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Lost Weekend

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  619 ratings  ·  85 reviews
The Lost Weekend is the classic American novel of an alcoholic. And, as the famous film version demonstrated, it is also the dramatic story of a sensitive, charming and intelligent man struggling with his overwhelming addiction and the resulting, shattering consequences.
Paperback, 244 pages
Published November 28th 1983 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1944)
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Tom Carson
Perhaps instead of being titled The Lost Weekend, this book should have been titled The Lost Cause. If you're looking for a tale of someone falling into the depths of alcoholism and them coming out a changed and better person, look elsewhere, because here you will only find a tale of someone falling into the depths of alcoholism. Here there is no fulfilled redemption.

So, why read the book?

Don Birnam, the protagonist, though he displays a great deal of intelligence and self-awareness, very seldom
My favorite line from the book: "Spinal tap, baby."

I read the novel first, then saw the film. Both are excellent, but very different. Novel: super gay (sex in the church sheds with boyhood friend Melvin; getting kicked out of his fraternity for his big crush on a senior boy; the fiance who will NEVER become his wife; lots of closets, filled with booze, of course; a dream in which he is saved from a homophobic lynching by his brother). Film: super hetero (Don kisses two girls [what?!] and even th
Darran Mclaughlin
Fantastic novel. The most acute portrayal of alcoholism I have ever read. Joins my alcoholic canon alongside John Barleycorn by Jack London, Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys and Factotum by Charles Bukowski. This book feels like a descendent of Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky and Hunger by Knut Hamsun in its intense portrayal of a pathological personality you can partially identify with (or maybe that's just me). I don't know why it isn't more celebrated.
Joe Miguez
In an age where scads of celebrities routinely confess their darkest secrets, and some even become celebrities precisely by doing so, the idea of a fictionalized account of a five-day alcohol binge seems almost tame. But when Charles Jackson's "The Lost Weekend" was released in the mid-1940s, it was groundbreaking stuff. The ink was barely dry on the first copies shipped when it was adapted for the screen and became an Oscar-winning film. Since that time, it has largely been forgotten, as has it ...more
Printable Tire
Appropriately, I read the bulk of this book last weekend when I was snowed in, which was in a sense my own lost weekend. The Lost Weekend goes right up there with the best of the novels on addicts and neurotics I've read (Hunger, Man With the Golden Arm, Confessions of Zeno), and it even has a little homosexual guilt thrown in to juice it up.

It is very clear from the prose that alcoholism was a subject the author cared about, that he was close to, perhaps too close. The words read the mind of th
Gayle Gordon
Borrowed from Texas A&M University-Commerce Library.
I got interested in this book after I checked out the movie from a library. It is a very good movie, except it has a happy-sappy Hollywood ending, which is nothing like the end of the book. A better movie about alcoholism is Days of Wine and Roses, but I digress. This book is written in a very stream-of-consciousness style, which alters according to the sobriety level of the protagonist. It's a great insight into the mind of a raging alcoh
Andrew Walter
I couldn't stop reading this. I was even drunk for a few of the readings. Then I looked up Charles Jackson's life and thought a lot of this might have been semi-autobiographical. That sort of bummed me out.

I have a feeling you'll know if this type of book is for you; it's the type informed by Hamsun's Hunger; and could be lazily categorised with Celine or Bukowsi, The Drinker by Fallada or maybe Junky by Burroughs. Like a lot of these books, what plot there is can be summed up in a sentence: Don
'Suppose a bottle should materialize before him full and unopened.' A classic literary trope, twisted upon the sole obsession of the writer. This is the kind of book we are dealing with here in 'The Lost Weekend.' Charles Jackson channels his alcoholic, autobiographical self into the character of Don Birnam, a writer with his Great Novel bursting from his creative pores but forever enslaved to the brutal booze. Whiskey is his undoing, and to escape it he plans on a family weekend in upstate New ...more
Mason Jones
Just a short write-up of this one, because it doesn't take much more than: wow. I suppose "addiction literature" is a sub-genre of sorts, but it seems like heroin rules the roost. From the 1930s, this book is an unflinching first-person tale of, as the title says, Don Birnam's long weekend. Instead of going out of town with his younger brother, he sneaks off and proceeds to make his way unsteadily through a 4-day weekend, demonstrating all the while his amazing skills at rationalizing. What make ...more
Rafeeq O.
Charles Jackson's 1944 The Lost Weekend is a gripping probe into the mind of an alcoholic--the euphoria and the terror, the self-congratulation and the remorse, the understanding and the turning away. Really, as long as the term probe is used, one might reach next for lancet or scalpel, but of course such would not be fitting. These tools, after all, slice straight and clean, yet Jackson's artful third-person-limited prose and the artfully tipsy stagger of his plotting that hints, reveals, withh ...more
Willem van den Oever
If there’s such a genre as “addiction literature”, names like Charles Bukowski or Irvine Welsh might be put in that spotlight. But above and beyond their efforts, should be placed Charles Jackson’s “The Lost Weekend”.

