Read The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing Online


Why is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest HemWhy is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. All six of these writers were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often they did their drinking together - Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafés of 1920s Paris; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973.Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever's New York to Williams' New Orleans, from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery. Beautiful, captivating and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert....

Title : The Trip to Echo Spring
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781847677945
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Trip to Echo Spring Reviews

  • Diane
    2019-01-12 07:59

    This book combines two of my favorite topics -- alcoholism and writers. And yet, I was disappointed.Olivia Laing picked six writers who struggled with alcohol addiction: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver. Laing traveled around the United States to visit their old haunts, analyzed their writings about drinking, and mixed it all up with some scientific research into alcoholism. "I wanted to know what made a person drink and what it did to them. More specifically I wanted to know why writers drink, and what effect this stew of spirits has had upon the body of literature itself ... There have been many books and articles that revel in describing exactly how grotesque and shameful the behaviour of alcoholic writers can be. That wasn't my intention. What I wanted was to discover how each of these men ... experienced and thought about their addiction." What I found most interesting were the drinking stories and quotes she included from the writers themselves or from those who knew them. However, there are only eight chapters in the book, and instead of focusing on one writer in a chapter, she jumped between the six men so often that I found it jarring. For example, just when I would be getting in the groove about Cheever, she'd suddenly switch to a Fitzgerald anecdote. I think my favorite section discussed the friendship/rivalry between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and how Hemingway would look down on Scott for not being able to hold his drink. Hem wrote: "Alcohol was a straight poison to Scott instead of a food." Of course, we know that alcohol is a poison, but Hem didn't see it that way.There was also a strong section on Tennessee Williams and his time in New Orleans. Laing, who is British, said she "found it almost impossible to piece New Orleans together. It wasn't like any place I'd ever visited, though at times it reminded me in its rich confusion of Addis Ababa, especially at night."Aside from the New Orleans section, the travelogue portions were the weakest part of the book. Laing took an Amtrak train for much of her journey across the States, and she included far too many pointless observations and random conversations with strangers that had no bearing on the narrative. It seems like Laing was trying to mix three different types of writing: scientific research into alcoholism, a travelogue around the U.S., and a critical analysis of literature and letters, but the final concoction was flat. Note: The title refers to a line in Tennessee Williams' play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," when Brick, the alcoholic husband, says he's "takin' a little short trip to Echo Spring," which was a nickname for a liquor cabinet that housed a brand of bourbon.

  • Washington Post
    2018-12-24 06:59

    “The Trip to Echo Spring” uncovers very little new about authors we know too much about. Instead of Hemingway or Fitzgerald, she might have inspected the lives of Kingsley Amis or Dorothy Parker. This book is riddled with the first-person singular, more often than not in ways totally irrelevant to the business at hand. Thus: “Months ago, back in England, when I was just beginning to think down into the subject of alcohol, I became certain that whatever journey I was making would begin in a hotel room on East 54th Street, ten minutes’ walk from Broadway.” And: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I am interested in absences, and the fact that the room had ceased to exist pleased me.” And: “The AA meeting was on the Upper West Side at 6 p.m. I slept a while at the hotel and then cut across Central Park, eating a hot dog on the way.”Et cetera. That tells you nothing at all about writers and alcohol. So it cannot surprise you to learn later that, walking along the beach in Key West, Laing is pleased to be told by a passing stranger, and hastens to pass it along to us: “I hope your day is as beautiful as you are.” That is pretty much the poisonous icing on the inedible cake of this dreadful book, an exercise in narcissism and irrelevance from first page to last.Jonathan Yardley reviewed the book for us:

  • Sian Lile-Pastore
    2018-12-26 01:58

    well, just thinking about alcoholism fills me with anxiety, but this is a wonderful book and just my kind of thing. while it is in the main about why writers drink, it is also a little bit of a travel book and a memoir and is just lovely and bookish and tender and slightly focuses on the lives of berryman, fitzgerald, hemingway, tenessee williams, raymond carver and john cheever (and if you are concerned that Laing is ignoring women writers/drinkers, she addresses that quite early on in the book)and has some really fascinating insights - one of which that really stuck with me was the fact that lots of the alcoholic writers are also obsessed with water and it's cleansing properties... like cheevers 'the swimmer', the pools in fitzgerald, carver's fishing and lots more...I could have done with more about Carver... or just more in general, am really interested in reading her previous book now too.

