The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink
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 cafes 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.
From the acclaimed author of To The River - one of the best reviewed books of 2011 - comes a fascinating and highly original investigation into the myth of the alcoholic writer
* Praise for To the River:'A magical book ... her dreamy prose evokes a modern Alice, an hallucinatory tale told with one hand trailing in cool green water, while she wishes out folklore and science, history and biography ... By turns lyrical, melancholic and exultant, To the River just makes you want to follow Olivia Laing all the way to the sea. -- Philip Hoare Sunday Telegraph * A gentle, wise and riddling book. Its prose, like the river it describes, flows intricately, unpredictably and often beautifully, carrying the fascinated reader onwards -- Robert Macfarlane * A brave, distinctive, and deeply intelligent addition to that protean genre mixing nature, history and travel writing which is becoming one of the richest forms of contemporary British literature. ... There are passages of masterfully timed lyricism. -- Alexandra Harris Literary Review * Olivia Laing is a new and thoughtful voice in the tradition of W.G. Sebald. I confidently expect it to be listed in this year's favourite books -- Joan Bakewell Daily Telegraph * Without wanting to sound gushing, her writing at its sublime best reminds me of Richard Mabey's nature prose and the poetry of Alice Oswald. Like these two, and John Clare before them, Laing seems to lack a layer of skin, rendering her susceptible to the smallest vibrations of the natural world as well as to the frailties of the human psyche -- Jane Wheatley The Times * Laing is a brilliant wordsmith and this is a beautifully accomplished book. -- Frances Spalding Independent
Olivia Laing's first book, To the River, was described as 'sublime' by the Times, 'magical' by the Telegraph and 'deeply intelligent' by the Literary Review. It was a book of the year in the Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Olivia is the former Deputy Books Editor of the Observer and writes for a variety of publications, including the Observer, New Statesman, Guardian and Times Literary Supplement. She's a 2011 MacDowell Fellow, and has received awards from the Arts Council and the Authors' Foundation.