Describing the 5-day binge of would-be author and alcoholic Don Birnam, Jackson gets into the head of his main character and creates something equally great and horrifying. Over the course of six long chapters, Birnam’s story is penned down in a stream of consciousness – or as close
Todd baron
It's incredibly self indulgent. I kinda hate it but feel compelled. The prose is poked high with a pseudo "beat" self aware euphoria. I am reading it though as arrival work of propaganda. It won't please me on the end. It ain't supposed to. Now. I quit. It's really not good. Droning on and on about a narcissus. No wonder it worked as AA PROPAGANA.
Andrew Dietz
Mirroring the polarity existing in the mind of an addict, this is as nightmarish and as dreamlike a description of alcoholism as a novel could hope to achieve. There is little sympathy to be found, though the drunkard's charm of the main character does a wonderful job, as does the novel itself, into fooling itself into believing it's fooled you as well. This book should be required reading for anyone, whether passively or actively, who've found their lives impacted by alcoholism. Spoiler alert; ...more
Mandy Maguire
I really loved this book. It's a classic about an alcoholic on a 5 day bender written in the 40's. It's really interesting because he's so introspective. Not really for everyone, but well written and good.
Simone Subliminalpop
Cinque giorni nella vita di Don Birnman, scrittore o aspirante tale in crisi, che diventano una vera e propria discesa, sempre più ripida, nelle falsità e nei deliri dell'alcolismo (da un banale furto fino al ricovero in ospedale e ancora oltre).
Non basta un fratello solerte, un amore sempre pronto ad accorrere, come non bastano le tasche vuote o la paura di svenire ad ogni prossimo passo, la sete, quella sete, è implacabile, non si arresta di fronte a nulla. Anche quando sembrerà di intraveder
C.S. Burrough
This had me glued from the outset. I had seen the 1945 Billy Wilder movie, starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four.

Charles R. Jackson's first novel published in 1944, was a best-seller, receiving rave reviews. This breakthrough account, for its era, depicts the downward spiral of an alcoholic binge. Set in the rundown Manhattan of 1936, we follow a few days in the life of Don Birnam, an alcoholic wannabe author.

Increasingly desperate for boo
A bleak profile of an alcoholic, The Lost Weekend is 5 or so days in the life of Don Birnam. It is implied, and later confirmed, that he'd only just recovered from a long drinking binge when his brother reluctantly leaves him alone for a long weekend.

Alcoholism is what this book is about, not just a 5 day bender in the 1940s New York. As Don goes about begging, lying and stealing for more cash, more booze, his mind drifts back over his life and give details that provide reasons, or given his cyn
The Lost Weekend, a 1944 novel by Charles Jackson, is a powerfully rendered and therefore sickening account of a binge conducted by 33-year-old Don Birnham, a sometimes writer who is rendered with acute understanding of alcoholism's ghastly and degrading effects.

Birnham is portrayed as a romantic and literate child with a vivid imagination whose father left his family as a boy and who was humiliated by a homosexual crush on a college classmate as a young man. Afterward he also suffered from tube
Wow. I can't say I've read many books centered on addiction to begin with, but I also find it hard to believe that anyone has ever written as believable an account of it as this. Don Birnam is clearly a man who is more introspective and sensitive than most, but he is also a man completely beholden to the vice of liquor. He will do absolutely anything (well, almost anything) for a drink, all the while understanding that his desire will lead to nothing more than wanton destruction. From the very b ...more
A wonderfully delicate novel about one man's internalized quest through addiction and the infantilization that stems from dependence, The Lost Weekend is a beauty. The novel's protagonist, Don Birnam, possesses that problematic self-saboteur essence that corales the reader into his world of cheap beer joints. Like every great drunk, Birnam is intelligent. He gently carries the reader into the words of Shakespeare and Fitzgerald and displays a breadth of understanding of what makes great literatu ...more
Michael Estey
The Lost Weekend an Autobiographical Novel

A Classic

Charles Jackson,
a one hit wonder.
Wrote the autobiographical novel "The Lost Weekend" A book of alcoholism and addiction, in 1944.

Five days in the life of an alcoholic, Don Birnam.
The book was deemed a failure when written. Simon & Schuster rejected it, the Great War was happening! Who the hell cared about a drunk!
It surprised everyone, when in the first five years, it had sold a half million copies. Beginning writers take heed.

