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Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’

You Too Can Be a General

April 2, 2015 | by

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Hemingway with Lanham on September 18, 1944, after the breakthrough of the Siegfried Line in Western Germany.

From Ernest Hemingway’s letter to Colonel Charles T. Lanham, April 2, 1945. Hemingway described Lanham as “the finest and bravest and most intelligent military commander I have known”; he did, in fact, go on to make general. Original spelling and punctuation retained.

Now I just feel homesick, lonely and useless. But will pull out of it. Because have to.

Also have cut out heavy drinking … and since Liquor is my best friend and severest critic I miss it. Also have explained to my old girls there is nothing doing—and this light drinking, righteous Life isn’t comparable to always haveing at least two bottles of Perrier Jouet in the ice bucket and the old Kraut Marlene [Dietrich] always ready to come in and sit with you while you shave […] Read More »

Operation Keep Faulkner Sober, and Other News

March 3, 2015 | by

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William Faulkner, in 1954, in a portrait by Carl Van Vechten.

  • After Faulkner won the Nobel Prize, he was a hot commodity abroad—he traveled to many foreign lands to bang the drum for the U. S. of A., which would’ve been fine, had he not been such a lush. The State Department circulated a memo called “Guidelines for Handling Mr. William Faulkner on His Trips Abroad,” designed to help agents curb Faulkner’s drinking. Their advice ranged from the obvious (monitor his liquor cabinet) to the subtle: “Keep several pretty young girls in the front two rows of any public appearance to keep his attention up.”
  • Twenty-five years late, a novelist has at last completed and delivered her tenth-grade term paper on Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Her (perhaps convenient) conclusion: it’s about shame. “Like Tess, I spent a lot of time waiting to be found out: I worried that my adolescent failures would be exposed and that people would lose respect for me. Or love me less … Shame depends on an audience, and those who are ashamed become overly self-conscious. I’m aware, even now, of compensating for past mistakes.”
  • Why are there so many more aspiring writers than aspiring readers? “I try to take a philosophical, and I hope empathetic, view of it all. I mean, we’re all going to die, and we have a short time here on earth, and we all want to achieve distinction of some sort while we’re here. Meanwhile, we all have Microsoft Word installed on our desktops. We all already spend a lot of time typing. One way to leave one’s mark would be to, say, write a great symphony, but most people don’t know how to read music. Whereas more or less everyone does have the means to put down words on a page and save them and share them. That’s a great thing—I’m all for technology eliminating barriers to communication and expression—but it can lead to delusions. Just because you’ve written it doesn’t make it worth reading. And it’s depressing when people forget that you can’t be a good writer without first being a good reader.”
  • Paul Beatty has an enviable gift: he “can turn a sacred cow into hamburger with just one sentence.” His new novel The Sellout takes on race in America, sparing “no person or piety”: “The only tangible benefit to come out of the civil rights movement,” he writes, “is that black people aren’t as afraid of dogs as they used to be.”
  • René Magritte, comedian: “It’s noticeable that many of the techniques Magritte uses for creating his mysterious images are to be found in comedy writing. His pictures are frequently structured like jokes … relying upon a simple (almost mathematical) function, like reversal or negation.”

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Gin, Cigarettes, and Desperation: The Carson McCullers Diet

July 29, 2013 | by

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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!

 

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Drinking in the Golden Age

June 19, 2013 | by

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We live in a golden age of booze. I realized this a few weeks ago while doing shots of samogon at Speed Rack, a women’s bartending contest that had been described earlier in the evening as the “March Madness of boobies and booze” and the “roller derby of cocktail competitions.” While I swilled Russian moonshine across from a giant ice sculpture shaped like a bottle of Chartreuse, Jillian Webster, a dirty-blond Angeleno in a sleeveless Budweiser T-shirt, dueled with Eryn Reece, a dark-haired New Yorker wearing the black-and-pink-flame Speed Rack top. As they scooped and stirred to the sounds of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades,” the 500-strong crowd roared its encouragement. With frenzy of pouring and a smack of the buzzer, Reece pulled ahead, winning first place, bartender’s glory, and a trip for two to France. Read More »

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Drink the Water

October 11, 2012 | by

Liquor has never touched my Middle Eastern father’s lips. Or so he claims. In the late sixties, when he lived a spell in Munich, embarked on spontaneous sojourns to Italy, and dated a Finnish broad named Helvi I once saw in a faded wallet-size photo—activities that made him sound so much more alluring than the stern killjoy I remember—I like to think he nursed a few carefree beers just like any lonely expat. When he made his way to New York a few years later, renting a dingy studio on the upper reaches of Broadway, when he was still the man my mother fell for—an Arab version of Adrian Zmed with a rustling gold chain around his neck and swarthy looks that back then meant you were handsome, not a possible terrorist—he used to smoke cigarettes, my mother tells me. Perhaps he also took nips of whiskey from a flask.

