Literary Lushes: Our 10 Favorite Book (and Play)-Writing Boozers


For many authors over the years, alcohol has been nearly as important a writing tool as pen, paper, poverty, and loneliness. Some have speculated that hard drinking and prolific writing might have similar genetic roots. Another theory is that the sauce, inhibition eliminator extraordinaire, might just make the very exhibitionist writing process easier, Time reports. Whatever the case, Fork in the Road has decided to canvass the canon for this week’s Our 10 Favorite Book (and Play)-Writing Boozers. In no particular order …

10. Carson McCullers, a Southern Gothic wunderkind, came up with her own writing elixir, the “sonnie boy” — which was a mix of hot tea and sherry, according to NPR. Apparently, the Heart Is a Lonely Hunter author would crack open a beer after breakfast, sip sonnie boys throughout the day, and then conclude with evening cocktails. She also had a penchant for Long Island Iced Tea.

9. Charles Bukowski, poet and novelist, had such a rep for bingeing that the biopic about his liquor-soaked life was called Barfly. Though his not-so-thinly-veiled, autobiographic works might have contained their fair share of embellishments, his love of drink is not greatly disputed. Of imbibing, he famously says in Ham on Rye: “There was nothing really as glorious as a good beer shit — I mean after drinking twenty or twenty-five beers the night before. The odor of a beer shit like that spread all around and stayed for a good hour-and-a-half. It made you realize that you were really alive.”

8. “You’re a rummy, but no more than most good writers are,” Ernest Hemingway is said to have told F. Scott Fitzgerald, Time notes. Indeed, the Great Gatsby author would spend much of his career introducing himself as “F. Scott Fitzgerald, the well-known alcoholic.” Also well-known was Fitzgerald’s love of Gin Rickeys, NPR notes.

7. A not-so-reliable Internet source, Modern Drunkard Magazine, claims that Ernest Hemingway got into drinking the good ol’ fashioned way — as a newspaper reporter at age 17. Anyway, alcohol features so prominently in the mojito lover’s work that it’s been the subject of a fair amount of academic study.

6. When Hemingway hung around Paris, he and James Joyce got to be drinking buddies, but the Ulysses author’s friendship could run thin. Whenever their love of hooch turned into hooliganism, Joyce would duck behind prizefighter Hemingway and order him to defend both of them.

5. Tennessee Williams, Pulitzer-winning playwright, had been able to hold his liquor until mid-career critical flack — and the death of his companion Frank Merlo — made him crack. He hit the bottle hard and started popping barbiturates and was hospitalized, PBS details. Unfortunately, the Streetcar Named Desire writer’s recovery did not last. He choked to death on a plastic bottle cap when he was trying to load up on pills.

4. Eugene O’Neill, who wrote Long Day’s Journey Into Night, “almost drank himself to death when he was young and tramping around the globe.” He died at 65, perplexingly not of drink. Post-mortem analyses suggested that, while a indeed depressive alcoholic, O’Neill had a rare brain disease that eventually did him in.

3. After achieving critical success with On the Road, Jack Kerouac started to drink more and more, hoping that alcohol would help him live up to his name. He eventually had to abandon a fiction project, The Guardian reports, largely because of his booze abuse. He would die in a pool of bloody vomit in St. Petersburg, Florida, from alcoholism complications.

2. Hunter S. Thompson, renowned gonzo journalist, penned works of prose that are loopy linguistic romps, redolent with spirits and drugs. Thompson, ever a fan of Wild Turkey, died at his own hand. The gun enthusiast shot himself at age 67.

1. William Faulkner, Nobel laureate and onetime postal worker, would frequently go on benders in Oxford, Mississippi. When his daughter complained to him, the Sound and The Fury author reportedly told her: “Nobody remembers Shakespeare’s child.”