Nov 3, 2009

Writers & Booze, again

I tweeted awhile ago about Writers & Booze, what an old story it is. Think of Faulkner and Dashiell Hammet appearing at a black tie party in tweeds and eventually sliding off onto each other from a sofa to pass out.

William Styron is a writer who openly spoke and wrote about his forty years of boozing. I've been re-reading his excellent book on his own depression, Darkness Visible, and came across his explanation for why he and quite possibly so many other writers have adored booze so much:

"The storm [his depression] which swept me into a hospital in December began as a cloud no bigger than a wine goblet the previous June. And the cloud - the manifest crisis - involved alcohol, a substance I had been abusing for forty years. Like a great many American writers, whose sometimes lethal addiction to alcohol has become so legendary as to provide in itself a stream of studies and books, I used alcohol as the magical conduit to fantasy and euphoria, and to the enhancement of the imagination. There is no need to either rue or apologize for my use of this soothing, often sublime agent, which had contributed greatly to my writing; although I never set down a line while under its influence, I did use it - often in conjunction with music - as a means to let my mind conceive visions that the unaltered, sober brain has no access to. Alcohol was an invaluable senior partner of my intellect, besides being a friend whose ministrations I sought daily - sought also, I now see, as a means to calm the anxiety and incipient dread that I had hidden away for so long somewhere in the dungeons of my spirit."

Styron called his daily booze sessions Mood Baths. I read Darkness Visible during a prolonged visit of the Black Dog, but I kept meaning to go back to it because of Styron's exquisite use of language (just as I'm about to revisit Bill Buford's Heat for the exact same reason). But I've never heard of writers getting together to shoot heroin or shroom. They just want to drink.