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Review: Drinking With Men

February 21, 2013

Drinking With Men

At 15 years old, Rosie Schaap told fortunes in the bar car of a commuter train in exchange for drinks, thus beginning her lifelong love affairs with bars.  She later dropped out of high school and became a Deadhead for a while before earning her GED and going on to college, always seeking out a local bar to call her own.  She relates the lessons learned and the friendships formed to broader aspects of life in her memoir, Drinking With Men.  Schaap says,

Of course we drink for solace, we drink for comfort, and the drink does its job; it is a calmative and helpmate.  But you can drink anywhere.  You can drink at home.  A bar gives you more than drink alone.  It gives you the presence of others; it gives you relief from isolation.  When you are a regular, it gives you community, too.

I liked Drinking With Men, but didn’t love it.  I guess I really had mixed feelings about it.  I found it to be well written and thought provoking and I thought Schaap was sincere and articulate but I grew weary of her story before it was over.  Schaap’s a great storyteller, so I was fascinated with her life at first and was amazed at the things she did, all the while remaining unscathed.  But after a while, I was a little put off by the drinking to excess and wondered if she’d ever grow up.  She seemed to struggle to find her way, only feeling at home in a bar and, after a while, I had trouble relating to her.   I think those more familiar with bar culture and those familiar with the bars she’s frequented will enjoy this book more than I did.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
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34 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth F permalink
    February 21, 2013 5:36 am

    I never did hang out much in bars so I was interested in her perspective.

  2. February 21, 2013 6:51 am

    I don’t know, memoirs like this always leave me wondering what’s the point?

  3. February 21, 2013 7:48 am

    I am familiar with bar culture…since I almost grew up in one. And you can have it! Lol

  4. February 21, 2013 8:54 am

    A book I read last year has a similar theme. It’s also a memoir, called The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. It is excellent. It takes place in Manhasset, Long Island, and centers on a local bar that forms the backdrop for much of what Moehringer does growing up and as a young man. It was one of my top books of 2012.

  5. February 21, 2013 9:23 am

    Fascinating choice. I should look into this. Great honest review.

  6. February 21, 2013 9:36 am

    This one is new to me. I’m not really sure if I would like it, but it does sound interesting.

  7. February 21, 2013 9:49 am

    Bar life can be depressing. It’s no wonder you grew tired of it after awhile. I grew up, surrounded by alcoholics so I’ll skip this one.

  8. February 21, 2013 10:12 am

    I agree with Ti! :–)

  9. February 21, 2013 10:51 am

    I think I’d have the same reaction as you.

  10. February 21, 2013 11:03 am

    This does sound like it could be a thought provoking book but, like you, I don’t hang around bars at all so it would likely lose my interest along the way as well.

  11. February 21, 2013 11:32 am

    Sounds interesting and different from what I usually read. And while I don’t “hang out” in bars, I did spend some time in them during my college years … so, it’s a maybe-read for me.

  12. sandynawrot permalink
    February 21, 2013 12:01 pm

    I can totally understand how someone who grew up in bars would never really grow up. There is a certain amount of escapism going on with the regulars in any bar, and I always find it really sad. So I guess…interesting but maybe not enough to read the whole thing.

  13. February 21, 2013 12:26 pm

    I prefer to seek my community in the local coffee shop. :-)

  14. February 21, 2013 1:14 pm

    Doesn’t sound like one I’d enjoy. Too muching drinking and bar scenes get old.

  15. February 21, 2013 1:23 pm

    I heard her interviewed on NPR and wondered if non-bar people would enjoy the overall book or not.

    • February 21, 2013 1:35 pm

      It’s really an interesting subject. I haven’t had alcohol in 30 years. And, yet, I found The Tender Bar fascinating. Even though much of it was in the local pub, it was just very engrossing to follow the lives of the regular bar patrons. I guess it depends on who’s doing the writing.

  16. bookingmama permalink
    February 21, 2013 2:44 pm

    I wondered about this one so I’m glad you reviewed it! Not sure it’s for me.

  17. February 21, 2013 3:08 pm

    I’m not really interested in this if she doesn’t really seem to grow up…from your review it seems like she’s in a cyclical pattern like many alcoholics…not sure this one is for me, but I might check it out if I have time and it happens my way.

  18. February 21, 2013 3:16 pm

    Bars can definitely be depressing. You just have to find the right one(s). One that’s like your own private Cheers bar. I think I’d enjoy this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathy.

  19. February 21, 2013 4:17 pm

    Not a drinking girl and I don’t frequent bars. This one is probably not for me!

  20. February 21, 2013 5:19 pm

    I am truly wondering why she wrote it…but…should I know who she is?

  21. February 21, 2013 5:20 pm

    Actually googling her now…

  22. February 21, 2013 5:40 pm

    Kathy, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts about this book. It sounds kind of interesting.

  23. February 21, 2013 8:48 pm

    Not sure about this one. I am intigued but not sure how long it would hold my interest.

  24. February 21, 2013 9:09 pm

    Not my kind of memoir. Doesn’t sound inspirational.

  25. February 21, 2013 9:36 pm

    At first it sounded like it would be interesting but as you said, I can see where I would get annoyed at the continuous drinking to excess. Thanks for the review! :)

  26. February 22, 2013 8:05 pm

    I can understand how this story would have worn on you after awhile. I think when memoirs linger too long in the excess and low points and take forever to come to some redeeming event, it’s just sort of depressing. In any case, wonderful review. Thanks for your honesty!

  27. February 23, 2013 7:12 pm

    Sometimes memoirs are hit or miss with me…not sure if I would’ve hung in there for the full ride or not. Loved your review though!

  28. February 26, 2013 12:30 am

    It’s too bad that she never progressed past the bars. I like to find homey bars to go to once in a while, but Jason can’t stand them!

  29. boardinginmyforties permalink
    March 19, 2013 2:33 pm

    It’s sad how often people find community in a bar. There’s got to be better places to hang out!

    • March 19, 2013 4:25 pm

      Dear boardinginmyforties,

      Take a look at The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer. It’s non-fiction and centers on a local bar, but it gives a great sense of the community that does develop.

      • boardinginmyforties permalink
        March 19, 2013 4:53 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation Lloyd. I will check it out!

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