Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol

Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol

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by Iain Gately
     
 

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In Drink, journalist Iain Gately traces the course of humanity's ten-thousand-year-old love affair with alcohol, the substance that has been dubbed "the cause of - and solution to-all of life's problems." Along the way he scrutinizes the drinking habits of presidents, prophets, and barbarian hordes, and features drinkers as diverse as Homer, Hemingway, Shakespeare,

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Overview

In Drink, journalist Iain Gately traces the course of humanity's ten-thousand-year-old love affair with alcohol, the substance that has been dubbed "the cause of - and solution to-all of life's problems." Along the way he scrutinizes the drinking habits of presidents, prophets, and barbarian hordes, and features drinkers as diverse as Homer, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Al Capone, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Covering matters as varied as bacchanals in Imperial Rome, the gin craze in seventeenth-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 expose myths and reveal truths about this most equivocal of fluids.

A rollicking tour through humanity's love affair with alcohol, Drink is an intoxicating history of civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
Iain Gately, a British writer who six years ago published Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, now turns his attention to booze, a subject, it goes without saying, of similar character but considerably larger import. 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…In taking us from ancient Greece to MADD, Gately doesn't miss a beat, at least none that I can identify…it's all here, authoritatively and often amusingly recounted.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

With the same ambitious sweep and needle-in-history's-haystack approach of his previous tome on tobacco, Gately takes on all things alcohol. From absinthe to Jay-Z's boycott of allegedly racist Cristal, from Mayan pulque to Pilsner Urquell, he covers the history and the culture of the medicinal and mind-altering product that since at least 8000 B.C. has been part of human civilization. The book's first chapters chronicle the history of fermentation and distillation from early civilization through the late Middle Ages, before the narrative's bulk gives over to alcohol's story since the colonization of the New World. Gately touches on such minutiae as the tableware and music selections onboard the expedition ships that followed Raleigh to America and an exacting chronology of laws enacted to ban the sale of alcohol to Indians. He ecumenically includes historical information from every civilized continent; yet for a book on booze, it's at first drier than straight gin, definitely for those who like their history neat. Like a good party, however, it becomes livelier as 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. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The National Post (Canada)
Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately (Gotham; 478 pp.; $33). British author Iain Gately calls alcohol the "equivocal liquid," and his exploration of our love-hate relationship with it is "by turns entertaining, inspiring, sobering, informative and simply fascinating," writes reviewer Janice Kennedy in the Ottawa Citizen. As he did with Tobacco, his earlier cultural history, Gately offers what amounts to nothing less than a history of human civilization. From the archeological evidence of fermented potables in northern China nearly 10,000 years ago to the notion that American rap culture has been the salvation of France's champagne and cognac industries with its taste for both pricey libations, Drink covers it all: the colour, comedy, catastrophe and controversy. Reviewer Kennedy concludes that "the book is bursting (or should that be overflowing?) with scrupulously researched facts, statistics, historical events and marvellous anecdotes, all of it just as scrupulously acknowledged in endnotes. But the wonder of it is its immense readability." Buy it.
Library Journal

For thousands of years, the world has both celebrated and cursed alcohol. In his latest breezily entertaining book, Gately, who has also written about another addictive substance in Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, writes about both the beneficial and the detrimental effects alcohol has had on society while giving readers a concise, chronological history of alcohol throughout time and across the globe. Readers needing a basic overview of the general subject of alcohol should be satisfied with Gately's book, but researchers requiring a more detailed history about specific alcoholic beverages such as wine will need to find other books such as Thomas Pinney's A History of Wine in America or Roderick Phillips's A Short History of Wine to be more useful. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
—John Charles

Kirkus Reviews
The history of the Western world as seen through the prism of booze, glorious booze. Gately (Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, 2002) serves up a lavish account, lengthy but never dull, of how human civilization has prized and demonized alcohol throughout history. It's been mostly prized, he demonstrates, beginning with a discourse on how the epic poem Gilgamesh, possibly the first literary work in existence, shows intoxication and celebration as inextricably connected in Sumerian society circa 2000 BCE. Throughout ancient history, alcohol was considered a crucial component of the good life. Gately follows the role played in Greek culture by the wine-soaked deity Bacchus and the transmission of his cult to Rome. Comparatively abstemious in the republic's early years, Romans in the heyday of the empire considered the Hebrews among their more civilized subjects because they cultivated wine. In 988 CE, Prince Vladimir of Kiev chose Christianity over Islam as the faith to unite his people, changing the future of European religion because he couldn't abide the idea of not drinking. (Despite some token entries on Asia and the Middle East, this is a Western history.) Europe in the Dark Ages appears to have been utterly sozzled, with adults and children drinking ale for breakfast and throughout the day. It was only the introduction of tea and coffee in the 17th century that gave Europeans something better to drink than the admittedly foul water, though England's 18th-century gin craze still caused enough societal damage to bear resemblance to America's crack epidemic. Gately plays it straight throughout, with occasional witty asides such as the one on whyabsinthe never took off in London: "Why flirt with the occult when one already lived in Stygian gloom?" He considers modern temperance advocates, from Prohibitionists to today's health zealots, as being not just wrong, but spoilsports. In this lively book, the latter is the more damning charge. A heady cocktail. Agent: Jim Rutman/Sterling Lord Literistic
From the Publisher
"Thorough, informative, briskly readable, and witty."
-Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"This is a book to be read with pleasure, best sipped in leisure like good bourbon."
-Dallas Morning News

British author Iain Gately calls alcohol the "equivocal liquid," and his exploration of our love-hate relationship with it is "by turns entertaining, inspiring, sobering, informative and simply fascinating," writes reviewer Janice Kennedy in the Ottawa Citizen. As he did with Tobacco, his earlier cultural history, Gately offers what amounts to nothing less than a history of human civilization. From the archeological evidence of fermented potables in northern China nearly 10,000 years ago to the notion that American rap culture has been the salvation of France's champagne and cognac industries with its taste for both pricey libations, Drink covers it all: the colour, comedy, catastrophe and controversy. Reviewer Kennedy concludes that "the book is bursting (or should that be overflowing?) with scrupulously researched facts, statistics, historical events and marvellous anecdotes, all of it just as scrupulously acknowledged in endnotes. But the wonder of it is its immense readability." Buy it.
- The National Post (Canada)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592403035
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/03/2008
Pages:
560
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.16(h) x 1.72(d)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Iain Gately is the author of Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization. Raise in Hong Kong, he studied law at Cambridge University and worked in the financial markets of London, where he currently lives.

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Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An excellent book filled with interesting facts and explanations. Especially good for a history buff.
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