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The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking

de Olivia Laing

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3121663,378 (3.61)19
"In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. All six of these men 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 cafes of Paris in the 1920s; 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's New Orleans, and 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. - For readers of Amanda Vaill's When Everyone Was So Young, Elif Batuman's The Possessed, and Kingsley Amis's Everyday Drinking"--… (mais)
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Olivia Laing recounts her travels around the United States, visiting places associated with six American authors (she apologises that they are all dead white males: Scott Fitzgerald; Ernest Hemingway; Tennessee Williams; John Cheever; John Berryman; Raymond Carver) who all had problems with alcohol.
This is not biography or literary criticism, although it contains some of both. This is an enjoyable literary travelogue about alcoholism and American authors, with some reflections on Laing’s own life. Laing’s style has an easy familiarity, even when quoting technical medical jargon about alcoholism, and although the potted biographies, literary criticism and travelogue don’t seamlessly blend together, there is plenty to enjoy.

I had not read any Tennessee Williams prior to this book, although aware of the plays, and only had name awareness of Berryman, but this didn’t particularly reduce my interest in the book. However it was a shame that Laing didn’t write about Carson McCullers. ( )
  CarltonC | Feb 16, 2021 |
I enjoyed the memoir aspect of this book less than the biographical portions, and the self-indulgent travelogue the least. Valuable for the quotes from some of my all-time favorite authors, but Laing doesn't have my favorite writing style. ( )
  charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
Olivia Liang's book "The Trip to Echo Spring: On writers and drinking" had a fantastic concept -- delving into the reasons why so many successful writers have a problem with alcohol -- but I didn't care for the way the book was written.

Liang spends a lot of time talking about herself and her travels, and she also spends a lot of time jumping around in the stories about various writers such as John Cheever, Earnest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald in a super jarring way.

I found the stories about John Cheever to be the most interesting part of this book (so much so that I'll likely search for a biography of him at some point.) Echo Spring felt like a lost opportunity to put together something great. ( )
  amerynth | Oct 5, 2019 |
Zes schrijvers die (veel) te veel dronken. Laing kladdert hun zes biografieën op rommelige en associatieve wijze aaneen, struikelt heen en weer van het ene leven naar het andere, bespreekt passages uit hun werk en dagboeken (en Paris Review interviews), en wisselt dat allemaal af met droge medische weetjes over alcoholisme en het verslag van diverse ontmoetingen met wie er toevallig naast haar in de trein zit. Dat Laing van dit boek ook een persoonlijk reisverslag wil maken, staat de rest van het boek hopeloos in de weg. En nergens kom je te weten waarom ze net deze schrijvers wil onderzoeken, of waarom ze uberhaupt geïnteresseerd is in zichzelf dooddrinkende schrijvers ... Wat ze aanhaalt uit haar eigen kindertijd (en ze doet dit in het boek rijkelijk laat) overtuigt niet. Wat Laing zelf over alcoholisme heeft te zeggen lijkt niet veel meer dan wat er in een medische encyclopedie of in het foldertje van de AA staat. De ondertitel - 'why writers drink' - wordt nergens aangeraakt, laat staan beantwoord.

Het boek citeert rijkelijk uit brieven en dagboeken en doorprikt de pose van de merry drinkin' men. Maar zowel als een zesvoudige literaire biografie, en als studie naar het fenomeen van 'de drinkende schrijver' schiet dit boek tekort. ( )
1 vote razorsoccam | Sep 7, 2017 |
A REALLY good look at alcholism. interesting, informative ( )
  mahallett | Aug 4, 2017 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
The form Laing has invented mixes literary criticism and poetic reverie, travel reportage and confessional autobiography, and the fit is sometimes awkward. Casual conversations with fellow travellers pass the time but often have dubious relevance; her itinerary can seem – as she says of Scott Fitzgerald's jerky essay about his alcoholic crack-up – "circuitous and rambling". The subtitle promises a general answer to a question that the book avoids directly asking. Doesn't the creative imagination always require external help – from a deity or a muse as classical poets believed, or from the animating breeze exhaled by nature, on which romantic poets relied? Coleridge needed opium, and Aldous Huxley recommended a hallucinogenic cactus. Is writing itself addictive, a disease not a cure?

Despite its haphazard structure, The Trip to Echo Spring is original, brave and very moving. Laing's way of looking at a natural world that is free from human faults repeatedly prompts something like the "spiritual awakening" AA attendees hope for. Her insights shine with beauty yet are shaded by sympathy and compassion, as when she notices in passing a herd of deer with "faces soft and unguarded as sleepwalkers". Her recommended therapy, for drunks and for everyone else who suffers, is "the capacity of literature to somehow salve a sense of soreness, to make one feel less flinchingly alone". The self-destructive subjects in her clinic testify to that; so does her own writing.
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When alcoholics do drink, most eventually become intoxicated, and it is this recurrent intoxication that eventually brings their lives down in ruins. Friends are lost, health deteriorates, marriages are broken, children are abused, and jobs terminated. Yet despite these consequences the alcoholic continues to drink. Many undergo a ‘change in personality’. Previously upstanding individuals may find themselves lying, cheating, stealing, and engaging in all manner of deceit to protect or cover up their drinking. Shame and remorse the morning after may be intense; many alcoholics progressively isolate themselves to drink undisturbed. An alcoholic may hole up in a motel for days or a week, drinking continuously. Most alcoholics become more irritable; they have a heightened sensitivity to anything vaguelycritical. Many alcoholics appear quite grandiose, yet on closer inspection one sees that their self-esteem has slipped away from them.

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For my mother, Denise Laing, with all my love
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HERE’S A THING. IOWA CITY, 1973.
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At some point, you have to set down the past. At some point, you have to accept that everyone was doing their best. At some point, you have to gather yourself up, and go onward into your life.
People don't like to talk about alcohol. They don't like to think about it, except in the most superficial of ways. They don't like to examine the damage it does and I don't blame them. I don't like it either. I know that desire for denial with every bone in my body: clavicle, sternum, femur and phalanx.
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"In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. All six of these men 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 cafes of Paris in the 1920s; 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's New Orleans, and 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. - For readers of Amanda Vaill's When Everyone Was So Young, Elif Batuman's The Possessed, and Kingsley Amis's Everyday Drinking"--

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