It’s only when I’m trying to write that I legitimately consider daytime drinking. I will peek into the fridge to see if any wine is open before realizing with horror that it’s only 10:00 am and I’m still in a dressing gown. I’ll then return back to my laptop’s woefully blank page with or without wine and consider things like home-brewing and how I would market a beer that I brewed in my bathtub. The image of the drunken writer is exhaustively overplayed in our collective consciousness, and with good reason.
Having excelled, and more dramatically, failed at both drinking and writing I’ve often tried to dissect this tumultuous relationship. Behind any novel worth reading is a writer with some fatalistic addiction to alcohol. It’s a cliché, so much so that when I tell people I want to be a writer I receive a sympathetic head tilt as if to say, “wow, what the fuck is your damage?” Unfortunately most people presume modern writers to dwell in coffee franchises with laptops as opposed to bars. This is annoying because I would certainly like to do more writing in bars and less time checking Instagram whilst pretending to write in Starbucks.
Here are some examples of Literature’s most committed alcoholics.
1. Jack Kerouac
Oh boy, one of my favorites. Because how am I supposed to legitimize taking spontaneous road trips if I can’t at the very least say that On The Road is my perfect book? I was exposed to Kerouac’s writing when I was probably too young to understand it and this means I will call my first son Sal Paradise and I hate Kristen Stewart for whatever the thing was that she did in the film adaptation. She remains a cinematic blank canvas upon which nothing can ever be drawn, but this article isn’t really about her, although thinking about her performance incites me to reach for the bottle just as much. Kerouac died at the age of 47 from an internal hemorrhage; this is like when your organs bleed into each other from the inside. It’s very messy and was caused, in Kerouac’s case, by cirrhosis of the liver, the result of the kind of heavy drinking that came with the explosion of the Jazz age. Kerouac was a headliner of the Beat Generation, but really it’s more accurate to regard him as the jocky-type that got sucked into a far cooler, more liberal, artsy crowd. He was always an outsider, even amongst the outsiders. Kerouac abused Benzedrine, which was the 1950s answer to Adderall and he allegedly bashed out On The Road in a three-week bender with the aid of Margaritas. For all his alcohol abuse and embarrassing bar fights, Kerouac produced some wonderful words and supplied generations with a selection of great quotes to attach to their yearbook photo.
2. Hunter S. Thompson
This one is obvious. A list of The Good Doctor’s daily routine has been floating around the Internet for a while. Reading it will render your life a tad boring and make you feel comparatively stable. This wily novelist’s day begins by rising at 3pm with a Scotch Whiskey; he would then double up on whiskeys and cocaine at five or 10-minute intervals, with an acid-drop around 10. He would continue in this fashion until about midnight where he would finally feel “ready to write.” What a champion, abusing that quantity of alcohol and narcotics just so we could enjoy Fear and Loathing, and subsequently despair at Johnny Depp’s attempt to stay relevant from his jig in The Rum Diary. Why do I keep ripping on actors in book-film adaptations? Maybe I’m lonely. Maybe I should write my own book adaptation screenplays and enforce my own casting decisions. This isn’t really the world we live in though.
Hunter S. Thompson (it feels wrong not to use his full name) invented gonzo journalism; this is where you essentially throw yourself into the story that you’re writing, becoming a character and part of the action. I guess a part of this technique includes the over-eager indulgence of mind-altering substances, if that’s what the situation called for. Modern journalism could probably benefit from a shift back to gonzo, what with nearly all writing done behind screens that shield you from having to face any subject to confrontationally. For 2014 I humbly suggest an emphasis on more gonzo and more whiskey please.
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ok this guy probably it took it too far, because he was a notoriously belligerent alcoholic. History tells us his breath was all gin and cigarettes. There are stories of him and his wife Zelda stripping off and getting into water fountains at parties. I guess if any modern-day celebrity couples acted like this, we would all roll our eyes and change the channel pretty quickly but this was a different time. The contextual differences make it difficult for us to comprehend just how much he drank. Remember, he was an American living in PARIS during the roaring 20s, literally what else was there to do but knock back liquor all day? In spite of all his drinking he still managed to pen some wonderful short stories like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and obviously his most famous novel The Great Gatsby. Literally everyone knows this is the greatest American novel of all time so his inclination for copious consumption of gin was probably not a bad idea, old sport.
I guess trying to write and being drunk are not all that different. I sure would like to compare some MRI scans of a brain in the middle of writing some gripping character development and one that has just staggered out of a bar at happy hour. The process of writing stems from trying to get your mind talking with itself, brewing a witty dialogue between your left and right hemispheres and putting this down on paper.
To write well, or in fact, to write at all, you want your brain to feel a bit overflowing. Imagine some cauldron bubbling over with words and syntax. Just as drinking in bars will loosen your tongue enabling you to speak where you were afraid or embarrassed, drinking at your desk might just inebriate your fingers to type away with the brutal honesty that is cornerstone of all good writing. I’m going to find some wine and start my screenplays now.