Thursday, August 8, 2013
Drinking Not Writing
Olivia Laing of the UK Observer noted on Saturday 27 July 2013 that writers like to drink. The first paragraph of her article depicts John Berryman's suicide as a drunken tragedy without a single mention of his poetry. Henry rested, possessed of many pills & gin & whiskey. He put up his feet & switched on Schubert, His tranquility lasted five minutes. And those five minutes were an eternity to a troubled mind. Olivia Laing continued to recount Tennessee Williams' demise in sordid detail, then laid accusations against Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, John Cheever, Patricia Highsmith, Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Jack London, Marguerite Duras, Elizabeth Bishop, Jean Rhys, and Hart Crane, as if she had been elected the Taliban's art critic.lves. Granted the reporter researched her subjects. But she called drinking a trick as if a quaff of alcohol was a magic potion. Suicide. She loved this theme. Self-destruction ever more, but she quotes John Cheever's to capture the horror, "In the morning I am deeply depressed, my insides barely function, my kidney is painful, my hands shake, and walking down Madison Avenue I am in fear of death. But evening comes or even noon and some combination of nervous tensions obscures my memories of what whiskey costs me in the way of physical and intellectual wellbeing. I could very easily destroy myself. It is 10 o'clock now and I am thinking of the noontime snort." She expertly explained the excess of alcohol. But she's not Irish and she's not a writer. We drink, because we don't want the treatment. We love the horror. The horror that is life. Sorry, Olivia, you just don't get it. But that bottle of wine on my desk is looking half empty, while the night over New York is a silent shade of black.