❮KINDLE❯ ✽ The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink Author Olivia Laing – Sharkmotorcyclehelmets.co.uk


  • Hardcover
  • 340 pages
  • The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink
  • Olivia Laing
  • English
  • 07 February 2017
  • 9781847677945

10 thoughts on “The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink

  1. says:

    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.


  2. says:

    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, 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


  3. says:

    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 sad.it 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 I could have done with about Carver or just in general, am really interested in reading her previous book now too.


  4. says:

    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 , 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


  5. says:

    First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you F Scott Fitzgerald In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing set out to debunk the myth of alcohol creativity success By researching the addictions of six famous authors, the author shows not only how alcohol left a mark on their work, but also on their health.Laing s engaging prose easily takes us along her journey through America while she studies the works of Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver Despite their differences, at their core all these men struggled with similar problems an alcoholic father, a restricting mother, mental health issues, repressed homosexual feelings Neither did it help that in the 20th century alcohol addiction wasn t taken seriously Look at the Great Gatsby no one wants the party to stop Modern life is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief Ernest Hemingway I m not familiar with any of the studied authors I ve heard of their work, but that s it so I enjoyed learning about their lives and how the men inspired each other However, instead of focusing on one author per chapter, Laing mixes up their stories, often confusing me about whom I was following.I also would ve preferred if Laing had cut down on her travel descriptions They added little to the narrative and to the underlying message of this book Alcohol doesn t help you a better author shocker it helps you to die quicker.So although this book is a moodkiller reading how lonely, nervous men ruin their health isn t fun this mood killing is also this book s strength Alcohol is a toxic, a dangerous addiction, and to show its destructive effects still is important today Well done Laing, but less traveloque stories next time 3 stars


  6. says:

    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 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.


  7. says:

    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.


  8. says:

    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 A truly amazing but very sad read.


  9. says:

    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 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.


  10. says:

    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 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.


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 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 Caf S Of S Paris Carver And Cheever Speeding To The Liquor Store In Iowa In The Icy Winter Of 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


About the Author: Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing is a writer and critic Her first book, To the River 2011 is the story of a midsummer journey down the river Virginia Woolf drowned in It was a book of the year in the Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times and was shortlisted for the 2012 Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year.Her second, The Trip to Echo Spring 2013 , explores the liquid links between w