Commonweal’s Take on My Novel, “Amends”

Commonweal’s Take on My Novel, “Amends” November 2, 2015

is very generous:

Now Tushnet has published her first novel, Amends, which is about a group of young alcoholics participating in a reality-TV series about rehab. Apart from their addiction, the six protagonists would seem to have little in common. They come from different backgrounds, have different personalities and tastes, and react to their new sobriety regime in very different ways. At its most sociological, the book is satire, providing the reader with miniature tableaux of contemporary campus culture, jock culture, and telemarketing culture, as well as with a much more ambitious portrait of our mass-media culture—a culture of self-display and therapeutic flimflam.

But Amends is not only satire. It’s also an attempt to imagine how abject humiliation can sometimes (but only sometimes) lead to real humility. Tushnet does not sentimentalize the former or underestimate the real difficulty of the latter. But for many of her characters, pride is as big a problem as addiction, and a much deeper one. Alcohol is one of the things her characters are deceiving themselves about, but pride is the cause of their self-deception, and only undisguisable failure can undeceive them. In order to overcome their chemical dependence, Tushnet’s young addicts have to accept their dependence on, and responsibility to, other people.

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