This short but compelling novel drips with LA low-life scum. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke, liquor and rank behaviour that drips from the pages.
In an inventive second-person narrative voice, we see the regular drunks and drinkers of a small-time LA bar through the eyes of our bartender. There isn't much to like- but that's kind of the point. It's like peering into an abyss of addiction, inebriation and it's a heady, intoxicating view. deWitt serves up a murky cocktail.
The characters in this novel sink pretty low- there's drug addiction, drug dealing, prostitution, sex, sleaze, violence- you really become mired in their world. But ultimately, you get to leave them behind at the end.
Redolent of Bukowski, 'Ablutions' really lifts up a stone and peers at the darkness, and loneliness of city life whilst peeling away the complexities of addiction. Weakness, freedom, waste, want- they're all here.
Tragic, abhorrent, despicable- and yet, it's an engaging page-turner that I couldn't put down. You will feel like you need a good wash when you've finished.
I will be intrigued to see what Patrick deWitt writes next.