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The Drunken Spelunker's Guide to Plato

Kathy Giuffre

John F. Blair, Publisher
$26.95 hardcover
5.5 x 8.5  
240 pages
September 8, 2015

Just because we’re all prisoners in the cave doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.

The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato is based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave from The Republic. In this novel, the Cave is a dank basement bar in the small Southern town of Waterville, overflowing with cheap beer, good blues, and local oddballs. There’s Vera, the tough but tender owner; Pancho, the philosophical piano tuner; Billy Joe, the former rising star back home after a stop in Memphis; and Commie Tom, the exceedingly generous proprietor of the Hammer and Sickle Bookstore.

The newest bartender is whip-smart tomboy Josie, who hopped a bus from the Appalachian backwoods on a quest to discover who she is and where she belongs. What she finds is the Cave and the love of a charming regular named Danny. Armed with lessons from mythology and Plato’s philosophy, Josie navigates the ups and downs of first love and begins to understand that something much greater is waiting for her just outside the Cave.

With Josie as our brave guide, we are submerged in a rarely explored subculture. Her journey into the Cave and back out is filled with trials and tragedy, but Josie is helped along by her newfound community of large-hearted hard drinkers. The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato is a love letter to the families we build for ourselves and the unexpected ways life can answer the question, what if?


“By turns rollicking and introspective, The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato satisfies on many levels. Giuffre choreographs the narrative skillfully, luring us into Waterville’s seamy, steamy (and delicious) underbelly, then making us fall in love with everyone there. Real people, in a real place, with real struggles, and a hefty dollop of the mystical: what more could you ask for in a novel?”
—Steven Sherrill, author of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break and Joy, Pa.

“Kathy Giuffre’s luminous debut novel reads like a bluesy love song let loose upon a warm summer night. ‘Maybe Fate is what we call the lives we make for ourselves when we’re trying to make sense of what we did,’ one character muses. Lusty, tender, and philosophical, The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato characterizes not only a community of nobody musicians, barflies, poets, and dreamers who hang out at a local bar in a small Southern college town, but a more innocent pre-9/11, predigital age, when books and conversations, music, drink, romance, and kindness matter most. This is the most refreshing and wise coming-ofage story that I’ve read in a very long time.”
—Marianne Gingher, author of A Girl’s Life: Horses, Boys, Weddings & Luck and Adventures in Pen Land

“In The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato, sociologist Kathy Giuffre explores a dive-bar subculture filled with lovable misfits who, with a little help from Plato, lead a lost young woman from darkness into light. This cocktail of equal parts philosophy, humor, and powerful storytelling serves up an intoxicating exploration of found family, friendship, and community in small-town America.”
—Pamela Duncan, author of Moon Women

“There really is a bar called ‘the Cave’ in a small college town in North Carolina. And in the middle of the chiseled-out hallway between the barroom and the pool room is the center of the universe. The Drunken Spelunker’s Guide to Plato is a story of being shackled, being set free, and seeing the infinite opportunities of light. The saga takes place in every town and every cave in the world. This is a delightful, eye-opening tale.”
—Mouse Mock, Bookseller, McIntyre’s Bookstore