Friday, January 16, 2009

Literary Lushes: Part II

Bob from ArtScatter contributed so much to my list of Dipso Lit that I couldn't leave his valuable information languishing in the comment section. Here are Bob's thoughts on the subject, with a few links added by me:

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.

So much to think about and so much to read! My thoughts: I cannot believe that I forgot about Under the Volcano. I feel hungover just remembering that book. And I often think about how they incorporated hot peppers into the tequila, lime, and salt ritual. Intriguing. Reading Hemingway always makes me want to drink during the day. Sort of like reading Raymond Chandler makes me want to drink rye (and sock anyone who cracks wise). And along the same Prohibition era line as Fitzgerald, the cocktail-centered scenes in The Thin Man are over the top. Bathtub gin never sounded so fun. My plan is to tackle The Lord of this Rings this year -- I am sure I will enjoy the tippling hobbits much more than the orcs, or even the walking trees. Do the trees drink? The Good Soldier Svejk is also on my TBR shelf, as antidote to All Quiet on the Western Front. Glad to hear it really is funny. And finally, I have never really thought of the drinking that goes on in Shakespeare, but I think I'll start counting the bottles. Thanks Bob! My further pondering led me to an entertaining article in the Portland Examiner about "pairing books with cocktails and hard liquor." In it, author Michelle Kerns takes the opposite approach from mine -- instead of letting literature inspire her choice of libation, she suggests books to go along with particular drinks. And she includes my favorite cocktail quote: "I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I'm under the table, after four I'm under the host." From The Portable Dorothy Parker. Wise woman, that Dorothy Parker. Cheers!

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?

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