Q: What do you get when you mix alcohol with literature?
A: Tequila Mockingbird.
I know, it’s a bad one.
This morning, I began my day with two cups of tea. Yes two, wow, aren’t I a hedonist! Around this time – or at work, 10.30, I have a cigarette. On the weekends, my tipple of choice is gin; G & T, Gin Sling, Gin Cocktails, or cider.
So today, I decided to take a look at, not only the tipple but drug of choice of some literary characters.
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Probably one of the best descriptions of a hangover in literature. Jim Dixon drinks beer, and lots of it, he says that he cannot afford spirits.
“Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”
James Bond by Ian Fleming.
A lot, when you begin digging about – including Scotch and Soda, Whiskey, Champagne, Vodka martinis, Red Wine, White Wine, but famous for The Vesper Martini; shaken not stirred. (By the way, it was Dr. No who first said those words). A light-hearted study revealed that James Bond was a major alcoholic, in a category of drinkers at highest risk of developing malignancies, depression, hypertension, and cirrhosis. Despite his reputation as a womanizer, he likely would have suffered from sexual dysfunction. Glamorous much!
The author – James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, loved drinking gin – sometimes a bottle a day – but was converted to bourbon at the suggestion of his doctor who thought it might be marginally less damaging for his health.
Harry Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
Champagne, Beer, Gin, and many other unspecified ‘stiff drinks’.
Harry Flashman drank to get drunk, leading to him being expelled from Rugby school for drunkenness.
“I knew better than to mix my drinks, even at seventeen.”
Dr. Jekyll by Robert Louis Stevenson
THAT drink! You know; the one that turned him into his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. But Jekyll’s is more like a chemical addiction to his alternate persona.
The author – Apparently, Stevenson wrote the tale of Dr. Jekyll during a cocaine binge.
Jay Gatsby by F. Scott Fitsgerald
A man who made his fortune from bootlegging is remarkably restrained when it comes to alcohol. Though we know he drinks; Mint Juleps, Champagne, and wine, what Gatsby really wants is “the incomparable milk of wonder.”, the milk of life (aka mother’s milk). Gatsby is in control of his drinking, unlike…
The author – Loved gin. “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Cigarettes, Cigars and a Pipe. Also Cocaine and Morphine; used occasionally to escape, as he said, from “the dull routine of existence.” He injects his cocaine in a seven-percent solution with a syringe. It must be mentioned, though, that Holmes in not a drug addict, this recreational use of drugs like cocaine was common in the Victorian era.
The author – although Doyle believed in fairies, he did not do drugs, or drink to excess as far as we know.
Mark Renton by Irvine Welsh
Heroin – primarily. “We took morphine, diamorphine, cyclizine, codeine, temazepam, nitrazepam, phenobarbitone, sodium amytal, dextropropoxyphene, methadone, nalbuphine, pethidine, pentazocine, buprenorphine, dextromoramide, chlormethiazole. The streets are awash with drugs you can have for unhappiness and pain, and we took them all. Fuck it, we would have injected vitamin C if only they’d made it illegal.” Renton and his pals are a mess; a grimy, stinking, rotten-breathed, heaving mass of an almost waste of space.
The author – Welsh drinks Green Tea (though he did briefly experiment with heroin).
However, the award for consumption, in quantity as well as variety, goes to:
Raoul Duke by Hunter S. Thompson
“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug-collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can. The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge, and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.”
Also, Singapore Slings.
The author – Thompson himself took… everything!!
So we took a turn there, from good old beer, to the crazy world of ether and mescaline. Like the world of Jazz, literature is packed as full as an 80’s models nose of cocaine, with drug use.
Writers, is required to be creative; or do we they just love it?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Opium
Thomas De Quincey, Laudanum
Charles Baudelaire, Hashish
Aldous Huxley, Mescaline
Jack Kerouac, Benzedrine
William Burroughs, Heroin
Philip K Dick, Speed
Stephen King, Cocaine
Oscar Wilde, Absinthe
William Faulkner, Mint Julep
Dorothy Parker, Whiskey Sour
Ernest Hemingway, Mojito
I’m not advocating that people go out and get as inebriated as Flashman or as toked up as Holmes. But you have to admit kids, there’s a hell of a lot of creativity and entertainment that’s come out of it!
I just noticed when I completed writing this – there is only one woman on the list – Dorothy Parker. Are we to assume that female writers do not imbibe, or are they just more secretive about it?! Let me know if you find out.
Ta ta for now chaps and chapesses.