Is a good writer a … drunk writer?
I’m going to have to confess a nasty secret: I had no idea Stephen King suffered from alcoholism for so many years. It’s a little embarrassing, when you pride yourself on writing about books, to miss something so big.
• Loud LazarusCo-founder of the Fric-Frac Club
I’m going to have to confess a nasty secret: I had no idea Stephen King suffered from alcoholism for so many years. It’s a little embarrassing, when you pride yourself on writing about books, to miss something so big. We had to wait for the release of his latest novel, Doctor Sleep , sequel and end of a cult book.appeared in the last century, so that it reaches my ears. That is to say. Yet the writers and the bottle are something that knows me. Stupidly, I have long considered that a novelist who did not drink would achieve nothing or hide a terrible secret that only sobriety could keep. It was another time, I was in high school, I wanted to be subversive. Today, I readily admit to this great consumer of lukewarm water that Borges was undeniable literary qualities (you speak of an understatement), even if I continue to think that a glass or two would not have done him. wrong.
Ah! Alcohol and writers … From the Dive Bouteille de Rabelais to the passage of Bukowski on the set of Bernard Pivot (who did not have to invite him) it is a tango as old as the world and which still retains its strange power of attraction. Moreover, a book has just been released in the United States and England dealing with this obscure connection between addiction and creation. In The Trip To Echo Spring (the title refers to the big bites inflicted by the character of Big Daddy in The cat on a hot roof by Tennessee Williams … great author, great alcoholic) Olivia Laingportrays six American writers through the ass of a full bottle: Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman, of whom, second confession of weight, I had never heard of, Raymond Carver and , of course, Hemingway. After all, who else did more for the myth of the drinker writer than Papa? We can say, without exaggeration, that he supported the Cuban rum industry and the cases of Floridita on his own, invented half a dozen cocktails including the Bloody Mary out of sheer cowardice.and participated in the liberation, gun in hand, of the Ritz bar which has since been named after him … In short, an impressive work, but which did not prevent him from shooting himself in the head. His biggest fan, Hunter S. Thompson, will do the same a few years later.
So why do writers drink? I imagine that some do it as a kind of professional obligation, a pose of circumstance. After all, a writer who doesn’t drink is a bit like a rocker who lives past twenty-seven. It sucks. But for those whom we do not forget and who have left an indelible mark on us, it is quite another thing and it is this “completely different” that Olivia Laing tries to explore. Sensitivity on edge, an unhealthy past to lug around, or both. Sometimes more. Baudelaire said he drank to “kill something inside him” and Hemingway, again, added:
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“Life is mechanical angst, and alcohol happens to be the only mechanical comfort.”
We would be knocking down doors that have been open for a long time by saying that the reasons that make a man or woman write are often the same as those that make them drink. Beyond any moral judgment, this is what Olivia Laimb’s account shows, except that if the authors she calls on have become classics among classics, their writings reflect only slightly, if at all. everything, their alcohol addiction. Without being too bad it leaves a blind spot. Suddenly, here are six authors, six novels, chosen subjectively and whose pages are literally soaked in alcohol. History of having the right measure:
Fred Exley – The Last Stage of Thirst
In 2011, the excellent editions of Monsieur Toussaint Louverture published the heart-wrenching but still little-known work of Frederick Exley. Between American football and repeated detox cures, between humor and despair, Exley tells of an unforgettable descent into hell. To discover absolutely.
Antoine Blondin – A monkey in winter
When he wrote this story of subsidiary friendship, Antoine Blondin still had a few friends who watched him play corrida with the cars on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Three years later, Verneuil will make a film of the book and Belmondo will do corrida in shirt sleeves. A great movie. But it’s always better to read the book first.
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Hunter S. Thompson – Express Rum
Thompson drives the point of his gonzo journalism even further with this novel brought back from the dead by Johnny Depp. The translation of the original title, The Rum Diary , is utter nonsense. However, it has the merit of leaving no doubt about what will be found inside: crazy and largely autobiographical stories, style and cocktails galore. The legend Hunter Thompson is on the march.
James Crumley – The Last Kiss
Who has not read The Last Kiss at least once in their life must be very unhappy. Just for the opening scene this book is worth all Goncourt. Here is the first sentence: “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beers with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a shabby tavern just outside Sonoma …”
Jack London – John Barleycorn
When in 1913 he published John Barleycorn Jack London had only three years to live. Croc-Blanc and Appel de la forêt being nevertheless better calibrated for the libraries of our schools London has remained in the French imagination as a writer-adventurer surrounded by snow. At the same time, what would have been the impact of this Barleycorn on entire generations of schoolchildren? Difficult to imagine.
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Malcolm Lowry – Under the Volcano
An absolute masterpiece, often cited, rarely read, Sous le volcano is the dazzling cry of a brilliant writer whom alcohol has slowly killed. Written in Mexican torpor, polished on the shores of a Canadian lake, the manuscript escaped a fire, two, three attacks of delirium tremens and twenty refusals before Jonathan Cape published it in 1947 (not without forcing Lowry to some retouching and breaking away from a now famous letter of explanation). Worship.