Thursday, December 01, 2016

"The Trip to Echo Spring"

This book's additional title is "On Writers and Drinking".  It is written by Olivia Laing, a British journalist who has worked for "The Observer" and writes for "The Guardian", "Granta", and other publications.  It was published in 2013, so this comment is late to the party.

While many writers are mentioned in this book, it focuses primarily on six --- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver.  There is interesting commentary about the lives of these writers, their relationships, their travels and domiciles, the arc of their careers, and the situations that led to their finest writing.

The common theme connecting this tale is the alcoholism of each of them.  They all were fueled by and tortured by the condition.  Only two ever reached any lasting recovery, and that was late in the lives of Cheever and Carver.  Hemingway and Berryman were suicides, Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at an early age, and Williams of alcohol and pills after surviving in a diminished state until his early seventies.  In general, their lives were difficult despite their success.  That is an understatement.

The author, Laing, intersperces stories of her own life and the travels that she took across America while doing research for the book.  At times, her story became intertwined with the theme of the book in an unusual way, occasionally almost confusing and at other times extremely well done and entertaining.

For those with an interest, this is an informative and insightful work.


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