Score 86/100 (8.6 out of 10)
From one book on alcoholism to another. They're roughly the same length but with completely opposite approaches. “Make it a Double” by Randall McNair takes a more snarky and cynical approach to the topic than “Dying for a Drink” by Amelia Baker, which attempted to be helpful and hopeful for the sake of the reader. The nomination letter also admits that this book has a “bleak” tone or outlook. How incredible that we have two books about the exact same topic but approach it in two very different ways, and it's not just poetry versus prose. Both authors struggled with alcoholism for about the same amount of time, but while one (Baker) has seemingly overcome it and strives to never go back, the other (McNair) seems to have "embraced the suck."
“Make it a Double” is a poetry book on alcoholism with poems written while the author was supposedly in an inebriated or drunken state, or at least a little tipsy. It shows. McNair calls alcohol his “muse.” This is more than likely not the healthiest view of alcohol, and we fear may be triggering for some actual alcoholics. It's like the frequently-drunk dad who slaps you on the back and tries to give you advice while slurring and stumbling half the time, it can be somewhat amusing but also concerning, and obviously you aren't taking any of the advice.
At the same time, the approach that this book takes can arguably be beneficial in that it may be able to convince former and current alcoholics that alcoholism—while seemingly big, scary, and all-consuming—is not insurmountable and not unbeatable. Should you take a big issue like this lightly? It depends. Usually, no. But for some, the best way to overcome an obstacle is finding the courage and strength to say, “I can take you” or, like Rocky to Clubber Lang in Rocky III, “You're not so big. You're not so bad. You're nothing.”
One of us has a somewhat related and also humorous personal story. He used to have a small fear of spiders like many do. Arachnophobia is very common like alcoholism. He got over this by making the commitment to punch every spider he saw “in the face.” He soon found that spiders, while seemingly weird and terrifying, are nowhere near as formidable as a human fist and can't survive the force of a human punch. In the end, they're smaller than us and probably more afraid of us than we are of them. They die just like any creature. Alcoholism can be similar. Alcohol only has the power over us that we give it—that we allow it to have. It only has the significance and meaning that we give to it. Intrinsically, it's a substance in a liquid. For some people, that kind of thinking can be helpful.
Another example we heard from the TV show “Prison Break” is the child who is afraid of the supposed “monster” in their closet. This is another common fear that children have, even featuring as a major plot device in “Monsters Inc.” Obviously, there is no monster in the closet, but because the child perceives the closet as mysterious, dark, and scary, it gains a greater meaning and power in their mind. The truth of the matter is, the closet is just a closet like any other closet. At some point, the child needs to find the strength and the courage to open that closet and see that for themselves. At some point, the alcoholic may need to confront their great enemy and realize that it does not have any intrinsic power over them.
Confronting your greatest fears with lighthearted snark and cynicism seems to be the essence of these poems and this book. We could literally envision the author thumbing his nose and sticking his tongue out at the issue. Alcoholism isn't the big, scary monster in this book. It's not the dragon that needs to be slayed. No, it's the dainty little harpy damsel that keeps badgering and nagging the knight on his journey, never lifting a finger to help—just being a ball and chain. No offense, but unless you find drunkenness amusing or funny somehow, it is very clear that the alcohol is not helping the poet to craft better poems, unless of course he's using alcohol to become less inhibited—to get over writer's block or something. The thoughts, as you'd expect, are scattered. They jump from things like drinking, partying, to “tits.” Well, perhaps those three are more related than we'd like to think. But the point remains: the poetry is not our cup of tea. Most of them tell little stories of events that occurred while drunk, usually just as is with little subtext, some involving sex while others involve violence.
Something that bothered us about this book (and we alluded to it in our last review) was that this book can come across as quite mean-spirited. While Amelia Baker in her book was conscientious and remorseful, McNair in this book seems almost remorseless about the actions he took (and possibly continues to take) while drunk. He punches a man in the face while drunk and breaks his face, and this is something he seems to be proud of and celebrate. There's a part where he admits that his wife is probably home alone eating with their cat while he is out drinking at the bar, but it sounds more dismissive of her plight than remorseful. There's a whole poem in here that, instead of talking about alcoholism in the AA group, talks about the hypersexuality of its members. There's a pretty tough to read poem in here about a sexually transmitted disease (herpes) and another about breasts, spoken of in a very unsavory and aggressive way. These aren't things that we necessarily celebrate or even find funny. Sometimes it's just disgusting.
The author does demonstrate some ability to stick to a meter and have some beat. There are poems in here like “Clone” and “I Write Love Poems” that stick strictly to tercets. The lines of most of these poems are consistent in length. We do miss the rhymes and the rhythm though. We miss the emotion and the feels. Something about these poems is that they all deliberately seem detached. They seem to have a very nonchalant or “just screw it” tone to them. What's amazing is that one of the subtitles of this book is quite literally “Bad Poems- Book 2.” Did the author go out of their way to portray the mind and ability level of an alcoholic? Because, in all honesty, if that's the case (and it very likely is), then this book is a cautionary one. Yes, you can find amusement in a silly drunk saying silly drunk things, but you (the reader) can also gather that perhaps alcohol is not a very helpful muse after all.
If you are interested, you can check out this poetry book on Amazon!