Writing as the antiseptic province of teetotalers

Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers serves up some great quotes (“I drink exactly as much as I want, and one drink more” — H.L. Mencken) and boozing stories,* but is also packed with cutesy drawings, clumsy segues, and completely random pairings of writers with beverages. It is, in short, bound to fly off the shelves this holiday season.

And it’s probably the writers’ drinking book for our time. Here’s Gary Shteyngart, in a (typically hilarious) Modern Drunkard interview, talking vodka and zoology and orgies, and debunking the notion that today’s writers drink like Hemingway did.

GS: [Writing these days is] so antiseptic. We’re this sterilized profession, we all know our Amazon.com rankings to the nearest digit. There’s a few people that still keep the [drinking] tradition going in Brooklyn. It’s a big problem these days. Journalists might drink more than writers.

MDM: They have a hard time admitting it though. At least in print.

GS: True. There are so few people to drink with. The literary community is not backing me up here. I’m all alone. There’s a couple of guys who are strong, but that’s it. It’s so pathetic when I think about my ancestors. Give them a bottle of shampoo and they have a party….

* Here’s the Raymond Chandler anecdote: “Paramount Studios put the movie The Blue Dahlia into production before Chandler had written a line of the script. Unfortunately, two weeks into shooting, he had yet to find an ending and was suffering from writer’s block. He told his producer, John Houseman, that although he was a recovering alcoholic and had been sober for some time, he could only finish the script if he relapsed completely. Houseman arranged for Paramount to place six secretaries at Chandler’s house around the clock. A doctor was hired to give him vitamin shots, as he rarely ate when drinking….”

Later: Brittanie writes: “I wish I had the bartending guide right now, I’d use it as inspiration for this event: [National Drunken Writing Night.]


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