  • Roger
    2018-12-24 08:02

    That there is something fascinating to many about the connexion between alcohol and writing is evidenced by the bibliography of the book under review, which contains a healthy selection of articles and books discussing the issue from all sorts of angles. One of the books in the bibliography, The Thirsty Muse : alcohol and the American writer, is a book I've read several times: I was hoping that The trip to Echo Spring would be another enjoyable essay into this murky subject, but alas I closed the book feeling disappointed.Initially this book was full of promise - Laing writes near the beginning "There have been many books and articles that revel in describing exactly how grotesque and shameful the behaviour of alcoholic writers can be. That wasn't my intention. What I wanted was to discover how each of these men [Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, John Berryman and Raymond Carver] - and, along the way, some of the many others who'd suffered from the disease [alcoholism] - experienced and thought about their addiction." Laing was hoping to come closer to finding the reason why such talented individuals drank so dangerously. Along the way there would be short diversions into medicine and psychology to help Laing and the reader along the path to understanding.Unfortunately for the book these are not the only diversions. This book is, disappointingly, what I call "new" non-fiction, by which I mean non-fiction where the author's activity takes up a healthy share of the pages. This is a most annoying circumstance of our current literary age: whether it is an indication of the rise of a "me" generation, or whether it is felt that by doing so personalises and makes a book easier to read I don't know, but, apart from a very few works of genius it is a mode that usually fails, as it does here. As the book moves on the authorial intrusion becomes more, well, intrusive. Apart from a few passages where Laing describes why she became interested in the subject (her experiences with alcoholic family members / partners) and some descriptive material about places she visits that are to do with the authors, all of the writing about herself (mostly to do with the train journey she takes across the USA to visit the authorial sites) is really superfluous to the subject of the book, and is at times frankly strange. Snippets of conversation, descriptions of views from train windows, discussions with fellow passengers which have nothing to do with writing or alcohol just struck me as out of place in this book. It's a very brave or foolish author who sets their descriptive writing alongside quotations from the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway as Laing does in this book. The comparison is not favourable.However, it's not all bad news - Laing does find some interesting connexions between the writers discussed, and does delve into their literature, letters, memoirs &c to find where they've either tried or failed to come to grips with their problems. Inevitably she has to, from time-to-time, discuss their shameful behaviour, but on the whole she stays true to her desire not to make that the main focus. Her writing on the families of the writers studied is interesting and I think does shine some light into the problems they had. As a person who doesn't read many biographies of writers, I was unaware that both Hemingway's and Berryman's fathers committed suicide - which had lasting effects on each of them.In the end there is no definitive answer as to why writers and drink sometimes form such a toxic combination, although if there's any connecting link between these six it might be that they drank to hide their insecurities, from others and from themselves.I will, after reading this, go and read some Cheever, and re-visit Carver and Berryman, who I haven't looked at for a long time. Laing has given me a new way to look at them.If Laing had not decided to make this book a vehicle for herself as much as her subject she might have produced a very good short book. As it is, she has produced an average three hundred page book. A shame.Check out my other reviews at

  • Joanne
    2018-12-22 05:01

    This book was disappointing. I heard the author being interviewed on the radio, and she intrigued me. However, I found the book to be just plain tedious. I don't need to read excerpts from the DSM or have explained to me how alcohol works. I wanted to read more about these gifted men and less about the author wandering around Key West or New Orleans. The book bored me, and I found myself skimming great swatches of chapters. Can't recommend this book if you are looking for details of the writers.

  • Kusaimamekirai
    2019-01-01 03:07

    This is a profoundly moving book about six writers: Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Cheever. All six men struggled with alcohol abuse for most of their lives, with it ultimately in one form or another, killing each of them. Part travelogue (the author who is English travels across America in search of the spaces these writers inhabited) and part biography,this book provides brief sketches of their lives, their disintegration, and how alcohol became an inescapable part of their lives and art.While all the stories share common themes such as abusive households, absent fathers who often met violent ends, or unstable relationships with women, what struck me the most was the despair they all shared. There is for example a clip on YouTube of Tennessee Williams fresh out of rehab appearing on the David Frost show. He claims to be sober and yet is clearly inebriated. He smiles the nervous smile of a man who clearly knows that what he is saying is a lie and yet the audience laughs nervously with him. It is incredibly sad to watch and it provides a window into the life of a man who you know is dying in front of you and yet, nobody can or is willing to, stop him.Yet it would be a mistake to simply write these men off as self indulgent drunks who lacked self control. Take again the case of Williams when after being savagely beaten by some random youths on his way home was asked about the incident:“They knew who he was, but he didn’t let it bother him. ‘Why not?’ an interviewer asked a few months later, and he replied, stalwart as ever: ‘Because, baby, I don’t allow it to.’ "I don’t allow it to.I’m not sure why this response stuck with me like it did but it’s quite amazing. In a world of drugs, alcohol, and personal chaos, Williams still managed to maintain his dignity and decency where he could. It seemed to me to be the heart of this book. That a man may be falling apart, he may have little left in his life that he can control, but he can always control how he responds to the blows the world may throw at him. The men chronicled here did not for the most part deal with those blows well. However, all of them maintained a kind of courage to continue chronicling their struggle through their art. They left behind a valuable lesson for anyone struggling with depression and all in their own way lived incredible lives. The sadness lies in the fact that their demons cut short what could have been so much more. A truly amazing but very sad read.

