Wasted

Wasted In Elspeth Muir S Youngest Brother, Alexander, Finished His Last University Exam And Went Out With Some Mates On The Town Later That Night He Wandered To The Story Bridge He Put His Phone, Wallet, T Shirt And Thongs On The Walkway, Climbed Over The Railing, And Jumped Thirty Metres Into The Brisbane River BelowThree Days Passed Before Police Divers Pulled His Body Out Of The Water When Alexander Had Drowned, His Blood Alcohol Reading Was Almost Five Times The Legal Limit For DrivingWhy Do Some Of Us Drink So Much, And What Happens When We Do Fewer Young Australians Are Drinking Heavily, But The Rates Of Alcohol Abuse And Associated Problems From Blackouts To Sexual Assaults And One Punch Killings Are UndiminishedIntimate And Beautifully Told, Wasted Illuminates The Sorrows, And The Joys, Of Drinking

Elspeth Muir is a Brisbane author whose writing has appeared in The Lifted Brow, The Best of the Lifted Brow Volume One, Griffith Review, Voiceworks and Bumf She is a postgraduate student at the University of Queensland.

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  • Paperback
  • 240 pages
  • Wasted
  • Elspeth Muir
  • English
  • 07 April 2018
  • 9781922182135

10 thoughts on “Wasted

  1. says:

    I wish he hadn t had the opportunity, liquored up and full of bravado, or sadness, or whatever he was feeling, to fly off the side of the bridge Because, although I always knew in theory that the inexplicable, untimely death of someone I loved unreservedly would be awful, what was impossible to know until it actually happened was that afterwards there would no longer be a time when I was not a little bit sad And that my sadness would not be noble and acute it would be dull, empty, endless, selfish, angry and irritating Wasted is the first book by Australian author, Elspeth Muir Very early one morning, shortly before his twenty first birthday, Alexander Muir drowned after jumping off Brisbane s Story Street Bridge His blood alcohol level was slightly less than five times the legal limit for driving Muir examines this senseless loss of this life from the perspective of a sibling who has her own intimate knowledge of the effects, both positive and negative, of drinking too much I don t know why it was so important that there was alcohol, always To go without just seemed not to be an option Without it, I would rub up against the elements of the world, and chafe and blister With it, everything was softer, easier You had a drink and you slid into nonchalance and from there into conversations and new situations and adventures and forgetfulness Muir examines the drinking culture that seems to be the norm in Australia her shared personal experience give the narrative a validity that an impartial observer might not achieve I didn t think about alcohol, the way I didn t think about eating or breathing It was just an essential part of existence Drugs were big colours hard ink blots on otherwise pastel routines while alcohol was everyday.Muir looks at alcohol as a factor in sexual assault, in violence, and in accidental death She considers both sides of the argument over restriction of licencing laws, even speculating on what her brother might have felt about the subject, but concludes alcohol is not an ordinary commodity trying to contain its effects at the time of consumption is less messy than dealing with them afterwards, even if harm prevention measures somewhat constrain our access to aesthetic or sensual pleasure Recalling an earlier incident Alexander had with the Brisbane river, Muir says When I am maudlin, I imagine the long, dirty, licking river, which coils like a snake on hot sand through fatty suburbs along its waterline, tasted my brother that morning, but was thwarted before it could suck him right in It waited a year, watching, flicking its sunlit scales, laying open the promise of soft depths on dark evenings then, early one morning, his curiosity drove him close again, and it ate him When I am not maudlin, I know he was not the victim of an animistic river, and that his death, by drowning, was not foreshadowed by his love of water except that it explains why he was near a river alone, with a blood alcohol content of almost 0.25 My brother died because he was drunk, and because the drink made him stupid Text have enclosed this outstanding book in a beautiful cover by Chong Weng Ho Muir s memoir is honest, thought provoking and very moving, and this book should be compulsory reading for everyone who drinks to excess on a regular or even on an occasional basis.

  2. says:

    Powerful, stunning work Part memoir part investigation into wider Australian drinking culture I am going to be recommending this book to anyone who will listen to me.

