Literature and alcoholism stumble hand-in-hand through life as strange domestic partners that somehow make sweet love on paper despite their constant struggle with each other and their hapless ways of survival. The downfall of the writer is his battle with inner demons – the great booze hound who howls from his gut in dire need of another bourbon.
In many ways, the writer/drink relationship is a stereotype as not every writer is a babbling drunkard. On the other hand: such is the precise case of many men and women of the pen as one can quickly and harshly become a literary lush. Now then, what is the exact correlation between the writer and the bottle? Why has it become so common to place a person of words into a category of slurry and slander?
Perhaps it is life as a whole and the perpetual boredom that comes along with being alive and sober. The world makes for a much more interesting place through drunken eyes. Suddenly, the monotony feels more marvelous and everything is “possible” while under the influence. With this mindset, chaos is close and will soon take over.
And let’s be honest: how many of your best stories involve you and your buddies sitting around sober? Chances are that your most epic tales involve nights of debauchery and utter disregard for the human condition. Those nights you will never get back but long to recreate; so you go out and get your drink on once again, hoping to find that magical mayhem … and maybe many great writers have found themselves lost somewhere with that notion.
The following is a list of 10 great writers who were also great drunks:
10. Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams: the playwright from Mississippi who created such stage classics as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie was said to have died from choking on a bottle cap – a story which was later proven untrue.
Williams, a heavy drinker and drug user was later reported to have died of an overdose – although those reports have been debated as well. The drink while a longtime friend of Williams would prove costly to his career.
When Williams adapted a new style – influenced by his excesses – it was met with much negativity from the public and critics alike.
9. Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde has become one of the most quoted writers around thanks to his legendary epigrams; effectively making Wilde the King of the One-Liner. Aside from this immense wit, Wilde also adapted an immense taste for liquid lunacy.
When Oscar Wilde died, the cause of death was said to have come due to meningitis. How Wilde actual obtained the illness remains unclear but one must wonder about the charmed writer, his final thoughts and what kind of unintentional madness consumed his mind.
8. Dylan Thomas
According to folk legend: Bob Dylan – the greatest American songwriter who ever lived – took his first name from the great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Perhaps a premonition of the great poetry Bob Dylan would one day play.
The most famous work of Dylan Thomas is a poem titled “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Thomas would apparently adhered to his own advice – having never reached the age of 40 and drinking hard until his short life would end abruptly.
Dylan Thomas certainly knew how to “rage.”
7. Jack London
The works of Jack London have inspired generations of adventure-hungry youths to seek out nature and explore the wanderlust in their hearts – a true literary motivator who himself lived aimlessly and drank aggressively.
London died in a cottage on his ranch from what is believed to be a combination of illnesses. However, much speculation about London’s death suggests that the writer might have committed suicide due to his nagging aliments.
Jack London lived and loved like a wild man.
6. F. Scott Fitzgerald
While F. Scott Fitzgerald has authored a number of great stories, he is best known for his literary classic, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald was a member of the “Lost Generation” and a notorious drunk – a circumstance which lead to his poor health.
F. Scott Fitzgerald often wrote about youth and all the glory and promise that lies ahead of a young man or woman while also writing about age and the terrible inevitably that comes along with growing old … a man of contrast.
The heart of this great writer would one day give way as F. Scott Fitzgerald would die of a sudden heart attack.
5. William Faulkner
William Faulkner is one of the most celebrated American authors of any generation. The Nobel Prize winner is often cited as one of the most unique voices in American Literature – influencing a plethora of future authors.
The great Southern Gentleman – while wonderful with the word – was as well wicked with the drink. Faulkner would enjoy his days as a drunkard and a writer all the same – on many occasions, the drink could prove more friendly than the typewriter. Faulkner would die of a heart attack in 1962.
4. Charles Bukowski
Charles Bukowski is definitely an acquired taste – a foul taste that only the highest of literary fiends can truly enjoy. Bukowski became known as the “laureate of American lowlife” and with just reason – for Bukowski was the founding father of filth.
Bukowski was an unapologetic, uncompromisable, uncontrollable drunk who never held back when discussing his vices. However, it was not the drink that ultimately killed Bukowski. Instead, the controversial writer would pass away as a result of leukemia.
Charles Bukowski thoroughly enjoyed his lowlife status.
3. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was and remains one of the most influential writers in modern literature. The author of such great works as The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea; Hemingway typed out his legacy with brute force.
Aside from writing, Hemingway drank, a lot! And while admired by fans far and wide, the deeper demons of this great writer would eventually get the better of him as Hemingway would make the decision to end his own life.
Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961 – had he not died, Hemingway surely would have had an interesting take on the counter culture of the ’60s.
2. Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson: the father of Gonzo Journalism and the most decadent and depraved writer to ever type out his deranged thought patterns. Thompson was not an observer but a participant – one who joined the circus as opposed to reaming in his seat.
The alcohol and drug-fueled life of Hunter S. Thompson is well documented. The eccentric writer was an advocate of drug use and legalization as well as a great fan of Wild Turkey Bourbon – a man who gathered up all that was considered “normal” and blew it to smithereens.
Hunter S. Thompson had mentioned suicide as a comforting option in his life and one night in 2005, would take that final strange ride and shoot himself in the head.
1. Jack Kerouac
On the Road, which can also be known as the Beat Bible, was authored by the fast-talking, fast-living writer, Jack Kerouac … King of the Beats.
Jack Kerouac may have been a professional writer but in the same vein was also a professional drunk. The drink was very present in Kerouac’s work – often a focal point.
Jack Kerouac died at the tender age of 47 – a victim of his own circumstance – as a man who drank himself to death.