cover of book

In the Open: Diary of a Homeless Alcoholic
by Timothy E. Donohue
University of Chicago Press, 1996
Cloth: 978-0-226-15767-2 | Paper: 978-0-226-15768-9
Library of Congress Classification HV5293.D65A3 1996
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.292092

Compelling, raw, and painfully self-aware, In the Open describes an existence most people can barely imagine. A first-hand account of one man's struggle with homelessness and alcoholism, this diary records a world full of physical degradation and despair that is not without unpredictable moments of striking beauty.

Donohue's experiences are brutal, but his perceptions are poetic. This account of an intelligent and sensitive man in the grip of alcoholism and homelessness challenges our perceptions of those on the margins of American contemporary life.

"Donohue recorded this often-moving account during a four-year period of homelessness caused by his alcoholism. . . . There are many brilliant observations here on a range of topics, including human nature, technology, and capitalism. . . . Donohue's life on the fringe also provides an inside look at the homeless system of overnight shelters, labor offices, and food stamp providers. But, somehow, in spite of all the negatives, a hopeful book emerges."—Booklist

"A startlingly original book. In this confessional age, Donohue's diary becomes a different sort of tell-all, a palimpsest that forces us to extract the author from his own writing. . . . Donohue comes to resemble Swift's Gulliver"—Nicholas Nesson, Boston Phoenix

"Donohue punctuates his account of 'domiciling within the black walls of a mosquito-infested night' with rambling metaphysical asides in the style of an eighteenth-century philosophe."—Molly McQuade, Lingua Franca

"Despite hunger, homelessness, dead-end jobs and abusive drinking, what is most striking about Donohue is his amazing optimism and endurance."—Patrick Markee, Nation

"Donohue is a gifted writer. . . . But what gives [his diary] the breath of life is that it is written by an artist."—Alec Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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