I have just read Drunk by Jackson Biko and I liked it even though I take the earliest opportunity to declare he is a colleague.
That disclaimer made, it was a link from a big fan of his work that I discovered Biko wrote Drunk. Naturally, I was curious but knowing Biko, no dirt was dished. I had to get a copy like the rest of the world to know what it was all about. It starts with two words “Oh, Tina.” Second line, “Poor Tina.” As for the rest, read when you get a copy.
Few writers of our generation in the country, or that we know of currently can match the beauty of the canvas Biko paints in the mind of the reader as one ferociously flips through the pages, like a fire licking tinder. He manages to pull you in, you encounter an intensity and intimacy of a certain kind when you go through his body of work, not just this book Drunk.
Back to Drunk, it is a book about a man, a man of means with a passion for life, zest for the finer things in life, including women. Larry is urban and hip, with a good job meaning, steady income, until he can no longer handle his drinking. This book is relatable. It is of roads you use, food you eat, places you frequent, I dare say, thoughts you’ve had or someone you know. How Biko manages to free himself from the clutches of predictability is a testament to his writing skill, plot twists and labour of love.
Your eyes will water, your heart will beat in anticipation of what happens next. You will think of someone you know, perhaps even make you reach out to them, mostly because empathy will flow out of you. If you know someone with a drinking problem, it’s probably nothing to worry about right? They say they’re a social drinker, right?
They’ll have a tot or two before an eight-hour work day is done, or probably reek like a brewery most of the days of the week, and can work without supervision, whilst rejecting the air of fragility and shame that comes with struggling with alcohol, fret not. Prayers are always a comfort, shaming doesn’t help, if Larry, the lead character in Biko’s book is anything to go by. Rehab helped Larry, a little. The depth of the conversation Biko ignites in the book Drunk, is one that needs serious attention.
The government has been waging war on illicit alcoholic brews. There has been little success recorded once the cameras are switched off, and real families are struggling with this all too real pain. One gets a sense, that Biko must have had someone close struggle with alcoholism. He writes from a deep place of observation, pain, regret and reflection.
Drunk is like a mirror. A mirror for the millennial, tech-savvy, educated, middle-class Kenyan earning a living, whilst struggling to live like the Jones’ they follow on social media. It’s a soul search for a generation obsessed with “kuchafua meza” at every available opportunity.
Drunk is worth the fuss, and more importantly, your time. Grab a copy and dive right in. Happy reading!