In 2009 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 below.
Three 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 driving.
Why 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 undiminished.
Intimate 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.
‘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
‘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
‘Wasted barrels headfirst into the alcohol-soaked heart of Australia to report on our fraught love affair with drinking.’ Liam Pieper
‘There is no lapse in urgency in Wasted; this conversation is a crucial one to have. Five stars.’ Good Reading
‘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
‘Elspeth writes beautifully and honestly, documenting the shocking loss...in such heartbreaking circumstances.’ Mamamia
‘[Muir] 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
‘The strongest new Australian voice I’ve come across this year.’ Readings, Our Favourite Books of 2016 (so far)
‘Wasted is a book that every New Zealander and Australian needs to read…If I had my way, I’d give this to everyone in their last year of high school, and their parents too.’ Booksellers New Zealand
‘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.’ Best Non-Fiction Books of 2016, Readings
’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