6 writers who had to look up the word “sober”.

The source of this deliciously well-written post (I’m just only hosting it): here.

Writing is a doddle. Just look at this. Look at what I’m doing right now! I could literally tap the ever-loving shit out of these keys all day and never break a sweat. But that’s the difference between writing for fun in a squalid crack den using a nearby heated spoon as a WiFi access point, and writing to feed a family and pay the heating bill.

Carving a career as a writer is hard (as opposed to the actual act of writing itself). It’s not always book signings and movie adaptations. And even if it is (as is the case with these examples) the stress and the piled up years of torment and rejection after rejection is bound to play an evil role in it all. Call it their muse. Call it medicinal or therapeutic or a deep-routed desire to kill onself slowly. However you choose to disguise it some writers just need that morning whiskey before continuing with that paragraph.

The following are great American writers who may have screwed up some vital organs in pursuit of alcohol and artistc outlet but managed to achieve a hell of a lot more by doing so than if they’d have been quaffing carrot juice and  having yoga sessions.

Stephen King (1947 – )

Who is he?

Probably one of the most famous authors currently writing today. If you were to lay all his published short stories, novels, novellas and film adaptations end to end…you would be ousted as a weirdo. At the height of his success he took the rockstar approach to writing and began indulging in a variety of substances. To the point where he has even been quoted as saying that he had no recollection of writing the novel Cujo.

So what has he achieved?

Just about everybody on the planet has read at least one of his books (or seen his films for those of you with no imagination). His work is so widely accessible and popular entire sections of high street bookshops are set aside just to house his work and several of his adaptations have gone on to win awards . In short: what has he achieved? FUCKING EVERYTHING!

Oh, and he slated Twilight author Stephanie Meyer.

What happened to him in the end?

He cleaned up (boo hiss!). After the publication of The Tommyknockers in the late 80′s his family held an intervention. Emptying a bin bag in front him they saw – amongst beer cans and cigarette ends – cocaine, Xanax, Valium, NyQuil, dope and…er…cough medicine (hey, drugs are drugs). It was basically a Wurzel Gummidge version of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing passage (below). He stated in his memoirs that he quit drink and drugs after that. And his subsequent novels have not been as well received since. Just saying…


Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005)

Who is he?

Pretty much the sole driving force behind the ‘Gonzo’ style of journalism which recounts an event from a subjective, rather than objective, stance with the writer’s own personality at the forefront of the article. Hunter S. was an outspoken writer working largely throughout the backlash of the 1960′s counter-culture movement (i.e. hippies and bongo drums). Politically he was considered very left with a supposed hatred for U.S. president Richard Nixon. He also did drugs. A lot.

What did he achieve?

If you’re not familair with his name you are more than likely familair with his most critically acclaimed work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This was novel about a drug-fuelled trip to Las Vegas with the main character’s “300-pound Samoan attorney”. It was also a true account. About the author himself.

For an idea of just un-sober Hunter S. was during this period check out this passage from the book which details the sheer volume of narcotics hidden in their boot: ‘…two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers […] and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls.’ Makes your weekend booze benders look like a celery eating contest.

Not only that but a few years prior to this he spent some time hanging out with the Hell’s Angels after being commissioned to write a book about them. After an argument between the Angels and Thompson he was savagely beaten by the gang (also known as ‘stomping’ which conjures up some nice thoughts doesn’t it kiddies?) and lived to tell his tale.

What happened to him in end?

Unless an empty bottle of rum can pull the trigger on a shotgun it probably wasn’t the drugs/booze that killed him in the end. Suicide is the official verdict. ‘Hole in the face’ would have been my conclusion.

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)

Quite possibly the quintessential American author and owner of a beard that houses its own helipad. Ernest ‘Papa’ Hemingway was another member of the Lost Generation along with Fitzgerald. He served in wars, fished, hunted, wrote and drank heavily. He also has a cocktail named after him. Aptly (if somewhat unimaginitively) named ‘The Hemingway’.

What did he achieve?

His novels and stories are noted classics in American literature. Such examples include A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. His short story The Old Man and the Sea won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Which he promptly ground up and mixed into a Mai Tai. (Citation needed)

Additionally he also had a rather perculier method for writing. He would rise at 6am, write at his typewriter for six hours (while stood up), enter his favourite bar by lunchtime and be drunk before tea time. Everyday.

What happened to him in the end?

His heavy drinking became almost obscene, bordering on dangerous. He developed clear signs of cirrhosis of the liver but ignored the pitfalls and continued to drink. Eventually (whether through alcohol abuse or otherwise) he was treated for depression until in 1961 he was found dead with his favourite shotgun by his side. The puzzle was solved within five picoseconds. Not far away Hunter S. Thompson felt a shudder go down his spine.

