2014: 24. The Trip to Echo Springs

"Here's a thing.  Iowa City, 1973."

The Trip to Echo Springs: On Writers and Drinking, Olivia Laing

This is a very interesting book.  It's a rumination on writers and alcohol - specifically on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennesee Williams, John Cheever, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver, and their relationships with alcohol (Spoiler alert - all were alcoholics, and four of them basically died of it).  It's not a text book, or a history - rather it's a rumination, an extended essay on the way their lives were affected (read ruined) by their addiction - why they (maybe) got that way, and how their writing reflected that.  

It's quite good.  Laing doesn't romanticize drinking, and is quite clear that the alcohol did not make them better writers (even if they themselves thought that).  As such, it's quite a melancholy book - well, any book that contains two people whose fathers committed suicide, and then they themselves committed suicide after a life of alcohol abuse is not going to be cheery.  But it's beautiful written, and, she makes her points without being terribly heavy handed.  It's, as I said, very interesting.

However, I do think she pulls her punches a bit with regard to her own drinking and whether or not she has a problem with drink.  She talks about an alcoholic parental figure (her mother's long term girlfriend) and at times writes as if she, too, has a drinking problem.  But then it's clear through out the book that she drinks - so I was left uncertain whether she has a problem - worries she might - or just sympathsizes with the instincts that lead one to alcoholism.  It doesn't really matter one way or the other, but I think it could have been an even sharper book if she was slightly more introspective about her own reality and motives in writing - or, alternatively, if she left herself out of it all together. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017