Writing about drinking by Victor Mallet, Anne Carson, John Lanchester, Wendy Cope, Christopher Hitchens, Tom Jaine, Jenny Diski, Marina Warner, Clancy Martin and John Lloyd. 


Victor Mallet, 8 December 1988

Worldwide, drinking is seen as macho; it is usually part of a ritual; and its main purpose is to make sad people happy. In that sense it is an international equaliser.

Poem: ‘Oh What A Night (Alkibiades)’

Anne Carson, 19 November 2020

A symposium was usually a gentleman’s drinking party. This is an unusual one. It has been going on for hours with no drinking. The participants agreed at the outset to forego wine in favour of entertaining one another with speeches in praise of love.


John Lanchester, 8 March 1990

The reason this level of consumption appeared normal to Hemingway is that it was a fairly accurate transcription of the amount of booze he was quotidianly ingesting: it’s no wonder that his responses had coarsened, or that his feeling for ordinary life-as-it-is-lived had gone wonky.

Poem: ‘My Lover’

Wendy Cope, 6 February 1986

For sixthly he invites himself round for a drink one evening./For seventhly you consume two bottles of wine between you./For eighthly he stays the night./For ninthly you cannot wait to see him again./For tenthly he does not get in touch for several days.

Booze and Fags

Christopher Hitchens, 12 March 1992

When the effects of drink are not extremely funny, they do have a tendency to be a bit grim. For every cheerful fallabout drunk there is a lugubrious toper or melancholy soak, draining the flask for no better reason than to become more repetitive or dogmatic.

More Fun

Tom Jaine, 7 July 1994

Hunger, suffering and tedium can be alleviated by simple and relatively available stimulants, which quicken the ebbing powers of the body and brain or, eventually, dull the pressing messages of hunger or pain.

Diary: Three Whole Weeks Alone

Jenny Diski, 28 May 1992

I will have three whole weeks alone in my flat. It hasn’t happened since L-i-L moved in. I have a scratchy feeling of excitement in my head as I anticipate the next 21 days. Is this true? There must be sadness at the break-up; am I telling myself lies? No. The sadness is there, all right, but in a different compartment from the excitement. I put both on hold until the clearing out is done.

Ventriloquism: Dear Old Khayyám

Marina Warner, 9 April 2009

Edward FitzGerald transfused his own life, even as he deemed it a paltry thing, into the persona of Omar Khayyám, who would lift it from that paltriness and transfigure him. He was able to formulate through his Persian avatar an outlook, a world vision, a testament. Only someone who never drank would give drink such a positive role, with never a moment of self-disgust.

Diary: My Life as a Drunk

Clancy Martin, 9 July 2009

When she asked me about it, saying that our account showed it had been mailed and returned, naturally I lied. Three years of secret drinking continued and finally ended – I hope – with that sheet tied around a pipe in our closet.


John Lloyd, 25 February 1993

No question: the cold simplicity of vodka is an invitation to toss the 100 grams down the back of the throat and then to wait, with eyes watering, for the lovely atomic spread in the gut as the liquor explodes within. Vodka is a great drink.

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