Joe's Reviews > My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous
My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous
by Susan Cheever
by Susan Cheever
Jun 12, 11
Read in April, 2011
I stumbled upon this book at the library. Given the subject matter I deem it prudent to add that I was not drunk at the time. I was in fact searching for John Cheever, the author's father. And what a felicitous mistake I made! Bill Wilson was a fascinating man, more compelling than the prophets whose existence we are forced to not only acknowledge but never critique. Wilson was no such infallible figure, and he'd be the first to admit it. He helped found AA with a friend of his in 1935. To this day the group has saved lives and families, but what lies hidden behind the holiness of the man is the many, many ways his flaws as a human being were apparent and not in short supply. Wilson, on his death bed, after not drinking for decades and creating a movement that spread across the world, asked for a few shots of whiskey. No one gave him a drink. Wilson, the recovering alcoholic, was a chain smoker. His life reminds me of what Orwell said about Ghandi, that all saints should be judged guilty before proven innocent. Wilson philandered, he self-promoted, he wanted to call the first AA book "The Bill Wilson Story." He hung out with Alduous Huxley and dropped acid, AFTER AA was in existence for years. And yet he created something that has outlasted other ideologies and that has accomplished something that religion couldn't even confront. Cheever does a good job of retracing his childhood in Vermont but I think overplays the whole New Englander Ralph Waldo Emerson individualism vibe. She is better later in his life, calling him out and praising him at the same time.
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