The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To those who harbor the notion that heavy drinking fosters creativity, this forceful, sobering study will serve as an antidote. Dardis profiles four alcoholic American writers: Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and O'Neill. He argues that the first three burned themselves out before they had fully tapped their creative potential, a decline which the author, a professor at New York's John Jay College, links decisively to booze. Faulkner's whiskey binges and repeated hospitalizations, Fitzgerald's daily alcoholic despair and Hemingway's denial syndrome add up to a sad picture of self-destruction. Eugene O'Neill, on the other hand, quit drinking at age 38, and went on to write plays about the power of addiction, from The Iceman Cometh to Long Day's Journey into Night. Dardis ( Some Time in the Sun ) has produced a sensitive, invaluable group portrait that probes his subjects' addictions in ways neglected even by their biographers. Photos. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Basing his study on recent research into alcoholism, Dardis shows how early addiction helps explain the faltering art and diminished productivity of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. Instead of being driven to drink by psychic disorders, these writers inherited their tendency from parents, and their alcoholism led to psychic disorders and the deterioration of their work. Only Eugene O'Neill sufficiently recognized alcohol's threat to his art and conquered it--in time to create his masterworks The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night , the very subject of which is addiction. Dardis's work casts the familiar stories of these four writers in a new and startling light.-- Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll . , Nevada, Mo.
School Library Journal
YA-- More than just a chronicle of the drinking habits of four great American writers, this book gives a telling look at what it meant to be a male writer in the middle years of this century. It reads like a novel or gossip column while giving the sort of biographical information that students doing research would love to have. An example that sheds a sad light on the problem of alcoholism tells of Faulkner once turning up on the doorstep of an editor at Random House, with the drunken request, ``Miss Louise, could I, right now, take a short nap?'' After a four-hour sleep, he awoke and kept his next appointment. But not all of the writers' drinking binges were so harmless. Faulkner and Hemingway definitely lost their talents as a result of drinking and Fitzgerald, a noted alcoholic, finally came to the point where he could write only when he was drinking and lost his entire world because of it. Only O'Neill was able, at the age of 37, to give up drink, and go on to produce his most successful plays. The work gives insight into the lives of four important writers, the act of writing, and, most importantly, the horrors and destructive powers of alcohol.-- Carolyn Praytor Boyd, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395574225
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/1991
  • Pages: 304

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