Response to Blake Morrison’s review of The Trip to Echo Springs: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing –
Q: Why do writers drink?
A: ‘Happiness writes white’ (de Montherlant)
This sentiment can be read as both the cause and effect of both the writing and the drinking. Who else, other than the troubled and the ‘narcissistic’ would choose to write? And who else, other than the self-same might crave the oblivion of drink?
Narcissistic is Blake Morrison’s word. Unsurprisingly, his whole article seems rather cruelly simplistic about why people become addicted to alcohol – seemingly in a rather desperate bid to de-romantise the apparent glamour of the iconic alcoholic writer:
‘Fiction may look like the right form for alcoholics, as their dependency teaches them to be good at lying’ – does Morrison wish to suggest that all people affected by alcohol addiction have such limited insight into their illness? Such an assumption is not just offensive, it is frankly absurd. Obviously there are those seeking help, then there are those who are not – however, there are also a much greater number of people for whom there is no necessity to lie – because they no longer care, and neither does anyone else.
This is the reality of (de-romantised) alcoholism – not the selfishness of The Drinker.
A better text for questioning the ‘reasons’ for alcoholism is Shoot the Damn Dog. Sally Brampton’s memoir of depression, writes of the bitter, crippling reality of drinking to obliterate, without any romance but lots of compassion – vigorously de-romantising the addiction is one thing, but the people caught within this trap must be handled with greater care.