"The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom," wrote the Romantic poet William Blake
in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
more than 200 years ago.
Some decades later, the French poet Charles Baudelaire
exhorted his readers to "Get drunk and stay that way."
Drink - excessive drinking - has long been associated with creativity, most notably with creative writing.
It's a familiar image ... the besotted writer at a messy desk, beads of
sweat on his forehead, his gaze intense, if not entirely focused, on the
typewriter he's pounding in a fury ... a half-empty bottle of whisky at
Or the charmingly besotted author unsteady on his feet, flirting
with all the women at a cocktail party, discoursing eloquently and all
the while draining the liquor cabinet.
The romantic image of the drunken writer is an abiding one in our
culture ... right down to a new brand of whiskey called Writers Tears
connection between alcoholism and writing is indeed strong ... and
tragic. As the essayist Lewis Hyde
observed, "four of the six Americans
who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature were alcoholic. About half
of our alcoholic writers eventually killed themselves."
is an acclaimed British writer on literary history who
wanted to get to the bottom of the stormy relationship between writers
She embarked on a lengthy journey across the United States by air, road,
rail and foot, tracing out the lives of six famously alcoholic American
writers: the fiction writers, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest
Hemingway and Raymond Carver ... the poet John Berryman ... and the
playwright Tennessee Williams.
You could call it the stations of the
glass ... where they lived, where they worked and where they drank.
Her book about that journey is called The Trip to Echo Spring: Why
, and she talked to Michael from a studio in London,