  • John
    2019-01-08 02:45

    A confession: I wasn't interested in the work of all but one of the writers profiled (Tennessee Williams). However, I got the book from the library primarily for the travel narrative aspect, where I felt Laing excelled. The writers' biographies interested me (for the most part), as did the author's own story, which I didn't find intrusive at all. I did tend to zone out when she examined their actual work in any detail, but as I said, I knew that might happen at the outset. This book is recommended for those who are fans of some of the writers profiled, as there isn't really enough travel narrative to include it solidly in that genre. Still, I found it a good introduction to Laing's high writing quality, making me look forward to read her other books.

  • Bookdragon Sean
    2018-12-31 09:03

    Goodreads winner!This book provides insight into the drinking habits of six authors and the consequential alcoholism. It is evident that a great deal of research has gone into this as it shines through their experiences. The author has written it, for the most part, in an engaging and informative way. I enjoyed reading some parts of it.My major criticism is that the author has filled the pages with her own experiences with alcoholism along with her childhood and how the two relate. I don’t see the relevance of this. We’re supposed to read about the link between creative genius and addiction not the ability to criticise and addiction.

  • Vivek Tejuja
    2019-01-09 08:43

    There is this thing with almost all writers. They have weird obsessions most of the times, and sometimes they are just addicted to everything or that one thing that they think makes them. Drinking is one of them. I have heard and read about so many stories about writers who are alcoholics, but never wondered why. I always assumed it would be something to do with their creative genius. I always wanted to know more about the condition and why do writers get down that road. Olivia Laing’s book could not have come at a better time. I wanted to read something serious and got it served on a platter. The book is humane and full of empathy. It never once judges anyone or the situation. “The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink” is a well-researched book, chronicling the lives of six writers who loved to drink – John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman and Raymond Carver. The writers’ selection could not have been better. What I love about the book is the way Laing presents situations. Having grown up in an alcoholic family herself, Laing makes sense of this disease with all sincerity or tries to with great effort. She looks at these writers’ lives, what was common to them, how the likeness then led them to addiction and in some cases recovery as well.The surprising and sometimes most wondrous thing which Laing goes on to discover is the connection between drinking and their writing. The writing as I said before is very strong and exciting. There is never a dull moment in the book and that happens very rarely in a piece of non-fiction. At the end of the day, read the book to know about creative geniuses and their dependency on alcohol – an extremely interesting insight.

  • Gail Slater
    2019-01-10 07:59

    The Trip to Echo Spring is a combination biography, travelogue, and memoir by an author who Amtraked her way around the US to catch the elan and times of six alcoholic writers. Though often drunk, drugged, disorderly, or locked up, they produced some of our best literature in the 20th C; they were always sick and suffering. I ’ve been humbled to read how they made sense of their mangled lives in their writings, and for a few, in their recoveries. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway drank and wrote before much was known about addiction, and, in a way, those authors never had a chance against their staggering alcohol consumption. In his journal, Fitzgerald counted a sober writing day as imbibing only beer, 30 glasses of beer. He ruined his health and died young. Hemingway wrote a credo on the benefits of alcohol as “the only relief in modern life,” but he was a suicide. John Berryman created an alcoholic alter ego,a character “amazed at the never-ending ability of his disease to defend itself. Still he has hope,” and then his creator jumped off a bridge. John Cheever and Raymond Carver met at the prestigious U of Iowa Writers Workshop and actually drank together. They got sober in AA meetings (Yes!), a miracle considering their disastrous histories with the bottle, but hard-won recovery rewarded them (and us) years more of their work. Tennessee Williams’s life story touched me deeply and sent me back to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where his huge compassion for three heavy drinkers has helped me see them differently. This book is compulsively readable about important writers deserving of Olivia Laing’s pertinent research and wonderful prose.

