F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.” Fitzgerald was a member of the vast club of famous writers who appreciated the bottle, including Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. In her new book, “The Trip to Echo Spring,” author Olivia Laing explores the reasons why so many literary stars loved to drink, and the both amazing and devastating impact it had on their writings.

On Books and Booze: Olivia Laing’s ‘The Trip to Echo Spring’ 21 January,2014forum

Olivia Laing, author of "The Trip to Echo Spring" and "To the River;" writer-in-residence at the British Library, and the deputy books editor of The Observer

  • William – SF

    Any link between alcohol or substance use/abuse that helps a writer get to the dark side of their lives to write/analyze, perhaps, a disturbing childhood or loss of loved one?

  • geraldfnord

    Not to gainsay the book’s subject, but I would be interested as well in writers who have had a benign, useful, relationship with alcohol…if any.

  • jane stevens

    You mentioned that a big part of the book is the exploration of these writers’ childhoods. Two of the writers had fathers who committed suicide. What are examples of the other adverse childhood experiences?

  • Robert Thomas

    After having the experience of traveling around Great Britain several times over the last thirty years, The single most striking difference I have observed in everyday culture between the U.S. and the U.K. is the very high tolerance in the U.K. for habitual drunkenness, when compared to the U.S.

    British people tolerate a lot more habitual, falling-down drunken behavior as “moderate drinking”.

    Ms. Lang says she believes there’s a big difference between “social drinking” and alcoholism, and I think that she’s right.

    However, there is utterly no question in my mind that it is PERVASIVE, that a level of alcohol consumption that would be considered serious pathology by responsible Americans is very often considered everyday “social drinking” in the U.K.

    I find it somewhat telling that Ms. Lang has focused past not only such luminaries as Malcolm Lowry, Kingsley Amis, James Joyce et. many, many al. but the legion of less luminous British writers who rarely spent a sober day during their writing life.

  • geraldfnord

    “Getting Straight”, with Eliot[sp?] Gould, whose character makes up a limerick mocking that theory about Fitzgerald. A movie so ‘hip’ it was dated the moment it was released, and cannot be watched, merely marvelled-at; a film so racially enlightened it’s bigoted. The “National Lampoon” did a parody of it c. 1972.

  • geraldfnord

    Burroughs went through bouts of serious, near-terminal, alcoholism when he was off the opiates—it was during one such episode that he shot his wife.

  • Another Mike

    The traditional way that Americans consumed alcohol was to go to a saloon, lean up against the bar, and get drunk. German immigration provided a different model, because Germans consumed beer after work, at tables, often with the whole family, without getting drunk.

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