Don't Let Reje
Clearly written from experience, what amazes me about this book is how Jackson can so accurately capture the mind-spin of an alcoholic particularly of an alcoholic so far along on the downward spiral. Though certainly not an easy read - due largely to its trajectory away from real time - I'm positive it would bear multiple readings to pick up things missed the initial time through. I also am amazed that a film version could have been made at all given the books stream of consciousness point of v ...more
Mr. Jackson wrote such a gripping and believable tale of one man’s cherished drinking habit that many might feel that it was an autobiography thinly disguised as fiction. This sobering (pardon the pun) novel brings you so close to the protagonist that you practically smell the vapors rising off his flesh. Here are the excuses, the lies, the petty thefts, the stints in and out of hospitals (no rehab; the doctors back then felt that alcoholics couldn’t be cured short of stopping cold turkey) and t ...more
Joan MacLennan Mahon
powerful. the twists of thinking, the wierd planning and secretive behavior. the stunning self centered view...a peek in every mirror brings a new portrait of our old pal d'nial. cunning, baffling and powerful. the irrepressable, inexplicable and incessant thirst for more than there is. the self pity, "oozing from every pore." only the hair of the dog that bit me will fix me and then...suddenly im riding a bicycle with a flat tire through the snowy streets of pgh trying to get to a state store b ...more
Im starting to really fall for what I'll call the Drunken Trainwreck novel. The Lost Weekend is another proud and audacious pillar of the genre! The text is thick, and psychological -- and tremendously convincing. While I try to keep a work and its author separate, I imagine there's a great deal of autobiography in this book. Not that I mind it at all! The book follows blackout drunk Don Birnam on a lost weekend from functioning (barely) drunk down a dark, and comical spiral. The daily need of b ...more
Confession ~ I read only the beginning and the end and some of the middle of this--it's a tough read. Still, I can say that the author did an amazing job of putting the reader right into the mind of the addict who would do, and does, almost anything to get to the next drink. A fascinating and frightening book about the power of addiction and the workings of the mind. Apparently, this book "paved the way for contemporary addiction literature."
Wonderful. This is my third read. It's a different read every time. At least for me. When I read stuff in college I read it through the veil of instability. I wasn't in my right mind. Everything meant something different and I couldn't really concentrate on what was really going on. I picked up a lot from that book my experiences with bipolar disorder. This time I read what it really is. A book about an alcoholic on a binge. It's frightening! It's so real! You really get to see how bad things ca ...more
Matthew Mccrady
Probably the best portrayal in fiction of the effects of alcohol addiction. It also happens to be an early gay novel, since Don Birnam´s addiction appears to rotate around the axis of repressed homosexuality. Much of the novel is written from a third person stream of consciousness point of view, which can grow a little tedious when Jackson is describing Birnam´s alcoholic delusions, such as the hallucination of a streak of fire on his bedroom floor. But alcoholism is a lonely disease, one of its ...more
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Why did Don's father leave home? 1 13 Sep 11, 2012 07:24PM  
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“He supposed he was only one of several million persons of his generation who had grown up and, somewhere around thirty, made the upsetting discovery that life wasn't going to pan out the way you'd always expected it would; and why this realization should have thrown him and not them—or not too many of them—was something he couldn't fathom. Life offered none of those prizes you'd been looking forward to since adolescence (he less than others, but looking forward to them all the same, if only out of curiosity). Adulthood came through with none of the pledges you'd been led somehow to believe in; the future still remained the future-illusion; a non-existent period of constantly-receding promise, hinting fulfillment, yet forever withholding the rewards. All the things that had never happened yet were never going to happen after all. It was a mug's game and there ought to be a law. But there wasn't any law, there was no rhyme or reason; and with the sour-grapes attitude of “Why the hell should there be”—which is as near as you ever came to sophistication—you retired within yourself and compensated for the disappointment by drink, by subsisting on daydreams, by living in a private world of your own making (hell or heaven, what did it matter?), by accomplishing or becoming in fancy what you could never bring about in fact.” 9 likes
“Like all his attempts at fiction it would be as personal as a letter—painful to those who knew him, of no interest to those who didn’t; precious or self-pitying in spots, in others too clever for its own good; so packed with Shakespeare that it looked as if he worked with a concordance in his lap; so narcissistic that its final effect would be that of the mirrored room which gives back the same image times without count, or the old Post Toastie box of his boyhood with the fascinating picture of a woman and child holding a Post Toastie box with a picture of a woman and child holding a Post Toastie box with a picture of a woman and child holding—-” 3 likes
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