Sunday, November 3, 2013

Just Jennifer

The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing (Picador, December 31, 2013)

U.K. writer and critic Olivia Laing came to America to follow the trails of six of the twentieth-centuries most notable authors---and drinkers.  Following the lives, literally, of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, John Cheever and poet John Berryman, Laing explores not only how drinking affected their lives and writing, but how their work influenced their drinking.  Echo Spring is a nod to the liquor cabinet where Brick keeps his Echo Spring Bourbon in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but Laing doesn’t stop there as she weaves in and out of the writers’ lives, making connections between them that will be new to many readers.  The child of an alcoholic family (her mother’s lover was an alcoholic), Laing has a unique insider’s view of alcoholism and as she traces a path from New York City to New Orleans to Key West across the United States to the Pacific Northwest, she muses not only on the past lives of the writers but of her own family.  With her lyrical prose, Laing brings to life a side of these men no often seen as she weaves together a portrait of not only despair and loss, but one of hope and the possibility of recovery.  An evocative, personal book it is honest and well-researched at the same time, drawing the reader in with lasting effects.

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