Bill W. and Mr. Wilson
The Legend and Life of A.A.'s Cofounder
A compelling cultural biography of the man who launched the twelve-step movement
William Griffith Wilson, recently cited by Time magazine as one of the hundred most influential individuals of the twentieth century, is better known to many as Bill W., cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In Bill W. and Mr. Wilson, Matthew J. Raphael, himself a member of A.A. (and writing here under a pseudonym, in accord with AA's tradition of anonymity), presents a revealing new look at both the legendary Bill W. and the private Mr. Wilson, who tried to live apart from his own celebrity.
In quest of a more historically accurate and complete account, Raphael separates fact from fiction in the standard biographies of Wilson and finds reason to doubt the literal truth of some foundational AA stories. He also provides a context for Wilson's (and thus AA's) key ideas in the work of William James, Carl Jung, and other modern thinkers. What emerges is an unvarnished portrait of a charismatic man and social visionary, whose true greatness is all the more apparent in view of his human imperfections.
Readers already familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous will find much to engage them. Others will discover AA and its cofounder from an insider's perspective.
"This exceptionally well-written book on the life of A.A.’s cofounder will deservedly find a wide readership. It is time that the man inside the legend of Bill Wilson was rediscovered. Bill W. and Mr. Wilson achieves that feat."—author of Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America
"This biography respectfully attempts to pull Bill W. down from his mythical pedestal. Drawing from both primary and major secondary sources, Raphael critically reconsiders what we think we know about the man who started a therapeutic revolution."—Publishers Weekly
"This is the best work I have read on Bill Wilson; it is also one the best introductions to AA—its origins, development, and significance."—Roger Forseth, founding editor of Dionysos: Journal of Literature and Addiction
"Raphael not only interprets the 'big' books about the AA movement and its two founders (Dr. Bob as well as Bill W.), he has also read all the recent scholarship on the subject and uses it scrupulously and judiciously in the formulation of his own views. I think Raphael's book will become the starting point for any subsequent scholarship and/or discussion of the subject."—Deirdre Bair, author of Anais Nin: A Biography