Alcoholic Authors III

As my Alcoholic Authors series has proven to be fairly popular here is a further instalment.

 Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker (August 22nd 1893 – June 7th 1967)

Notable works: Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, A Star is Born.

American writer and poet Dorothy Parker was renowned for her sardonic wit and writing abilities.  Parker sold her first poem to Vanity Fair in 1914 and went on to have an incredibly successful career, which saw her publish books, short-stories, screenplays and poetry.  Her achievements include being a script writer for the Academy Award nominated film, A Star is Born.

A lifelong heavy drinker, Parker suffered from bouts of acute depression, even attempting suicide on several occasions.  In later years as a direct result of her habit she was to suffer declining health. There has been much speculation as to why she drunk so heavily, perhaps it was a result of a traumatic childhood – her mother died when she was a small child, or her failed marriages and affairs; the author was married three times, twice to the same man.

Parker once famously said about her favourite drink martini:

“I like to have a martini,

Two at the very most.

After three I’m under the table,

After four I’m under my host.”

Little has been documented about Parker’s drinking habits, this may be in part due to the often isolated nature of her consumption, but also because as a woman her alcohol excess was never glorified.

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

(March 12th 1922 – October 21st 1969)

Notable works: On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur.

American novelist, writer, poet and artist Jack Kerouac was a member of the Beat Generation that also included William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.  Kerouac primarily wrote autobiographical novels in a spontaneous prose style.  His most famous book, On the Road, set against a backdrop of poetry, jazz and drug use was the defining work of the postwar Beat Generation.

Kerouac was a very heavy drinker, who particularly enjoyed Margaritas, having developed a taste for them during one of his trips to Mexico.  The author was acutely aware of his drinking problem, often expressing a desire to quit or at least moderate his habit.  In his book, Big Sur, Kerouac eloquently explained the nature of alcoholism.  He once said, ‘Don’t drink to get drunk.  Drink to enjoy life.’

In later years Kerouac’s alcohol consumption increased as he found himself feeling isolated from the burgeoning counter-culture movement that he had reluctantly started.  On October 20th 1969, Kerouac was rushed to hospital with abdominal pain.  He died the following day from an internal hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis of the liver, caused by a lifetime of alcohol excess; he was forty-seven years old.  The author’s legacy is that he will always be remembered as a literary pioneer and an integral part of the Beat Generation.

I am currently in Munich at the annual Oktoberfest beer festival.  It seems likely that the alcohol theme will continue next week when I plan to recount my time there.

Click here to read Part 2 of Alcoholic Authors.


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