“This has been the worst year of my life,” announces Mark Gauvreau Judge almost before he says hello. His dad died, he’s been sidelined for six months with a nasty viral infection, andoh, yeahhe had to slap together a 259-page memoir in five months. On top of that, his publisher (Hazelden) forced him to add gratuitous references to bands such as the Replacements and REM so they could give Judge’s Wasted the unfortunate subtitle Tales of a Gen X Drunk.
“I fought them for two weeks on that,” says Judge, 32, who once, in a drunken stupor, fired off a five-page, single-spaced letter to the Washington Post protesting a “25 and Pending” piece. (Full disclosure: He was compiling listings for Washington City Paper at the time.) His rant got him an invitation to pen a few Outlook pieces.
He should only have so much luck with his book-length rantthis one insisting that alcoholism is a genetic, biochemical disease.
“Zealot” is the way the New York Times describes Judge, and the word is well chosen. He launches into a canned-sounding 15-minute diatribe when I ask if Wasted isn’t a waste of paper, what with Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story already out there and Hazelden bringing out another alcoholic-confessions tome this fall (the reason Judge had to rush his).
“We’re in a position where the biogenic and psychogenic theories of alcoholism can no longer coexist. All these other books say everything was fine and then my boyfriend left me and that’s when I became an alcoholic,” he says, all in one breath.
Judge thinks the what-causes-alcoholism partswhat he calls the “journalistic” partsare the book’s best bits, and he’s probably right. The rest is Catholic-school cliché: sex, stealing, and superstrict nuns at “Loyola,” a thinly disguised Georgetown Prep, plus a drumbeat of “See? It wasn’t my fault.” It takes what seems like forever for him to hit rock bottomand the pointbecause his parents paid his rent and otherwise bailed him out. (He lives with his mother in Potomac now.)
“I read parts now and I say, ‘It’s not the best thing I’m ever gonna write,’” Judge admits. “But if I’d been given a year or two, it could have gotten really pompous and bloated.”Courtney Rubin