Monday, July 28, 2008

Pg. 99: Iain Gately's "Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Iain Gately's Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol.

About the book, from the publisher:
A spirited look at the history of alcohol from the dawn of civilization to the twenty first century

For better or worse, alcohol has helped shape our civilization. Throughout history, it has been consumed not just to quench our thirsts or nourish our bodies but also for cultural reasons. It has been associated since antiquity with celebration, creativity, friendship, and danger, for every drinking culture has acknowledged it possesses a dark side.

In Drink, Iain Gately traces the course of humanity’s 10,000 year old love affair with the substance which has been dubbed “the cause of—and solution to—all of life’s problems.” Along the way he scrutinises the drinking habits of presidents, prophets, and barbarian hordes, and features drinkers as diverse as Homer, Hemmingway, Shakespeare, Al Capone, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Covering matters as varied as bacchanals in Imperial Rome, the gin craze in 17th century London, the rise and fall of the temperance movement, and drunk driving, Drink details the benefits and burdens alcohol has conveyed to the societies in which it is consumed. Gately’s lively and provocative style brings to life the controversies, past and present, that have raged over alcohol, and uses the authentic voices of drinkers and their detractors to explode myths and reveal truths about this most equivocal of fluids.

Drink further documents the contribution of alcohol to the birth and growth of the United States, taking in the war of Independence, the Pennsylvania Whiskey revolt, the slave trade, and the failed experiment of National Prohibition. Finally, it provides a history of the world’s best loved drinks. Enthusiasts of craft brews and fine wines will discover the origins of their favorite tipples, and what they have in common with Greek philosophers and medieval princes every time they raise a glass.

A rollicking tour through humanity’s love affair with alcohol, Drink is an intoxicating history of civilization.
Among the praise for Drink:
“A grand, always engaging survey of the role of booze in both cultural and social history.”

“The history of the Western world as seen through the prism of booze, glorious booze… A heady cocktail.”

“Ambitious… the author works in such far-flung cultural materials as the plays of Alfred Jarry and Budweiser’s ’80s mascot, Spuds McKenzie. In the end, Gately ranges so wide and deep that this may become a classic reference on the subject.”
Publishers Weekly

Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, is thorough, informative, briskly readable and witty. It is likely to be enjoyed more by those who take the occasional (or more than occasional) drink than by those who do not, but a central theme should be of interest to all readers: Like it or not, alcohol has been and always will be with us, an important part of human history, culture and society.”
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post
Read more about Drink at the publisher's website.

Iain Gately's books include Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization. Raised in Hong Kong, he studied law at Cambridge University and worked in the financial markets of London.

The Page 99 Test: Drink.

--Marshal Zeringue