Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the great unrecognized literary works of the first half of the twentieth century. It has been through three editions after its first printing in 1939 and at least fifty-three printings in over ninety countries (xxii). The wide popularity and circulation of the book certainly affirms this claim. An examination of the contents of the book will show that it also deserves this title. It is a rich work because it conveys a basic human condition, though ugly, until that time not often spoken of in public. If it simply did this and nothing more it would merely be a good book. But it does more than speak to an ugly condition; it gives a blueprint for change.
The human condition which is spoken about in Alcoholics Anonymous is the dichotomy of the life of the alcoholic. These alcoholics are not easy to categorize; they are not always a Dr Jekyll by day and Mr Hyde by night. Bill, who explains his life story in the first chapter, explains how he studied economics, business and law to join speculators on Wall Street. Up until this point, drinking had interfered in his life, but was not a continuous plague. Yet, over the course of time he becomes an alcoholic for a variety of reasons, like many individuals described throughout the book. The alcoholics described are not portrayed as unintelligent, unsuccessful or insignificant. They are men who have high positions, who are by turns "brilliant, fast-thinking, imaginative and likeable" (139). The conclusion of a prima facie inspection of these individuals would not include over indulgence of alcohol. But under the alcoholic influence these attributes worthy of note slowly atrophy and...
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...the book is flexible enough to be implemented in other ways is the indication that it is a book of stature.
Finally, one cannot easily undermine the experience of those who have read the book and changed. These are the ones who will agree most wholeheartedly with the assertion that Alcoholics Anonymous is a great unrecognized literary work. Indeed, these individuals are the evidence of this assertion as well.
Alcoholics Anonymous conveys not a singular story, but stories - ones common to alcoholics.
The story common to alcoholics is one also shared by wives, family members, employers, and so forth. Thus Alcoholics Anonymous is not just a book for alcoholics but also for those who come into contact with them. The audience of
"matters medical, psychiatric, social, and religious" (19).
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