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Ablutions

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,658 Ratings  ·  330 Reviews
A classic tale of addiction and its consequences as well as a brilliant, often comic twist on the novel, set in, at, and behind the bar

In a famous but declining Hollywood bar works a bartender. Morbidly amused by the decadent decay of his surroundings, he watches the patrons fall into their nightly oblivion, making notes for his novel. In the hope of uncovering their secre
...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published 2009 by Granta Books
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sam Quixote
Nov 08, 2012 Sam Quixote rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to really love boozy, druggy novels when I was a teenager, regularly devouring books by Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Hubert Selby Jnr. and Patrick Hamilton where the protagonists were either alcoholics, drug addicts or both. But that was when I was a teenager and my literary tastes have since changed. So I was surprised to find myself drawn into Patrick deWitt’s debut novel “Ablutions” which takes place almost entirely in a dismal Hollywood bar filled with deadbeats ...more
Sean Beaudoin
Aug 17, 2012 Sean Beaudoin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've said in other reviews that I could pretty much go the rest of my life without reading another novel set in a bar. And this one does have all the bar-book cliches: the surly bartender, the sad drunken teachers, the deteriorating regulars, the old lady that's really a man, the friendly homeless guy, the former child actor, the solo road trip. With all that said, I still really enjoyed it. The voice is rendered in a deadpan-poetic style that manages to feel fresh. The details all feel authenti ...more
Paul
Jun 29, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Patrick deWitt's first novel is truly a theatre of the absurd. In such finely tuned prose, deWitt gracefully synthesizes so many contradictions. It is a dark book with characters swimming in despair and on desolation row, blotting out their crises and lost dreams in booze and drugs. But in this cesspool of tragedy and nothingness is a book that so funny, so beautiful, and brutally revelatory of what may lie beneath the bowels of the human condition. This book is both real and surreal at the same ...more
Kevin
Jan 06, 2009 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I predict this book is going to rock a few worlds when it appears next month. deWitt, a new Portland author, writes convincingly, hypnotically, and often humorously in an odd (but freakishly natural-sounding) 2nd person narrative voice. This is lowlife gutter drunk bar life in a revealing light--a place where the bartender ("you") are more wretched than the customers, of course until you make your great escape. A superb little debut.
Brad
I am not sure who this book is for. If it is for the sort of people it is written about, I am guessing they are too far gone to read the book. If it is intended as a cautionary tale for the people who are on the path of alcoholism, it's going to be a difficult, emotional read (made much worse by deWitt's decision to write in a second person narrative). If it is for anyone else, I can't see them enjoying the read. Ablutions Notes for a Novel is not entertaining. In fact, I'd say it is one of the ...more
Melissa
Jan 11, 2014 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a doozy. It's one that I hesitate to give four stars, since I felt unclean after I read it, but dammit, I also loved it a lot. Brilliant writing, depravity, darkness, hilarity, all the good stuff. Also can be read in about two straight hours. No complaints.
Lisa
It is going to be very difficult to explain this book so I might have to amend this review after I've had time to process - I only finished reading just now having started it this morning (what a lovely way to spend a sunday!).

It is about a bartender with a drink and drugs problem observing others with drink and drugs problem.

 photo drunk_zps6b72ee7b.jpg

I mean we are talking serious problems here.

The writing is lucid and his observations astute, but it is a sad, sad story.

I am finding it almost impossible to articulate wh
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Tyler
Aug 20, 2012 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/5

I think Patrick deWitt is a talented writer. He has a good vocabulary and there is poetry within his words. In Ablutions he uses second person and a deadpan delivery which lends a kind of apathy and disconnect from the entire experience, but not in a bad way. If you've ever had the feeling that can basically be summed up as, "fuck it," then you can relate and see the motives/personalities of the people in this book.

