I think a good book and a glass of wine make a perfect combination. However, it’s all a matter of moderation and for some authors, that moderation has proved to be impossible.
Many famous writers (especially American ones, it seems) have been alcoholics. They include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Dorothy Parker, Carson McCullers, John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Dylan Thomas (who commented that “an alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you”), Brendan Behan (who famously described himself as “a drinker with a writing problem”), Raymond Carver, Patricia Highsmith, Henry Lawson, William Golding, Paul Verlaine, Malcolm Lowry, Kingsley Amis, and the list goes on …
I have just finished reading The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing. Some months ago, I recommended her book To the River about the Ouse River in Sussex, in which she walks in the footsteps of Virginia Woolf. I love Laing’s writing style – it is erudite and thought-provoking – and The Trip to Echo Spring was no exception. She focuses on six American authors – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Williams, Cheever, Berryman and Carver –
tells anecdotes about their drinking sessions, analyses their works in terms of their alcoholism, and discusses their complex and troubled relationships with drink. Laing travels around America as she writes the book, visiting places the authors knew and where they drank, so her book is an unusual blend of biography, travel, personal memoir (she comes from a family where alcohol has been a problem) and study of what alcohol does to the body. She attends an AA meeting, researches data on what drives people to drink (a troubled childhood seems to be a major factor) and relates that data to the bibulous authors. I found the book unusual and intriguing and can really recommend it.
Now, where’s that bottle of wine …?
What do you think of a good book and glass of wine combination? Let me know what you think about this and your other thoughts by leaving a comment.