  3. says:

    One recent evening while walking home after dinner and drinks with some colleagues, I came across a young man who was passed out, facedown, on a thin strip of grass beside a busy street in inner city Brisbane Removing my earphones, I greeted him and asked if he needed help or if I could call him a taxi On waking from his slumber, he slurred that he was fine, and began making a call on his phone Satisfied he was semi coherent, I bid him farewell and good luck By the time I had walked to the corner and looked back, the young man was lying facedown once again.I thought about him a lot while reading Elspeth Muir s Wasted , a book whose pages are practically soaked in the boozy culture that defines the lives or at least the weekends of many young Australians What is it that compels us to consume so much alcohol This is the central question that energises Muir throughout her memoir, which begins with the death of her younger brother, Alexander, in 2009.Alexander liked to drink, just like his sister One night in late 2009, just a few hours after completing his final university exam for the year, he drank through the night, even after his friends had gone home He had a habit of drinking to the point of blackout, where the camera in his brain would stop recording memories, and he would find himself waking up in strange places Once, on the morning of his 20th birthday, Alexander woke up on the bank of the Brisbane River, beneath mangroves and a wooden walkway, unsure of how he got there.On that night in late 2009, Alexander Muir made his way to the Story Bridge, a popular spot for suicides He took off his shirt and thongs, and removed his phone and wallet from his pockets, leaving them on the walkway Then he climbed the short barrier and fell 30m to his death, aged 21 When his body was found a few days later, his blood alcohol content reading was 0.238, nearly five times the legal limit for drivers.This is where his sister s book begins, with this extraordinary sentence It was hot when Alexander was buried, on one of those low Brisbane mornings in November when you might have scooped a fistful of blue from the sky if you d stretched an arm out There is an easy confidence to Muir s prose, which above all exhibits a perceptive eye for detail, where cliche is all but absent I loved vivid imagery such as this When I am maudlin, I imagine the long, dirty, licking river, which coils like a snake on hot sand through the fatty suburbs along its waterline, tasted my brother that morning, but was thwarted before it could suck him right in It waited a year, watching, flicking its sunlit scales, laying open the promise of soft depths on dark evenings then, early one morning, his curiosity drove him close again, and it ate him Written across several years, Wasted uses Alexander s death as a narrative point on which to pivot a lens that zooms out to examine broader Australian youth culture, as well as zooming in on the author herself to describe the many foibles and joys that have been experienced with the anesthetising effects of alcohol coursing through her bloodstream.Deeply personal and unflinchingly honest, Muir s debut book is among the best long form explorations of how and why some Australians drink alcohol to excess High Sobriety, by Melbourne via Scotland journalist Jill Stark, was a superb entry into this canon when it was published in 2013 But Wasted is even involved than Stark s book because this author has been marinating in this culture since her birth Its chapters deal with sexual assault, violence, mental illness, regulation and youth led social movements that seek to stem the tide of getting wasted just because it s what young Australians are expected to do.It is an imperfect work there is some needless repetition, and a few of the shorter chapters feel underdeveloped and extraneous As an already slim title, its impact could have been strengthened further by some judicious cutting But, overall, it is a striking work and among the strongest debut books I have read The final two paragraphs are breathtaking.Muir s peers will read and respond to this work because she does not sanitise her words for instance, page two describes her brother s soggy body fresh from the refrigerator pickled in embalming fluids, alcohol and river water It takes time and distance to write of such a painful thing with such fearlessness Parents, educators and policymakers must read this book, for it is filled with insights into why we consume so much of a liquid that can make us so ill.Review originally published in The Weekend Australian Review, July 2 2016

  4. says:

    A compelling and compassionate read about the devastating impacts of alcohol abuse seen through the eyes of a young Australian woman whose younger brother died following a drunken exploit.To read my review in full, please visit

  5. says:

    Two things to get off my chest about Elspeth Muir s memoir, Wasted 1 This is an extremely important book that examines the impact of alcohol on a family and, in doing so, highlights the fact that drinking to excess is normalised in Australian culture.2 In my opinion, this book was robbed it really should have made the 2017 Stella Prize shortlist.In 2009, Muir s 21 year old brother, Alexander, finished his last university exam, celebrated with friends, and then jumped 30 metres from the Story Bridge into the Brisbane River below His body was found three days later, with a blood alcohol reading of 0.25 This tragic event provides a starting point for Muir to explore her grief her own drinking habits and Australia s drinking culture.There s a practicality to Wasted A blend of memoir and journalism, Muir shifts between her incredibly honest account of grieving for Alexander and the problem with a socially acceptable drug Of alcohol, she writes It is a germ killer and a poison an unremarkable but integral addition to meals and a beverage reserved to mark special events able to enhance social occasions and destroy them best consumed in moderation, but symbolic of excess The ability of a person to consume it regularly in great quantities is both the sign of a strong constitution and a symptom of illness Alcohol s effects are lauded in sports people, politicians and other high profile members of society, who are often forgiven for their indiscretions while under the influence, but are considered problematic in minority groups, young people and women, who are blamed for mismanagement There s always a danger with memoirs that they will read as self indulgent or judgemental In describing the trauma that Muir and her family experienced, Wasted could have gone in that direction But no Muir writes beautifully and openly, and because her thoughts often buck convention remember, we all grieve in our own way , the result is startling Frangipani boughs from the tree outside my parents kitchen were wired into a messy funeral wreath Beneath the lid was my brother s soggy body fresh from the refrigerator pickled in embalming fluids, alcohol and river water I laughed in shock and afterwards, in my apartment, I cried It was functional crying, like turning on windscreen wipers or a sprinkler I wasn t sure if I was crying because I had to or because I was acting, trying to emulate normal sadness The real power in Wasted comes from Muir s examination of her own relationship with alcohol Her candid, direct tone and the quick jump from pouring a glass of wine after a long day at work to blackouts and drowning in the Brisbane River is chilling And that s what makes this book brutal her honesty about her own complicity in the culture that led to Alexander s death I was a greedy, grasping drunk I did what I wanted and took what I wanted, and in the aftermath I blamed it on alcohol And through all of this, you can t help but thrill at Muir s beautifully written words When we got out of the car, Mim hugged us the same way Mum and all six of her sisters hug, as if they re koalas and you re a branch 4.5 5 This is an important book and I hope everyone reads it.