It's grimy, sexy, funny and sad, just like a bar. He hits the atmosphere pre
...more
Chad
Nov 15, 2012 Chad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-read
I don't think it gets better than this piece of alcoholic/bar literature. "Ablutions" is sick, depraved, hilarious and poignant all at the same time. This book is a feat... a triumph, and deWitt should be hailed as a new voice in underground literature. I know what you're thinking... Great, some hipster writer who worships Bukowski and struggles to come up with his own sad sack of a story. And yes, I was skeptical, and it would be easy for me to label Patrick deWitt, the author of this gem, a me ...more
Mike Van Campen
This near-novel presents the reader with a barman observing the depressing lives of the alcoholics and drug addicts who come to the seedy bar where he works. Having worked in the bar for six years, the main character (only identified as a second person "you") has allowed himself to gradually adopt behaviors similar to the customers. This is far from a good thing. As he drinks himself into oblivion behind the bar, his life disintegrates; the most notable evidence of this is the break-up of his ma ...more
Krista
Oct 14, 2015 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: can-con, 2015
When I first left home, at nearly twenty-one, I got a job as a waitress in a bar in the city center of a large metropolis. During happy hour and a little beyond, the bar would be filled with the expected assortment of downtown types – everyone from suits to bums – but once the DJ would arrive at nine o'clock, the quiet regulars would file out and the young crowd would take over; loud and crazy and beautiful, every night of the week. The bar staff were also loud and crazy and beautiful, and like ...more
beentsy
Feb 10, 2013 beentsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-done
The writing is gorgeous, so clear and descriptive. You can almost smell/taste/touch everything in this book. You wouldn't want to mind you, because almost everything in this story is truly nasty and an example of all the most base things humans are capable of doing to each other and to themselves. Spiraling out of control really.
Carlos
Mar 23, 2009 Carlos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves:
this was good. for the people who described this as bukowski lite...i guess i agree. I've only read one bukowski book and it was indeed a little dark. this book's main character was someone you assume is a good guy who's gone down a dark path, and you root for him. or at least I did.
Ronan Anthony O'Reilly
Apr 04, 2016 Ronan Anthony O'Reilly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book certainly shocked me, while also drawing me into the dismal and dingy world of a Californian bar. I haven't read many books of this kind, but as I went along I began to feel a certain sympathy for our depraved anti-hero and the cast of misfits and addicts that surround him. Indeed his way of quickly introducing characters or events really helped me to gain entry into his frightening world, where everybody acts out of self-interest and self-loathing. Like the addicts that frequent it's ...more
Cheri
Jan 12, 2016 Cheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
This is a hard book for me to review. I liked it. It's not as spectacular as The Sisters Brothers, but it's riveting nonetheless. Kind of like a trainwreck, it's hard to step away, to not look, to ignore the carnage.

"Trainwreck" in no way describes the writing; deWitt is a great writer, and even though this is a first novel it's not a beginning writer's output. The structure is unusual; at first I didn't "get it," but after a few pages it all started to make sense. I grew to love it. And even th
...more
Patrick O'Neil
Oct 27, 2010 Patrick O'Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Patrick deWitt's Ablutions is bleak and his minimalist style does nothing to dispel the bleakness – in fact it promotes it. There's endless dark vignettes, vile sexual encounters, and character studies of the bar patrons and his life as a bartender/bar back (it is never quite clear what he does, except drink a lot). His dismal relationships, or lack there of, dominate the plot – although in all fairness, there isn't any plot per say, as the subtitle of the book explains these are: Notes for a No ...more
christa
There are a few things that make me leery when reading a debut novel: 1) When one of the blurbs is by someone who is listed in the acknowledgments (Well that was nice of your friend/writing mentor/college roommate Dennis Cooper to say he loves this book very much); 2) When the book is, oh, say, about a bartender, and in the author's short bio on the back flap it says, for instance " ... Oregon, where he currently resides ... blah blah ... has worked as ... a bartender."

Patrick DeWitt probably co
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Andrés Cabrera
"Abluciones" es, tal como su nombre lo apunta, una suerte de apuntes que podrían llegar a ser una hilarante y más trabajada novela. Sin desconocer los méritos de la misma, esta se queda a medio camino entre un diario de trabajo/borrachera y una historia elaborada: aunque tiene una estructura, esta es demasiado fragmentaria y no logra hacer pie con fuerza nunca. Si bien este libro no deja de parecerse a algo escrito por un buen seguidor de Charles Bukowski o de Hunter S.Thompson (un seguidor más ...more
Neil Powell
Jun 04, 2010 Neil Powell rated it really liked it
A funny, horrific and surreal trip into the mind of one alcoholic bartender and the relationships he has with his clientele and wife. The 2nd person narrative is a little odd to begin with, but fits perfectly with the journey the bartender makes into addiction. You feel like you’re making the trip with him. In this respect it reminded me of American Psycho, horrid and hilarious in equal measure

It’s a little depressing, but I enjoyed it thoroughly
VWrulesChick
Wow, the writing is so gritty and raw, as you take a look into a want-a-be writer who loses himself to alcohol, drugs, his marriage and self-worth. The way the novel is written as a writer to himself as he puts ideas together, where his explanations are sometimes funny in a truthful manner. Definitely not for the faint of heart when you read about his situations he finds himself in at times. Short and easy read.
Maria
Jan 15, 2016 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ik heb een paar jaar geleden erg genoten van ‘The Sisters brothers’. Daarom las ik ‘Afwassingen’, het debuut van Patrick deWitt. Helaas, hiervan ben ik een stuk minder onder de indruk.