But the only father I know, the real one, returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia when I was eight years old a sudden gung-ho Muslim. He was no longer the aggressive moderate who was content with me just saying Bissmilah at the start of each meal. Now, every moment he wasn’t holed up in a Hilton for work or stuffing fried eggplant into pita bread at the dinner table was spent hunched over a miniature Koran, recapturing the lost Islam of his youth, of his family, of the native Syria he hadn’t called home for more than two decades.

Freshly brewed mint iced tea. Distilled water from the Poland Springs gallon bottles that lined our laundry room. Dr. Pepper, when its effervescence became a salve for the wheezing that permeated my bronchitis-ridden childhood. These were the beverages welcome in our teetotaler home. Although my mother, a Catholic girl from Queens, didn’t have religion propelling her consumption habits, she harbored something worse: distaste for even innocent bubbles. “Champagne burns my ears,” I remember her whining—and she rarely invited company over for anything more than a cup of Earl Grey.

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What We’re Loving: Janácek, Cooke, and Literary Booze

May 11, 2012 | by

My brother-in-law described First Position as Spellbound without the hard words. He meant that in a good way. This story of six kids in training for an international ballet competition is just as touching and absorbing—and almost as funny—as Jeffrey Blitz’s 2002 documentary about the national spelling bee. —Lorin Stein

I saw Janáček’s The Makropulos Case on Saturday, and three-plus hours standing has never gone by so quickly. Based on Karel Čapek’s popular 1922 play of the same name (sidenote: Čapek gave us the word robot as we know it), it’s the tragicomic tale of a labyrinthian legal case, a man-eating diva, and the elixir of life. (Intimations of the decline of European aristocracy are in there, too.) The score—and the chatty libretto, for that matter—stand alone, but Karita Mattila’s performance (in what is considered one of the toughest soprano showcases) is worth seeing. —Sadie Stein

Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers not only instructs us on how to get tipsy (or rip-roaring drunk) on William Faulkner’s favorite mintjuleps or Raymond Chandler’s companion gimlet, it also offers us whimsical fodder for our perfect boozy daydreams: “Imagine a warm summer evening out on the shore of Long Island—say a party at Gatsby’s house, the bartenders serving up light, refreshing Gin Rickeys as the jazz band swings.” Yes, please! (Drinking stories and famous imbibing passages included.) —Elizabeth Nelson

For fans of Soviet-era sci-fi, Olena Bormashenko’s new translation of Russian classic Roadside Picnic is being published this month. The book was originally written by brothers Arkady and Boris Stugatsky in the 1970s, but took eight years to get past Soviet censors unscathed and has been out of print in the English for three decades. Now it’s finally back on the shelves, and judging by the praise Bormashenko has received for her work, it’s in excellent shape. The hero of Picnic is a “stalker,” or a go-to guy in the black market of alien technologies that appeared on Earth after the perplexing and ancient “Visit.” And yes, it is the “stalker” of Roadside Picnic that served as inspiration for the spellbinding film by Andrei Tarkovsky. —Allison Bulger

Sam Cooke—Greatest Hits: Here is a singer too often overlooked in the great expanse of pop classics. You can have your ol’ blue eyes, I’ve got nothing against him. You can have your Bing and your Brown. All I need is a little bit o’ Cooke. I’ve been listening to this CD every minute of every day. Though blatantly missing “(Ain't That) Good News,” it makes up for it in the lounge jazz beats of “Win Your Love” and the eerily foreboding “Frankie and Johnny.” The song ends with Frankie shooting Johnny over a misunderstanding. Cooke died at thirty-three under similar circumstances. —Noah Wunsch

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