Now posting on Vulpes Libris: the drinking in Hemingway

Hemingway 3Over on Vulpes Libris we’re having a Drinking Week. My contribution is a little something on how Ernest Hemingway wrote about alcohol.

The most powerful descriptions of drinking in the alcoholic sense that I can remember are in Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, which turned my sensibilities so much I couldn’t finish the novel. I know it’s good, I just don’t want to read any more of it. I expect I’d have the same experience reading Jack Kerouac or William Burroughs, though, as with Warner, the characters would be taking pills as well as opening bottles. But when did ‘drinking’ become a synonym for ‘drinking alcohol’? Is there a different word for the ingestion of liquid that alters your perceptions and reactions, rather than simply drinking to ease thirst, or assuage hunger (as with milk, or a good Hoegaarden witte)?

Back to Hemingway: the drinking in The Sun Also Rises is prodigious, but reaches a ludicrous extent in Islands in the Stream. As if his men (and they mostly are men, in the latter novel) live to drink, and drinking is how they see the world. The moments when they are not drinking, are when they’re working, or fishing. There is nothing else.



One thought on “Now posting on Vulpes Libris: the drinking in Hemingway

  1. The thing is, some people genuinely do live like that. Often they appear to function normally for part of the time as well. The art lies in making what is potentially a very tedious activity (for the observer) into something interesting. The human body is an amazing thing. Also the human mind: “the drink” used to be the sea but I doubt if anyone young would realise that. And what happened to “s/he took to the bottle”?


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