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Gin, Cigarettes, and Desperation: The Carson McCullers Diet

July 29, 2013 | by


From Modern Drunkard:

Carson liked sherry with her tea, brandy with her coffee, and her purse with a large flask of whiskey. Between books, when she was neither famous nor monied, she claimed she existed almost exclusively on gin, cigarettes, and desperation for weeks at a time. During her most productive years she employed a round-the-clock drinking system: she’d start the day at her typewriter with a ritual glass a beer, a way of saying it was time to work, then steadily sip sherry as she typed. If it was cold and there was no wood for the stove, she’d turn up the heat with double shots of whiskey. She concluded her workday before dinner, which she primed with a martini. Then it was off to the parties, which meant more martinis, cognac, and, oftentimes, corn whiskey. Finally, she ended the day as it began, with a bedtime beer.

Her recuperative abilities are the stuff of legend—she would rise the following morning, shake off her hangover like so much dust, down her morning beer, and get back to work.

And thank you, Michelle Dean, for drawing to our attention!




  1. FreeState | July 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    And a fine role model she was!

    Kids, click on over to Granta. There’s a weird little piece on karaoke in Alaska but at least it’s not gonna kill ya.

  2. OJ | July 29, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    There are arguments out there that suggest that you don’t need to be an alcoholic to be a great writer. THE THIRSTY MUSE Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis, examines this mythology:

    “To pursue this question, Dardis examines the careers and drinking habits of four great American writers: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and O’Neill. His argument is that while in the early stages the romance with alcohol seems to produce a sense of liberation and creativity, the long-term effects are pernicious. Of the four, only O’Neill discovered in time that the bottle would erode his writing talent. He quit drinking and in the ensuing decade of sobriety wrote some of his greatest work, “The Iceman Cometh” and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” In the other three writers, Dardis correlates the decline of their careers with the progression of their alcoholism.”
    –SONJA BOLLE, L.A. Times.

  3. chad evans wyatt | July 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Photo credit?

  4. Toon Hurkmans | July 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Reminds me of Charles Bukowski.

  5. Michele Bayne | August 5, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Surely it is far more epic, though no less sad, that she had a stroke and typed most of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe with one finger?

    This article could have been much longer and more interesting. I guess there’s always wikipedia…

2 Pingbacks

  1. […] To read: Gin, Cigarettes, and Desperation: The Carson McCullers Diet […]

  2. […] people calm down by imagining their audience in underwear (EEEWWWWW) Some people take a stiff drink (tempting but not recommended) Do whatever you need to do to settle down, whether it’s deep […]

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