Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ain't No Lit Like Drunken Lit

It's a Saint Patrick's Day edition of Books & Booze, where a few of our review contributors share their favorite drunken literature. (I even turned the ole Books & Booze logo into a trippy green 4 leaf clover!) Rather than boozey recipes, today you'll just be reading about books we've loved that love themselves a little liquid courage:

Drew's Boozey Picks:

Ablutions by Patrick deWitt.

A strange little novel about a bartender who wants to be a writer. He starts drinking a lot and ends up falling down a personal (and kinda crazy) rabbit hole.  Plus, you can read it in an afternoon before you head out to the bars.

Damascus by Joshua Mohr.  

My first dance with Mr. Mohr and a turning point novel for me professionally even if I didn't realize it at the time.  Set in a dive bar in the Mission, populated by some of the quirkiest and weirdest characters ever assembled, I still take immense joy in recalling this one.  Plus, it gets some still-potent licks in about politics and art.

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski.  

My first Bukowski and it made me realize what the fuss is all about. His prose is simple and fun (also funny) - but boy oh boy do they drink a LOT in this one.  Superhuman amounts.  Which is part of what fuels the humor, I think.

Lindsey's Boozey Picks:

Bang Ditto by Amber Tamblyn

From “Gene Diamonds” - “She drank an entire bottle of tequila,/then ate the worm at the bottom.”

This collection is a look inside the life of a young actress. It’s smart, trite, fun, thoughtful and maybe a little immature. Basically, it’s what everyone felt like in their 20s, only with better professional connections.

Hearts Needle by W.D. Snodgrass

From “Returned to Frisco, 1946” - “Served by women, free to get drunk or fight,/Free, if we chose, to blow in our back pay/On smart girls or trinkets, free to prowl all night/Down streets giddy with lights,/to sleep all day,”

Snodgrass is said to be the father of confessional poetry, even though he hated the label. Like most confessional poets there is some mental illness, some obsession, some drugs, and some drinking. Not always the most lighthearted read, but every night out drinking has a few downers.

Drunk by Noon Jennifer L. Knox Bloof Books 2007

Just read the entire book. Every single page. And then get every other book that Jennifer L. Knox has written. Reading Knox’s poetry is kind of like being drunk, without the calories or the hangover.

Life Studies and For the Union Dead Robert Lowell From Life Studies
From “To Delmore Schwartz” - “ We drank and eyed/the chicken-hearted shadows of the world./Underseas fellows, nobly mad,/we talked away our friends.”

A confessional poet, like Snodgrass, you’ll find a lot of darkness in Robert’s Lowell’s most famous collection, Life Studies. “To Delmore Schwartz” is one of several poems in the double feature book, the second half being For the Union Dead, that features alcohol, but this is a more light hearted read. The two poets used to be roommates and Lowell chose to give readers a glimpse into the life they led together. “The Drinker” from For the Union Dead is a more sobering look at the effects of alcohol.

The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton

From “Barefoot” - “Do you care for salami?/No. You’d rather not have a scotch?/No. You don’t really drink. You do/drink me.”
From “Cigarettes and Whisky and Wild, Wild Women” - “Do I not look in the mirror,/these days,/ and see a drunken rat avert her eyes?”

Probably the most difficult poet on the list, Anne Sexton wrote bluntly about mental illness, abuse and sex. She also touched on the highs and lows of drinking. This is the poet you read the day after a binge for a touch of perspective.

From “Anxiety” - “I have a drink,/it doesn’t help—far from it!/I/ feel worse. I can’t remember how/I felt, so perhaps I feel better.”

If Anne Sexton is the morning after hangover cure, Frank O’Hara is the party. Often I feel like I’m sitting in a smoky lounge, people watching, nursing a drink and enjoying live jazz when I read O’Hara’s poems. 

Maggot: Poems by Paul Muldoon

From “The Rowboat” - “Every year he’d sunk/the old clinker-built rowboat/so it might again float./Every year he’d got drunk/as if he might once and for all write off/every year he’d sunk”

Paul Muldoon is experimenting with form in Maggot, and at times the rhyming lines feel like the chant you would here in a dank pub or at a futbol game. 

*Poetry Drinking Game Bonus Points

Read Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, because he got into a drunken fight with Ernest Hemingway in Key West and broke his hand on Hemingway’s jaw.

Read Selected Poems: Summer Knowledge by Delmore Schwartz because he used to hang out and drink with writers like Robert Lowell, John Barryman and Saul Bellow, and he inspired musician Lou Reed.

Lori's Boozey Picks:

Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski

Ah yes, a good ole crime noir where the zombies must ingest immense amounts of alcohol to remain limber and coherent. It soggens the brain and halts rigor mortis in its tracks while also calming that nagging hunger for flesh. A really well written, brain tickling read. 

A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst by Hosho McCreesh

Who doesn't love good poetry, right?! How about poetry so drenched and drowning in booze that you feel all buzzed and blissful as you read it? Hosho's collection is all about getting the drink on. So much so that he even fashioned a Books and Booze post for us. 

Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja

It's set back in the 1880's in a BROTHEL for the love of god! You can't get more boozey than that! Drinks, Girls, and Puppets, people. This book is one of the most lusciously decedent things I've ever read. Go on and get drunk on her words.  

Whiskey Heart by Rachel Coyne

The protagonist in this novel was surrounded by people who abused the drink - a father who hid so many bottles around the house that she is still uncovering them years later, a cousin who drank to hide her inability to love. It's all about how deep the drink can cut you. 

Termite Parade by Joshua Mohr

God I have a hard core crush on this guy. He gets it. And he writes it like no body's business. Here we have a crappy relationship gone so much worse when our protagonist takes advantage of his girlfriend's drunken stupor and does a thing he will soon live to regret.. the guilt practically eating him alive. Yummy stuff, this!

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