In "The Trip to Echo Spring," Olivia Laing focuses on six giants in literature who were also drunks. They range from Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here you can find out more about it on Amazon.com.
Obviously, Laing has struck a nerve. The book is in the 400 ranking on Amazon and was reviewed yesterday on the first page of THE NEW YORK TIMES "Book Review" by Lawrence Osborne. Here you can read that.
Why so much interest? Well, the book looks at the seeming correlation of creativity and alcoholism. And that can be looked at from all sorts of angles. For example, in order to sustain excessive drinking, you gotta be plenty creative. That's exactly why speaker meetings in 12-step programs are so entertainity.
But, what might be more compelling is that Laing captures a time when writers could get away with boozing. Sure, there were periods in Fitzgerald's career when he couldn't get work or do work because of his drinking. But then he bounced back. That's not so easy now with a glut of writers, what is in demand changing so fast and greater understanding by employers and clients how difficult it is to put up with a drunk. The late Dominick Dunne who put together a second career as a legal writer after he sobered up is the exception, not the rule.
No longer will talent per se or even a track record for producing outstanding work hold the boozing writer afloat. And with the market continuing to mutate, comebacks are harder to come by. For that reason, sponsors in 12-step programs warn newbies who are writers that they better "get the program."
Incidentally, the same holds for other professionals such as Wall Street types who live by their wits (that is, leverage creativity). Once they crash through boozing, it's unlikely they can make it back. And that's for a ton of reasons. In "Wolf of Wall Street," Jordan is barred from working in the securities industry.
Not being a boozer, of course, doesn't guarantee success in writing. Nor in any other line of work. Making it big has become a lot more complex than in the era of the Great Boozers.