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Books We Cite: Bunky’s Birthday

I hardly remember birthdays. But come August 15, I can’t help asking “Who remembers Jellinek?”

In an editorial for the Jellinek Special Anniversary issue of the CAS Information Services Newsletter, we (co-authors Judit H. Ward and William Bejarano) cited an article written in 1982 by Mark Keller, editor of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, with the title “I remember Jellinek.”

I’d like to keep it that way. Hence the Jellinek Dossier.

Jellinek corner

The Jellinek Corner in the Center of Alcohol Studies Library in 2015

At that time, in 2015, 125 years after Elvin Morton Jellinek was born, the question we asked if and how the world remembered Jellinek, or “Bunky,” as he preferred to be called. Not only did we make attempts to unfold mysteries and speculations related to his life, but we started to track down (and hoard) Bunkyana, as we affectionately call artifacts written by or related to Jellinek.

In 2016, we even managed to locate and interview a prominent scholar, Harold Kalantwho met Jellinek in person while working in the next office at the University of Toronto.

Remembering Jellinek, the first questions should be, as suggested by Thelma Pierce Anderson, Jellinek’s ex-wife:

Which Jellinek are we talking about? Bunky, the man? Bunky, the scientist? Bunky, the humanitarian? Bunky, the screwball? Bunky, the kind? the ruthless? the genius?

All of the above, of course! He was an extraordinary character, and I bet we don’t know half of it. A case of “the more I learn, the less I know.”

In the profession Jellinek chose for the last twenty-some years of his life, his appeal to both lay and scholarly audiences is remarkable and exemplary, spanning diverse venues as the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Lay Supplements, a cartoon, and even––predating cute kittie videos on social media––a title such as “Alcohol, Cats, and People.”

Cover artFor the Books We Read blog, obviously, we should highlight a book he wrote. E.M. Jellinek’s most famous work, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism, is a seminal title in alcohol studies. Jellinek’s research on the phases of alcoholism had come a long way from the famous Bunky’s Doodle to the Jellinek Curve, as the Glatt Chart is called, paying tribute to Jellinek and inspiring addiction researchers, practitioners, and people with substance use problems since 1958.

Published by Hillhouse Press in 1960, and related to the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies (as documented in the Alcohol Studies Archives), the ebook is available for the public via the Internet Archive from the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) collection.

It’s not an easy, summer read. It has received an enormous amount of press, including reviewscriticism and deep insight. According to Google Scholar, it has been cited 4,231 times, as of Bunky’s upcoming 131st birthday.

The most remarkable thing about Jellinek’s work is that one cannot ignore it, even though “The Disease Concept of Alcoholism remains one of the most frequently cited and least read books in the alcoholism field” (White, 1998, p. 215). That’s what we call impact.

Regardless, on August 15, Jellinek comes to my mind, hoping for his legacy to prevail, despite fading memories.

Happy birthday, Bunky!

Works cited:

  • M. M. Glatt, M.M. (1958). Group therapy in alcoholism. British Journal of Addiction, 54 (2): 140.
  • Kalant, H. (2017). Broad Thinking: An Interview With Harold Kalant. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(1), 158–165.
  • Kelly, J. F. (2019). E. M. Jellinek’s Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 114(3), 555–559.
  • White, W. L. (1998). Slaying the dragon: The history of addiction treatment and recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health Systems

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