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)

Who is she?

Satirist, critic, screenwriter and poet. She was renowned for her great sense of wit and keen mind which, when you look at it from afar, totally contrasts her depressive nature (with a number of suicide attempts under her belt. Or garment. Or…whatever) and her increasing dependency on alcohol. Not to mention her string of marriages and divorces as well as a supposed affair with a playwright and…oh god, just typing this up is making me miserable…let’s just move on…

What did she achieve?

Much like Winston Churchill, W.C. Fields and Oscar Wilde it’s hard not to come across a Dorothy Parker pearl of wisdom. Most quotation web sites available will list at least a handful attested to her. Thinkexist.com lists 153 quotes of hers. That may be only a quarter of what they attribute to Churchill but that’s still pretty good going. Some of her most noteable ones include:

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal labotomy.”
“I wish I could drink like a lady / I can take one or two at the most / Three and I’m under the table / Four and I’m under the host.”
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

What happened to her in the end?

She spiralled ever further into a depressive, alcoholic state but managed to live to a ripe old age of seventy-three. Where she died of a heart attack. On her own. In a hotel room. Most likely brought on by her alcoholism. Start as you mean to you on, eh?

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940)

Who is he?

Novelist and member of the ‘Lost Generation’, who were a contemporary group of artists and people growing up during World War I. Fitzgerald penned several classic ‘Jazz Age’ novels and was a notoriously heavy drinker since his college days, which probably accounted for his poor health. It has also been said that his alcoholism sent him temporarily mad. An account related by Ernest Hemingway. A man he knew personally and with whom he hung around with. ’nuff said.

What did he achieve?

Credited with writing the great American novel, The Great Gatsby, it has since become one of the cornerstone pieces of literature from the 1920′s Jazz Age (a phrase Fitzgerald himself supposedly coined).

Somewhat posthumously his short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was adapted into a full-length feature film directed by David Dincher in 2008. It starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles. Whether you consider that a good thing or not is probably dependent on how many Tequila slammers you’ve currently done.

What happened to him in the end?

Fitzgerald claimed to be suffering from Tuberculosis which accounted for his ill health, but this has since been denounced. Suffering two heart attacks in the late 40′s he sank into poor health. Not to be called a bitch by simple bloody-mindedness a third massive heart attack hit home run and claimed another writer’s life. That thing’s a bastard isn’t it?

Charles Bukowski (1920 -1994)

Who is he?

Not to put a too finer point on it but Bukowski was a drunk first and a writer second. He spent the vast majority of his adulthood from age twenty until his death in 1994 writing poems in seedy apartment rooms listening to classical music and downing hooch like there was a party in his liver and no one had yet thrown a punch. He is noted as being at starting line of the Beat generation in the 1950′s, though he has allegedly denied any connections to the likes of Ginsberg or Kerouac.

What did he achieve?

Despite nearly a decade of absence from the writing community in which Bukowski did nothing (literally nothing) but drink, smoke, fuck floozies, gamble, get into fist fights and work jobs he hated, he actually has an impressive body of work under his built having published seven novels, over forty volumes of poetry and one adapted-for-film screenplay.

His first novel Postoffice was published in the 1970′s and marked Bukowski as a full time author giving him a new outlet for his drunken, chauvinistic habits using his alter ego protagonist Henry Chinaski.

His screenplay Barfly was filmed in the 1980′s and was an autobiographical piece (as was much of his work)  about his life during his decade of not-writing. He was played by Mickey Rourke. He later chronicled his experience of working in Hollywood via the semi-autobiographical book called…er…Hollywood. Oh, did I mention the endless string of floozies? I’m pretty sure I mentioned the endless string of floozies…

What happened to him in the end?

Despite nearly dying of blood pooling in his brain he carried on drinking but the incident left him with a speech impediment that made him talk in his trademark slow and calming voice. Eventually he contracted Lieukemia in 1993 and it was this (this of all things!) that made him quit drinking. In spite of his reputation as the granddaddy of alcoholics he turned to a semi-healthy lifestyle and died sober at age seventy-three.

Same age as Dorothy Parker. Who in turn died the same way as Fitzgerald. Who in turn knew Hemingway. Who in turn killed himself in a similar vain to Hunter S. Thompson. Everybody’s looking in your direction Mr. King…

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2 thoughts on “6 writers who had to look up the word “sober”.

  1. Cheers for sharing my post. Didn’t know anyone was that keen on it 🙂

    • Hehe. I was/ I am. 🙂
      And you don’t have to thank me. 🙂
      P.S.: I’ll snoop around your archives as soon as I’ll find some spare time, so… I’m not done with the “Like button”.

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