  • Richard
    2018-12-24 04:53

    A minority report about an infuriating read.The Trip to Echo Springs, is part biography, part travel writing, part psychology, part literary criticism, and only partially satisfying in whole or in part.If you've paid attention to writers, you've been through some amount of discussion about writers and drinking, and writers and suicide, and drunk writers who have committed suicide, so this book is nothing new in terms of subject matter. There's also not much new about alcohol theory or medicine. Olivia Laing spends varying amounts of time with Tennessee Williams, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, John Cheever, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver, and the more time spent with any of the given, the more she wore me out. There's detail, and there's the telling detail, and it's the latter that drives narrative - Ms. Laing spends too much time in the former, and her insights are neither subtle, nor particularly illuminating. That being said, I did pick up some interesting info/gossip about Cheever, Berryman, and Carver.Unfortunately, the author also includes her tales of travelling to salient locations in each writers career in the overall story.Olivia Laing is the stranger you sit next to at a bar who engages you in an interesting conversation only to turn it into a monologue that goes on and on reducing you to a series of "uh-huh's," as you rush to finish your drink, and wish you'd never looked in her direction.

  • Kristin
    2019-01-04 06:07

    Great for information about alcoholism and anecdotes about some alcoholic writers (still asking myself, though, why no female writers were discussed). Not sure she satisfactorily answers the question why writers drink. She suggests that some of these writers' best work could not have been written without the help of huge doses of alcohol, which I find very hard to believe. I'm not sure that anything of lasting merit or artistic value could be produced in a state of alcoholic oblivion. She also seems to suggest that these writers' work ultimately suffered from their self-destructive habit, which of course completely contradicts her primary thesis, though it does express what I believe to be true for the vast majority of creative people.I had read a very moving essay by Laing on loneliness, and found her writing to be exquisite in that piece. I went to the bookstore and asked for anything by her, so sure was I that I had found a true gem of a writer. Was disappointed by this book, however. Except for the occasional passage of inspired prose or the odd intuitive turn of phrase, I'd rate the writing jn this as fairly mediocre. That said, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and read her To the River with the hope that I might find some of what moved me so much in her loneliness piece.

  • M.R. Dowsing
    2018-12-23 04:59

    This is a sort of combination of travel writing, lit crit, biography and autobiography as Laing travels around America visiting places connected with Raymond Carver, John Cheever, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennesse Williams and John Berryman, all of whom were alcoholics. The subtitle is unfortunate I think because it doesn't explain why writers drink or even give any evidence that writers drink more than anyone else. Both the journey and the book feel self-indulgent, but it's well-written and researched and I did find it interesting despite my misgivings. A worthwhile book, then, for anyone into with an interest in American literature, alcoholism or the relationship between creativity and addiction.

  • Jessica Anne
    2018-12-23 08:38

    I'm going to write a shitty review along the lines of why this book is shitty (aka, I'm going to make it personal when I should be objective).I like Olivia Laing. I like why she chose all male white American alcoholic authors ("because I liked them"), and I like how she writes about landing on airport runways with slowly pulsating lights in the night. Her sentences often take off in a very beautiful way.But.I wanted to read about writers and alcoholism, not about her planes and trains across America. I wanted answers about why authors are alcoholics, and what it means for their work...or at least speculations. Instead, I found a long-winded personal narrative. Really, the story's just a travel log with a lot of dismal facts about miserable people thrown in.It's only in the author interview, on page 342, that she explains the book's real purpose:"[As a] writer who is interested in assessing loss, which I guess is my true subject...."Okay, I definitely got loss out of the book. Pain. Abandonment. Abuse. Meticulously researched accounts of each hardship each man experienced. Each of these writers had a miserable life--so terrible that I almost forget they ever created anything beautiful. But most people don't need to read a book to realize alcoholism creates pain. Most people already know Fitzgerald's golden years turned sour quick, with beautiful Zelda withering in a mental institution, or that Papa Hemingway shot himself, old and overweight and unable to shoot Kudu in Africa anymore.I was hoping for something a little more daring. Something that asked more unusual questions than "how much pain can one person experience?" Something more than runway lights leading down a straight road to a straight answer: that alcoholics are miserable.

