Alcoholics UNANIMOUS

Let’s face it: Anyone who willingly sits staring at a blank page for hours at a time might need to get country-drunk now and again. Whether it’s a cliché, cautionary tale or clearly laid course, the story of the alcoholic writer is as old as the hangover itself. Many a booze-sotted biography offers anecdotes of now-mythical writers forever searching for their literary muse while rifling through their kitchen cabinets, toilet tanks and footwear for an elusive snort of whiskey, in a wet-brained psychosis, confusing their hat racks for notable religious figures.

Stories of authors falling drunkenly out of bed, pie-eyed-wasted and bleeding all over the place after cracking their temple on the corner of the nightstand, or vomiting blood every morning after yet another deranged night of consuming vast amounts of beer, whiskey and hydrocodone, are as common as a case of molar-rattling DTs in the parking lot of a closed liquor store — right? (Asking for a friend).

The Falstaffian thirsts of scribes like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and “Dear Dottie” are well-documented. Yet the continual, veritable legion of tosspot writers, both known and unknown, leads one to wonder why most Writers Workshops don’t offer panel discussions on Mixology tips.

In celebration of 20th-century alkie authors who were more apt to chug 12 packs than work the 12 steps, Folio Weekly has decided to hail some of these greatest imbibers who ever used a pencil as a swizzle stick.

RICHARD BRAUTIGAN (1935-1984)
Lost between the Beat and Hippie generations, permanent sad-sack Brautigan helped open the doors of the contemporary novel with his 1967 book, Trout Fishing in America. Brautigan then proceeded to open every liquor cabinet within staggering reach the world over, his once-playful antics degrading into hijinks, like pulling a loaded shotgun on filmmaker Wim Wenders. Check, please! Near the end of his life, Brautigan was considered more of a cantankerous asshole than literary bon vivant, his ego finally quelled when he knocked back a shot of a .44 caliber Smith & Wesson.

CHARLES BUKOWSKI (1920-1994)
If there is one single 20th-century shit-drunk writer who inspired a staggering legion of drunk, shit writers, it’s Bukowski. While “Buk” wrote a few notable works (surely his memoir, Ham on Rye), his rummy ruminations on booze, broads, betting at the track and carefree hygiene were preserved in several volumes of brooding poetry and almost-gleefully misogynistic fiction, which put him in the hall of fame where a propensity for booze far exceeds an inclination toward consistent writing.

RAYMOND CARVER (1938-1988)
The acknowledged master of the 20th-century short story, Carver was adept at combining groundbreaking minimalist writing with liver-breaking maximalist boozing. No small feat, considering most of his peers in the 1970s were pretty much ambling and slamming into each other like vodka-fueled bumper cars. While Carver ultimately died “sober,” he opted for the classic substitution of “marijuana maintenance,” a lifestyle change that can turn a formerly moody drunk writer into a coy pothead who makes kites and wind chimes. Give us the booze.

MARGUERITE DURAS (1914-1996)
La Grande Dame de Michelob, Duras was a novelist, playwright, filmmaker and screenwriter, and penned 1959’s masterful Hiroshima mon amour, which actually originally started as a drinking game, wherein a soused Duras threw ice at her terrified parakeet, “Pernod.” Over the course of her colorful career, Duras penned dozens of works and made 19 films. Today she is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse — ironically, a mere stone’s throw away from 15 different Alcooliques Anonymes meetings.

FREDERICK EXLEY (1929–1992)
Though Exley penned only one great book (and a great one it is), A Fan’s Notes, his most notable milestone was a lifetime of alcoholic athletics that led him right to an early winner’s circle in the boneyard. If you do a quick Google search of Exley’s life, your next search will surely be “alcohol detox treatment help recovery.”

JACK KEROUAC (1922-1969)
A true literary trailblazer, Kerouac inspired generations to drop out, hit the road and immediately be pulled over and arrested for DUI. Best known for On the Road, Kerouac was an incredibly prolific author, including his still-unpublished Why Do I Always Wake Up in This Dark Barn? Favoring rotgut like Tokay wine and cheap swill over uppity libations, Kerouac died of what can only be the noblest of Romantic deaths: choking to death on his own blood (and some canned tuna! Yummers!) at the age of 47 while watching television.

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY (1892-1950)
“The ‘St.’ stands for ‘St. Ides’,” reads the gravestone of this dipsomaniac diva. Millay is perhaps best known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, yet she was also a playwright and, legend has it, could mix up a mean boilermaker that would “make one run home to mama.” Millay used the pseudonym “Nancy Boyd” for her prose work and the name “Chainsaw Mulligan” when she joined in on the weekly bar brawl in the alley behind the Stop-N-Go Liquors on Route 18 past Shankersville.

DOROTHY PARKER (1893-1967)
Queen of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s, when writer and pundit Parker wasn’t being witty, she was getting shitty — drunk, that is. Parker helped define The New Yorker as a high-level lit mag, and even had success in the then-nascent Hollywood film scene, being nominated twice for an Academy Award. Poet, journalist, essayist, bon mot badass — Parker wore many crowns, yet her greatest was wearing a purple Crown Royal bag on her head and having machete fights with Norman Mailer in moonlit junkyards.

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