  6. says:

    Wasted barrels headfirst into the alcohol soaked heart of Australia to report on our fraught love affair with drinking With this story, which is as complex, bittersweet and rich as youth itself, Muir uses memoir and journalism for a sobering, heartbreaking exploration of what alcohol gives to young people in Australia, and what it robs us of Liam Pieper Intricately crafted An intimate portrait of a grieving family and a nation unable to reconcile itself to the harmful effects of its drinking culture Reminiscent of writers such as Chloe Hooper and Helen Garner This book will help you think critically and compassionately about those who seek solace in alcohol Books Publishing The prose style of this unheralded writer is so achingly beautiful and assured, Helen Garner might be pleased to hand her the keys to the creative nonfiction kingdom and ride off into the Carlton sunset Saturday Paper Muir gifts readers gorgeously evocative passages which convey a depth of emotion Wasted is a haunting read Readings There is no lapse in urgency in Wasted this conversation is a crucial one to have Five stars Good Reading Elspeth writes beautifully and honestly, documenting the shocking loss of an older brother, in such heartbreaking circumstances Mamamia Muir sifts through her own tattered consciousness, hunting for what has been lost She concludes of her brother s death, What a waste of a life that was Yet by determinedly documenting the drinking culture that coddled him, she has opened vital new lines of enquiry into our duty of care towards drinkers It s a tragedy, but now, not entirely a waste Lifted Brow Interweaving brilliant reportage with memoir, Wasted delves into Australia s complicated relationship with alcohol Timely and eye opening Canberra Weekly There is an easy confidence to Muir s prose, which above all exhibits a perceptive eye for detail Deeply personal and unflinchingly honest, Muir s debut book is among the best long form explorations of how and why some Australians drink alcohol to excess It is a striking work and among the strongest debut books I have read Australian Rough and raw and evocative Muir is a talented writer who has blended memoir and journalistic inquiry with aplomb Weekly Times A truly insightful piece of work Wasted is a vital, poignant piece of social commentary, and is essential reading for every Australian who drinks Sydney Morning Herald A thoughtful, heartbreaking work Overland Elspeth Muir s memoir begins after her younger brother s night of heavy drinking culminates with him jumping from a bridge and drowning in the Brisbane River Her handling of the subject is, by turn, heartbreaking, evocative and, in parts, refreshingly weird, and her assured voice makes this a sobering read Readings, Best Non Fiction Books of 2016 This devastating personal story of loss and grief is also an unflinching examination of the damaging drinking habits of young Australians, and of a society that not only permits, but encourages them Junkee A brave, generous and thought provoking book Unlikely Bookworm

  7. says:

    The book is a part memoir, part investigation into the impact of alcohol in Australia It stemmed from the tragic death of the author s 21 year old brother and traces his and her alcoholic antics There is a bit about the comparison with the drinking habits in South America, a bit about sexual assaults, schoolies and the cowardly one punch killings There was little about domestic violence, health issues caused by excessive drinking It is a very personnel story but it could have been powerful if it was told solely as a personnel story I just felt the investigative study was incomplete.