Het is het hopeloze verhaal van een afwasser in een duistere kroeg in Californië. Het verkrijgen van whiskey en de nodige shotjes zijn het belangrijkste doel van zijn leven. De aantekeningen uit de ondertitel gaan over de stamgasten en dat zijn er erg veel waardoor het erg fragmentarisch is allemaal. Er duiken ste
...more
Fred
Feb 23, 2016 Fred rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-favs
The premise of this book may not sound all that original. While a bar-back observes his customers as a means of collecting stories and characters for his novel, he descends into alcoholism. However, this novel is wholly original. As usual, it was the distinct quality of the writing that lured me in. deWitt's facility to assemble seemingly disassociated observations about people and situations into full-bodied characters living stranger than fiction lives is remarkable. His turn of phrase is noth ...more
heather
Aug 06, 2009 heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A terrifying book whose true grace is its absolute, whiskey sodden realism, that refuses to even offer the beleaguered narrator cheap resolution through the conventional routes-- or the quite strange routes the narrator seeks. We keep reading not because we await the narrator's redemption but because we sense DeWitt's gritty, tragic universe is one where each act blooms into its inevitable conclusion, in a worse way than we could have imagined. I kept questioning my motives as I read. Am I a sad ...more
Andrea
Nov 04, 2012 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not for the squeamish! Abundant quantities of bodily fluids and solids are described in provocative detail throughout the book. Moralists also (especially squeamish ones) will definitely want to avoid this novel: the characters' behavior is often worse than their foul bodily functions.

I'm not faint of heart, nor prone to moralizing, and I loved
The Sisters Brothers so I gave this one a go. At first, I was put off by the second person voice of the main character, and especially by the persistant
...more
Diarmuid Hester
Mildly entertaining story about the life of an alcoholic bartender and his clientele. The author's use of the second-person serves to interpellate the reader as narrator while the atomised, aposiopetic narration withholds any ultimate immersion in this identity: i.e. it is by turns attractive and repellent - a formal device which serves to substantiate a persistent moral vacillation (in the protagonist; in the reader).

In spite of this, Ablutions doesn't really have much to recommend it: it is n
...more
Ken
Jul 05, 2009 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For his first novel Patrick Dewitt has dredged the drunken swamp of his bar hall years and his own imagination to bring to the surface a gang of dark bar fly characters that were born by some of most memorable language I've read this year. In any novel. We are led through this journey, a swirling toilet flush of a downward spiral, by the bar back at a once famous Hollywood bar. He introduces us to the regulars which are overall a seedy bunch but each one fascinating in their own way. The bar is ...more
Jim
UPDATE: Ablutions is tricky book for me in it was the last book I read before I got clean and sober. That is an abundantly ironic claim to make given the book's absorption with drug and alcohol abuse but it's not a causal relationship. The book didn't motivate me to walk on the sunny side of the street. Needless to say, I was at a pretty low point when I read it and when I popped in the disc during a recent drive to Los Angeles I was curious to see how much I remembered and if it held up. Turns ...more
Clifdisc
Oct 12, 2011 Clifdisc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ablutions is Patrick deWitt's first novel, a darkly comedic look into the decaying lives of LA barflies written from the perspective of an equally self-destructive bar-hand. The novel is written in second person narrative which has the disturbing effect of putting you in the protagonist's unpleasant and increasingly ugly skin.

I love Patrick deWitt's tone which is by turns humorous, melancholy, whimsical, dark and surreal. The book is at its best when this tone elevates the mundane to the mystica
...more
Mark Vrabel
Discuss this book, and your inability to decide how many stars to give it. On the one hand, it wasn't groundbreaking, the story wasn't especially riveting, and the characters were largely unsympathetic. Many reviewers cite Bukowski books as more praiseworthy barroom works, even if it isn't exactly a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. On the other hand, something about reading the narrator's detached observations of the self-hating, self-destructive behavior of lost souls (including his own) does ...more
Darwin8u
Oct 12, 2012 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This is a novel equally about hating work and loving booze. No. That isn't true. This is a novel that is about hating work and drinking booze and hating yourself. It belongs on your untidy shelf next to Under the Volcano, Leaving Las Vegas, Appointment in Samarra and Tender is the Night. IT is a fuzzy, high-energy migrane of a novel and that is part of its clouded brilliance.
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Patrick deWitt was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He is the author of Help Yourself Help Yourself (2007, Teenage Teardrops), Ablutions (Feb. 09, Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt/Granta), which was named a New York Times Editors' Choice book, and The Sisters Brothers (May 2011, Ecco/House of Anansi). He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and son.
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“Work will drive you crazy if you let it.” 5 likes
“I hope he dies out there," you say, and you laugh-sputter at the statement because it is a terrible thing to have said aloud and you hope you can play it off as a joke but Simon is staring hard at you, and now he knows for a fact something he has suspected for years, which is that you have a streak of hate in your heart and that it is deep and wide and though you have hidden it, it is unmistakably uncovered now, and he will never feel that previously mentioned fondness for you again [...]” 5 likes
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