately surgeon, midwife, psychiatrist, radiologist, and nurse-and in all these things she is fiercely intelligent, fiercely compassionate, and fiercely, prodigiously brave. This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best."—Eleanor Catton

"Jamison's ardent writing style and extended-release doses of empathy have made her a consistently powerful journalist...Ambitious, provocative, lyrical."—New York Magazine

"Leslie Jamison threads her fine mind through the needle of emotion, sewing our desire to feel to our fear of feeling, piercing pain and sweetness."—Eula Biss

"If reading a book about [pain] sounds . . . painful, rest assured that Jamison writes with such originality and humor, and delivers such scalpel-sharp insights, that it's more like a rush of pleasure. . . . To articulate suffering with so much clarity, and so little judgement, is to turn pain into art."

Entertainment Weekly

"Jamison writes with sober precision and unusual vulnerability, with a tendency to circle back and reexamine, to deconstruct and anticipate the limits of her own perspective, and a willingness to make her own medical and psychological history the objects of her examinations. Her insights are often piercing and poetic."

The New Yorker

"[The Empathy Exams] deserves as big an audience as it can get. At 30, [Jamison] could be a granddaughter of Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, whose nonfiction debuts first stirred up readers nearly half a century ago. They set a daunting standard for the power of alert nerves, in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and of fierce thoughts, in Against Interpretation. The Empathy Exams is their
descendant, yet Jamison's blend of wit and brainy warmth is completely distinctive."

The Atlantic

"A virtuosic manifesto of human pain. . . . Jamison stitches together the intellectual and the emotional with the finesse of a crackerjack surgeon. . . . The result is a soaring perfomance on the humanizing effects of empathy."


Meet The Author: Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison is the author of the essay collection The Empathy Exams, a New York Times bestseller, and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and the Oxford American, among others, and she is a columnist for the New York Times Book Review. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.
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