  8. says:

    This is a story of family and drinking and death and drinking again It s a memoir of losing a brother and an exploration of drinking And I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this book.Maybe it s the similarities and the differences with my own life The author and her brothers are similar ages to myself and my sisters It s a Brisbane story, so I can put images and feelings and experiences to the places But the differences are stark, maybe starker so given the closeness of our ages and locations.This memoir is only possible because of privilege an element the author touched on briefly The money to go out drinking, skin colour which meant law enforcement looked the other way or matters were dealt with sympathetically, living in an area where you could walk home completely drunk instead of trying to figure out how to get the last bus or train for the hour long trip home This story gets published because it happened to an inner city family with money, not a working class family from the looked down on outskirts of town.When you re the right kind of person, the stories of alcohol influenced crime, filthy living and nights where you can t remember what happened might come across as charming or amusing or a little sad but easy to chalk up to being young even when you re not that young Most of the time the consequences are mild Unless things go horribly wrong, like they did for the author s brother, or the victims of violent attacks As the memoir parts of the book wind up, there is a look a binge drinking alcoholism and drinking culture in Australia It s a look with lots of personal stories and few conclusions, not dissimilar to the many feature articles written on the issues There s a few moments where I wanted a in depth exploration, but it was kind of shrugged off and moved past.While the content was often frustrating, the writing was both engaging and well done Is that enough to qualify it for the long list of a prestigious literary prize Or is it a story which resonates with people who sit in literary circles Do we need conversations about privilege when it comes to writing and publishing in Australia short answer yes.

  9. says:

    Elspeth Muir s Wasted is a powerful and important exploration into the place of alcohol in Australia, from our backyard barbecues and family celebrations, to the nightclubbing and binge drinking lifestyle of people in their twenties, to the annual beachside booze powered romp that is Schoolies on the Gold Coast Framed by the tragic story of her brother Alexander, who died when he jumped from Brisbane s Story Bridge with a blood alcohol level of 0.238, Muir ponders her and her two brothers history of drinking It s a story that many Australians could probably relate to, at least in their youth At times it s a painfully honest look by Muir at her own behaviour around alcohol, and the difficulties she s had facing up to the fact that her own drinking is borderline dangerous Although she s never been quite the risk taker that Alexander was, she has ended up in potentially dangerous situations that could have been much worse than they actually were.Muir writes creative non fiction with a controlled, pensive voice and delves head first into the difficult issue of addressing the toxic culture that has emerged around drinking, particularly in Australia She includes a mix of memoir and research, although the strongest sections are her own reflections on her brother, and all the points along the road when something might have been done to prevent his tragic death Whether he was suicidal is a question the family doesn t have an answer to, but she doesn t think so rather it was a long history of drunken acts of bravado that led him to fly off the side of a bridge and fall thirty metres into the Brisbane river where he drowned The researched sections of the book are interesting but sometimes feel like they are just skimming the surface, with occasional statistics or study results included amid the broader story she s trying to tell The one that alarmed me most was that 20% of drinkers consume 75% of all the alcoholic beverages consumed in Australia Extremely heavy drinking might be a small minority of people, but the heaviest drinkers are drinking a LOT The book travels from Brisbane to Melbourne, to Argentina and South Africa, and then back to Brisbane again, with Muir examining episodes from her life where alcohol played a central role The travel parts provide some contrast for considering the differences between drinking culture in Australia and elsewhere, although I also found it made her narrative a bit less cohesive when she s drifting between places and moving back and forward in time It s not until the final chapter or so that she ventures an answer as to why the drinking culture and resulting violence or stupidity is different in Australia A lot of it comes down to privilege and freedoms we take for granted Even when there s no money for other luxuries, alcohol often remains a priority for people here, and the idea of going without is still seen as odd and unconventional in many circles.Wasted is ultimately an honest and important book about a difficult topic I hope this book helps start some much needed conversations about drinking, violence, dangerous behaviour, and the grieving families who are left behind when alcohol influenced behaviour has tragic consequences.

  10. says:

    This book tells the story of Elspeth Muir s grief following her brother s death He died after jumping into the Brisbane River while incredibly intoxicated.The main problem with this book is that it doesn t know what it wants to be The first section is excellent and contains some of the best writing about the searing pain of grief that I have ever read The author then gets a bit lost She say she wants to write about drinking culture in Australia but all she really writes about are her own experiences it s all specific not general She also has a quite long description of an apparently debaucherous period she spent in Melbourne that reminded me of the pulp song Common People, where a rich girl slums with the poors, knowing that she could go back to her life at any time Muir comes from a wealthy family and I frankly didn t believe the bit about Melbourne at all.Your appreciation of the writing will also depend on your tolerance for that particular type of literary memoir writing which tries to be both edgy and beautiful using fucking to describe sex and employing functionless obliqueness for no apparent reason in one chapter, she refers to a boyfriend as the man I loved twenty times a page for an entire chapter but it s the only time he s referred to in the book and she never explains when they dated, for how long they dated and when they broke up I did not understand why the chapter was even there This review is coming off a bit harsher than I intended Muir can write very well and there are parts of this book that are really beautiful I know I refer to this all the time but Muir would have done well to emulate Fiona Wright s Small Acts of Disappearance She could have used the separate but interconnected chapters to explore all of the different themes she wanted without leaving her reader wanting to map out a time line because of the contradictory stories told.Three stars.

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