Author: Karen Zailckas
Title: Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhood
Paperback ISBN: 0143036475
Published: 2006 by Penguin
Rating: 3.75 / 5.00
This is less "The Story of a Drunken Girlhood" and more "The Drunken Story of a Girlhood." In other words, it is more about the story of a woman growing up surrounded with alcohol rather than a story about being a Drunk Girl even though that is what Zailckas tried to do. The alcohol abuse eventually takes second stage to the primary feature of the book: the author's emotionally troubled thoughts and self image. The girl has issues and it isn't the alcohol abuse that causes the issues but rather the other way around. Zailckas realizes this eventually after she graduates College, but maintains that she only was an alcohol abuser, not an alcoholic. I fully agreed with her on this position until she tries to be a sociable drinker and fails miserably which is one of the hallmarks of alcoholism: alcoholics can't drink sociably which is why AA mandates total abstinence. Which the author seems to eventually settle on, blind to the correlation between her reasons and why AA mandates it for alcoholics.
More to the reason the book was different than I had expected, is that Zailckas doesn't have any more horrible experiences than your typical College alcohol abuser has. The worst it gets is a stomach pumping, a lot of puking, and waking up after black outs. Two of those black outs she wakes up next to a guy she didn't remember getting into bed with. With exception of the stomach pumping, I suspect a good many college kids have had those experiences. I was expecting some really startling stuff such as attempted suicide, major criminal activity, fights, nearly killing someone, DUIs, lose of license, being put in jail, etc. Essentially, Zailckas comes out of her alcohol abuse with not much for the wear considering how bad it could have been for her. She was generally in protected environments and even though the guys were dicks, she never gets raped or anything.
Well, I am sure both Zailckas and feminists would have a field day with that last comment. But if you can't remember what happened, got stupid drunk, and were hanging all over men, and wake up the next morning with no visible signs of physical aggression, it seems likely it was consensual. Get a girl drunk to sleep with her? Yea, that is a dick head guy, but would a girl do it, even when drunk, if she didn't want it at the time? I have done stupid things when drunk that I would have thought better of the next day, but they always seemed like a fantastic idea when drunk. Zailckas is harsh on men, especially college frat boys, but boy, did she love drinking with them and making out with them and doing it repeatedly despite knowing she has black outs and can't remember the previous night's experiences. Without saying she got what was going to her (she presents no evidence she was ever raped, nor does she suggest it), she seemed very willing to put herself into situations where she knew she was drunk, knew she was more approachable with men when drunk, and knew guys were looking for one night stands. Give me a break.
Zailckas is a really good writer, but it gets old after a while. She has some really amazing similes and comparisons, but it seems like she ends every other paragraph with a "it was like..." It starts off really great, but by the end of the book, you realize her writing style is the proverbial one trick pony. Despite my gripes with her writing style and her general attitude, the book was vastly entertaining and page turning reading. A bit feminist preachy towards the end when it should have been reflective of the fact that her self loathing is the only blame for her alcohol abuse, not society and beer commercials and female self image. She doesn't need AA, she needs a shrink.