  • Nickolas Butler
    2018-12-27 05:04

    Olivia Laing's writing is beautiful and evocative and her exploration of alcoholism and American writing is noteworthy because of her deep sense of empathy for the authors she focuses on. It is much easier to criticize or lampoon Hemingway or Carver than it is to delve deeply into their biographies in search of exactly *WHY* they are so very flawed, and talented. Her writing about Key West, in particular, was lush, and after suffering through a historically cold Wisconsin winter, a welcome portal into a warmer, greener world.

  • Tiffany
    2018-12-31 07:42

    I quite enjoyed the portions of the books that described the interactions of the authors, especially the relationship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald. The author's interjections of her own story were not as interesting, nor was the majority of her trip across the country. Her trip could have really added to the book, but most of it was a "drive by" on a train. I think that was a missed opportunity to visit some of the places relevant to the authors that she chose to profile.

  • David Ärlemalm
    2019-01-12 05:50

    Oavsett om Olivia Laing skriver om konstnärer i New York eller alkoholiserade författare har hon min uppmärksamhet. Jag avbryter läsandet för att googla, fyller på kundvagnen i adlibris, söker upp gamla bilder. Laing gör världen större genom det lilla. Skriver hon om en av Raymond Carvers dikter rotar jag fram och läser den med nya ögon. Berikande.

  • Holly
    2018-12-31 04:54

    A British woman-journalist traveling around the U.S. thinking about alcoholism - though not very deeply - and trotting out the biographies of very well-known American writers - while filling the pages with her own self-indulgent descriptive writing and a superficial survey of the meaning of alcoholism (she seems to think the Twelve Steps of AA is the key to understanding everything and we get the full list at least twice and the individual steps countless times). The framework of the roadtrip to visit each writer's haunt, complete with frontispiece map, seemed unnecessary and simply another excuse for Laing to talk about herself (train travel, plane travel, etc). And despite filling the pages with herself and hints of her personal relationship to alcohol/alcoholics, this too is unsatisfying and thin: How many times did she begin a sentence with "It was hard to express ..."? She cops out of writing about women writers because "their stories came too close to home" and that's all we get of that.After the first section disappointed me I began to read back to front, jumping to the Raymond Carver section next. Unfortunately (for the author) the Port Angeles pages revealed that her landscape descriptions were romantically overwritten and her facts were fuzzy if not inaccurate (she omits to mention the inelegant truth that Tess Gallagher's Sky House is more or less in a subdivision that sits above a movie theater). The Gordon Lish name-drop glosses over a fascinating story (though it has little to do with alcoholism?). I can believe Laing got lost on the way to Carver's grave (and I'm unsurprised to learn that Gallagher actually writes responses to visitors in the grave's ledger). But I'd have learned more about Carver reading one chapter of Carol Sklenicka's biography.I think I'm becoming irritated by these recent books that are ostensibly biographies and "hard" nonfiction that end up being a hybrid of their personal "exploration" of a subject - complete with road trip - and their personal memoir (think Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Rachel Cohen did this more skillfully and less ostentatiously in A Chance Meeting). Are publishers asking for this? I read plenty of memoirs but I accept that "contract" between the writer and myself before I begin reading (e.g.,, I plan to read Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn and I know it's a memoir-with-physics). Mostly what I was left with, besides annoyance, was the thought that it's time to re-read Tom Dardis's excellent 1989 book on American writers and alcoholism, The Thirsty Muse.

  • Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
    2018-12-22 02:44

    I put this book on my wish-list as soon as I saw it: suffering writers drinking themselves to death, what's not to like? Then I read a couple of middling reviews, downloaded the first chapter for my Kindle and somehow wasn't drawn in, so I didn't purchase it. Now I saw it in a Spanish edition and snorted it up in a couple of days. It must be the first time a book actually appeals more to me in translation... Anyway, it *is* a beautiful and poetic book, there's artistic suffering aplenty, and it's unapologetic about its being biased and not very scientific - although there is the obligatory science interview somewhere in there; the author could have spared us that. We want to read about authors suffering horribly while drinking themselves to death, that's why we bought the book right? Right? So, if you want to read about that, do read this book, it's really good and you'll get your money's worth. I could have done with a bit less of the author's travels and musings, but it gives a certain rhythm to the book, so I guess it works. If you want something very deep or scientific or different, go somewhere else.

