Alcoholic Authors I

Many writers have had a dependence on alcohol. There has been much speculation as to the reasons why many writers drink so heavily. Perhaps in some instances it is due to the author’s solitary working habits or their pensive melancholy nature, in others maybe it is to obliterate bad memories or to increase confidence. This blog post is dedicated to two heavy drinking famous authors.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

(July 21st 1899 – July 2nd 1961)

Notable works: The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man & the Sea.

Ernest Hemingway is remembered as a pillar of American literature, a writer with a unique style, who won both The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1953) and The Nobel Prize in Literature (1954). The acclaimed author led an adventurous existence, travelling widely and marrying four times. Tragically the latter stages of his life were marred by mental deterioration, culminating in suicide in Idaho aged sixty-one.

The iconic writer was a notorious drinker for most of his life though he did not write whilst under the influence. Hemingway was so keen on drinking that writer Philip Greene was inspired to write, To Have & Have Another, a book devoted to Hemingway’s drinking habits. The author’s favourite beverage was said to be Mojito, which he insisted on having ice-cold. A number of alcohol related quotes have been attributed to Hemingway, perhaps most famously, ‘Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk.’

William Faulkner

William Faulkner

(September 25th 1897 – July 6th 1962)

Notable works: Light in August, Absalom Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury.

William Cuthbert Faulkner to give his full name is one of the most important writers in the history of American literature – winner of The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice (1955 & 1963) and The Nobel Prize for Literature (1949). His novel The Sound and the Fury is ranked by Modern Library as the sixth greatest English language novel of the Twentieth-century.

A lifelong heavy drinker, Faulkner, in contrast to many writers, liked to write under the influence – a bottle of whiskey, preferably bourbon was generally within arms reach. The author was notorious for his binge drinking and it was fortunate that he had a remarkable capacity for recovery. Whiskey was his first love, but he was also keen on wine and brandy. Faulkner’s favourite cocktail was a mint julep – a mix of bourbon, a teaspoon of sugar and a spring or two of crushed mint and ice. Faulkner once said, ‘Civilization begins with distillation.’

Click here to read resident book reviewer Adam’s review of Absalom Abaslom!

You might be interested in this revealing if rather lengthy article from The Guardian about why authors drink.

8 Comments

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  • I guess they subscribed to the opinion of alcohol held by of W. C. Fields. He said, “You gotta feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they get up in the morning that’s the best they’re going to feel all day.”

    • The people who don’t drink probably feel a great deal better in the morning than the drinkers do. That has always been the downside of drinking for me at least. Thanks for the comment John.

  • It makes you wonder whether they were great writers despite the drinking or because of it. I find that many ideas enter my subconscious when I am relaxed, usually after a good night’s sleep, and for that reason I keep a notebook by my bed. Perhaps alcohol had a similar effect for them.
    It makes me recall that the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was said to be written whilst they were under the influence of drugs. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s not surprising. Another interesting post Guy.

    • The alcohol certainly didn’t seem to harm their writing at any rate. I was often forced to listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds when I was a child. Perhaps a series about drug using authors might also be good. Thanks for the comment.

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