I filed this away some time ago and never got back to it, but it’s too good a conversation starter to trash. In the New York Post (“Writers on the Rocks“), the memorably named Justin Rocket Silverman (I’ll bet you can anagram the hell out of that), asks, “So has the literary lush all but dried out?” [Strike “So” and “all but”–Ed.]
For answers, he asks a bunch of people that I don’t really want answering the question, with the exception of Ernest Hemingway’s grandson, Edward (Bartending Guide to Great American Writers, 2006). I mean, if you’re going to ask writers about drinking, don’t ask writers whose favorite drinks are the Ginger Provincial, the Margarella, the Key Lime Martini, and the Dakota Grand. These people obviously know nothing about drinking.
I could be wrong, but I think if you asked a bunch of Chicago writers about their favorite drinks, you’d get answers that didn’t require recipes and anecdotes to explain them. Anyway, I’ve excerpted a few hypotheses.
Cecily von Ziegesar (that’s either the author of the Gossip Girl series or the name of a cocktail):
People are freer now to just speak up whenever they want. Those other writers in the past came from a much more buttoned-up society. The mask people wore then was much thicker. In order to access their true self and drop the mask, they had to get drunk.
Douglas Rushkoff (author of Coercion, the Margarella drinker, who also says that “Real writers don’t drink cocktails,” thereby reviewing his own oeuvre):
Writing has been divorced from some of its essential chemicals. Writers these days can have fairly normal marriages, with kids. And that doesn’t really mix with drinking at 11 a.m. A lot of writers are also on antidepressants now, which doesn’t make writing better. Prozac cures the need to write. You’re also not supposed to drink on Prozac.
Janice Erlbaum (who wrote Have You Found Her, and who apparently has no worries when it comes to dry-cleaning or hospital bills):
In the past, it was sort of adorable and charming if you got drunk or threw up on somebody, or were insulting and had it come to fisticuffs. That was all part of the mystique. But now that stuff is no good. You have to be a businessperson as a writer.
Kenji Jasper (author of Dakota Grand, also the Dakota Grand drinker; his college nickname was “Dakota Grand”):
In today’s publishing business, you have far more writers but far fewer characters. Corporate control has filtered into every art form . . . Yes, there will always be room for the drunken fools’ writing, but no longer for the drunken fools themselves.
Michael Malice (who is either a real person or a cartoon character; either way, he gets no argument from me):
Nowadays, writers are a lot dorkier.
(Malice also wins Best T-Shirt Philosopher with “I’m not a mean drunk, I’m a mean person who gets drunk.”)
Read the article and let me know what you think. Do writers drink as much as they used to? If not, why not? Do real writers drink Key Lime Martinis? Or do they simply drink anything they can get their hands on?