Friday, January 16, 2009

Literary Lushes

Heading into another cold, soggy Oregon winter weekend, my thoughts have turned to hooch. I'm planning to snuggle up in front of the fireplace with a warm Hubby, a cold martini, and a good book. Ever since I posted my review of Martin Amis's Money, I've been mulling over the notion of books about booze. Not books that are officially about alcoholic beverages, but books by drinkers about drinkers. Maybe because I've become a lightweight myself, I sometimes enjoy a good sodden literary romp -- like Money. The Martin Amis apple did not fall far from the Kingsley Amis tree. Amis, père is my all-time favorite literary lush. Lucky Jim's drunken "Merrie English" speech is hilarious. And his description of a hangover as a huge raw egg rolling around inside his skull has stayed with me my whole drinking life. Amis's other books are similarly alcohol-centered. His Booker Prize winner, The Old Devils, involves a group of older friends who spend most days drinking. The inn keeper hero of The Green Man devotes a lot of energy in hiding the quantity of booze he puts away. Amis even has a dipsomaniacal collection of short pieces called Everyday Drinking. But the Amis clan does not have a lock on libation literature. There must be others. Please share your suggestions. And I'll keep pondering. Jim Harrison springs to mind. Others?


  1. Oh, what a fun list for a cold winter's day!
    Lots of possibilities out there: Of course, there's Bond, James Bond, but I don't read the books, I only watch the movies. And, anyway, stirred's just fine by me.

    You could categorize: desperate drinking, civilized drinking, drinking for comic effect (the last of which can shade both ways). And of course, there's plain old habitual drinking.

    Among the desperates: Malcolm Lowry and "Under the Volcano"; William S. Burroughs; lots and lots of Hemingway and, with a touch more glamour, Fitzgerald; Henry Miller, most of whose desperate sexual exploits were accompanied by the bottle.

    Among the civilized: J.R.R. Tolkein and his tippling Hobbits, whose English love of a small sip is echoed in Agatha Christie's murder-mystery cozies and John Mortimer's plonk-obsessed barrister, Rumpole of the Bailey.

    For comic effect: the rip-roaring idiot savant Svejk and his various and assorted captains and companions in Jaroslav Hasek's wonderful World War I satire "The Good Soldier Svejk." And the great Falstaff, through the Henry IV/V plays and "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (a lot of people drink a lot of booze in a lot of Shakespeare). Intriguingly, for all of his comic relief and fascinating wisdom-of-the-cowardly outlook on life, Falstaff becomes almost a tragic figure at the time of his death in "Henry V," and the bottle has a lot to do with that.

  2. Great stuff, Bob! Thanks! How could I have forgotten Under the Volcano?

    So good that I am going to incorporate your comment into a new post -- hope you don't mind. I'll give you credit.

  3. I built another post around Bob's comments, but welcome more. The list is probably endless.

    Oddly, this weekend turned out to be quite cold, but not soggy as had been forcast. A sunny winter weekend in Oregon is a rare thing.

    I'll drink to that!


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