Author Mickey J Corrigan talks about Drinking and Writing.
Drinking and Writing: For Men Only?
Mickey J. Corrigan
I was going to write a blog post on famous female authors who were alcoholics, but I couldn't come up with much. This made me wonder why. Maybe you can help.
Most people equate writing with drinking. We can list famous boozing authors off the top of our heads, all those well-known writers known to drink excessively. There's a bohemian chic that goes along with getting drunk, and with writing books. A glass in hand is part of the image, and bars are often part of the setting.
If you look into it, there are vast quantities of material on famous male writers who drank too much. Of America's eight Nobel laureates, six were men and almost all of them were alcoholics. Sinclair Lewis. Eugene O'Neill. William Faulkner. Ernest Hemingway. John Steinbeck.
So many other famous authors/drinkers come to mind. Poe. Hunter S. Thompson. Cheever, Chandler, Carver. Charles Bukowski. We can read about their favorite drinks, their favored watering holes. And there are lots of juicy quotes. Here are a few:
"A man does not exist until he is drunk."—Ernest Hemingway
"What do I care how time advances. I am drinking ale today." —Edgar Allan Poe
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right." —F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off." –Raymond Chandler
"24 hours in a day. 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?" –Stephen Wright
I threw in the last one for fun. Wright is a comedian. Maybe he drinks, maybe not.
Still, my point is this: when it comes to women drinkers, the sources seem to dry up. Is this due to a gender bias? Or something else?
If you dig deep, they're there. For example, Elizabeth Bishop was famous for her drinking excess. (She was also a famous poet in her day.) And Dorothy Parker made some well-known drinking quips. ("I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.") But do any of us know her work? What about alcoholic genius Jean Rhys, the author of The Wide Sargasso Sea? Patrician Highsmith, who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley? Maybe you've seen the movies, but you probably haven't read books by these authors.
It's not like women writers don't drink. In fact, some of my favorite memoirs are on this very topic. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Lit by Mary Karr. Smashed by Koren Zailekas. All of these authors made bestseller lists. But none are household names. Not like Faulkner and Hemingway.
So what's the deal? Why are our most famous female writers not well-known for their drinking as well? Alcohol advocate and bestselling author Martin Amis claimed writers drink because alcohol makes you less self-critical and less afraid. Maybe. Certainly altering your mindset is essential to creativity, and alcohol sure helps with fantasy thinking. Drinking is also a great way to procrastinate when you have writer's block, or self-medicate when your work isn't progressing the way you'd like it to. What woman couldn't use an extra boost of creativity and confidence? And don't we all need a crutch when the literary chips are down?
Which makes me think either women writers are good at hiding their imbibing, or they are doing without. Maybe there's just no time for drinking in the modern woman author's life. You need to promote the heck out of yourself, so you've got your health and looks to protect. And you have to earn a living, usually while caring for your family and eking out the time to write. How can you do it all and still make room in your busy schedule for endless shots of the hard stuff?
I know I can't. In my fiction, quite a few of my protagonists do some heavy partying. But I don't. I won't say I never did because in my younger days I had me some frothy fun. But now that I'm a professional writer and editor with a home and a family, there's little room in my life for more than the occasional glass of wine or beer.
I guess this is a good thing. What do you think?
Vanna Treme runs a domestic investigations agency in downscale Deport Beach, Florida. She spies on cheating spouses while struggling to recover from her own imploded marriage. Vanna's unique PI firm also offers Ex-Treme Measures, special services designed to get rid of the marital problem.
Forever. Ringo, Vanna's trusted assistant, a hunky ex-cop, is worried. Their clients are lying to them, local competition is moving in, and everyone in South Florida is crazy or untrustworthy—or both.
But Vanna refuses to listen. She heads for the superficial glitter of Palm Beach, where the hits just keep on coming her way. Ex-Treme Measures combines humor, action, and evolutionary biology to investigate some of our culture's most pressing mysteries, including why men act like men, and why the hell women put up with it.
Buy on Amazon