  • Bill
    2019-01-05 03:05

    If you're looking for a an answer to the question as to why great writers drink you won't get it from this book--And that is one of the book's strengths. But if you're interested in how alcohol figured into the personal and literary lives of these six great authors (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Berryman, Cheever, Carver, and Tennessee Williams) then you will not be disappointed. The book provides many potential explanations of why these authors may have succumb to excessive drinking and incontrovertible evidence as to its consequences. But more important than causes and consequences is the empathy one comes to feel for each of them, which Laing artfully elicits through her sensitive treatment of their lives--as sons, lovers, parents, professionals, colleagues and friends. Juxtaposed against Laing's personal journey, I found this to be a moving and compelling work.

  • Christian Bauman
    2019-01-13 09:06

    This was pretty great. Can't make up mind whether it would have been awesome or a mistake to read it back to back with Rosie Schaap's Drinking With Men…but I didn't so never mind anyway. As you might expect this is a very sad book, made sadder by the memoir threaded throughout. It's also made more delightful by that. As well as just the personal observations along the way, the detailing of the geography and weather as the author moves from place to place, from one literary scene of the crime to the next. This is a difficult book to read drunk and a difficult book to read sober; find a middle line, read at night with Wynton Marsalis playing in the background, and do no more than a chapter at a time.

  • Wyatt
    2019-01-18 05:07

    An incredibly moving, beautifully written book. Vividly depicts the role of alcohol in the lives of these writers, the complex and individual psychology behind addiction, and its devastating effects, with sympathy and clear-sightedness. Makes me want to read and reread Cheever and Carver especially.

  • Paul ataua
    2018-12-25 05:03

    In a trip to Echo Spring, Laing draws together six American writers with the common theme of alcoholism and how that alcoholism made or unmade their work and life. It is good on description, has some interesting anecdotes, but is somewhat disappointing when it moves into interpretation. Mildly interesting.

  • Colin Andersen
    2019-01-10 07:50

    Wonderful commentary on the (drinking) lives of some of the literary giants of our time.

  • Robert Vaughan
    2019-01-05 07:56

    The way this book moves between memoir, biography, travelogue is fascinating and seamless. Spellbinding. And of course, those six authors who have meant so much to the modern writer or reader. And alcohol as binding substance. My visiting friend and writer, Meg Tuite, turned me on to this book. I devoured it in less than three days. Now I want to read Laing's first book, and have already ordered her next. Do yourself a favor. Pick any of her works, and you will be so happy you did. Then slip into the sublime page and dazzle yourself.

  • Daniel Benevides
    2018-12-30 03:48

    Cheever, Hemingway, Berryman, Fitzgerald, Carver e Tennessee Williams. Além de geniais, eram todos alcoólatras. Laing busca entender como o vício moldou e/ou destruiu a criatividade e a vida de cada um deles, num texto híbrido, sensível, literário por si mesmo.

  • Beth Boylan
    2018-12-27 05:56

    Beautifully researched and written. A poignant exploration of six writers' relationship with alcohol, sprinkled with Laing's own observations, experience, and travel anecdotes.

  • Katie
    2018-12-28 04:06

    2017 reading challenge category: 17. A book with illustrationsRegarding the category: specifically, this book is full of photographs of the writers Laing discusses. Is that an "illustration"? I'm counting it, so it is now!I found the concept of this book fascinating: an exploration of the link, if any, between drinking or alcoholism and famous American (male) writers. But I found the actual organization and threading of the narrative to be lacking. I felt that Laing never quite figured out what she wanted the book to be--an academic treatise or analysis? A study that used her own personal basis with the subject to relate to that study? At times, the book was equal parts history of the authors and Laing's own travel. But at other times, it wasn't. So I never quite found myself engrossed, and that's probably why it took me a month to read.

  • Jason
    2019-01-11 01:57

    The current trend in non-fiction is erraticism. It seems everything has been written about single topics so the only way forward is to write book length essays that touch glancingly on a myriad of things. There is beauty in this because, frankly, life is little more, exactly. Laing cares, deeply, and this is what makes her books worth reading. It is a sorry sight to see reviewers lambasting an author for not satisfying expectations, as if this is even tangentially related to good writing. Laing strives to exorcise demons, to find connections, to see clearly. When she ties all these men together with a Berryman poem, when she paints Williams desperately wishing to mirror Crane's suicide, when she illustrates endlessly destructive men of deserving of patience, she is effervescent. We, each of us, strive to justify the ways we've broken the things we love.