Sunday, August 09, 2009

Five best books on the pleasures & hazards of drink

Iain Gately's books include Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization and Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on the pleasures and hazards of drink.

One title on the list:
Under the Volcano
by Malcolm Lowry
Penguin, 1947

Malcolm Lowry wrote of this novel: “The dream I cherished in my heart was to create a pioneer work ... and to write at last an authentic drunkard’s story.” He ­succeeded—it is amusing, ­poignant and macabre. Lowry sobered up to write the book, which is set in a provincial Mexican town during its annual festival celebrating the dead. The story describes the last days of Geoffrey Firmin, a ­British diplomat who had been posted to this backwater so that he can kill himself, with mescal, discreetly. “Under the Volcano” offers vivid descriptions of what it feels like to be under the influence, including the dubious pleasure of ­vomiting in your neighbor’s garden and the shame of ­being incontinent and legless. ­Moreover, the novel shows great literary merit as Lowry plays with our sense of time, intercutting flashbacks and black-outs in stream-of-semiconsciousness. Above all, Lowry is a sympathetic observer of humanity, sober or not.
Read about the oldest book on Gately's list.

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

--Marshal Zeringue