Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Drink Takes the Man

Current Reading: Set the Seas On Fire, by Chris Roberson

Inspirational Quote: "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -- Ernest Hemingway

"First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man."

I've never understood why writers have such an affiinity for addiction. You'd think that because we spend so much time in a solitary pursuit that we'd be less prone to social vices. And you'd be wrong. It sometimes seems that we have as high a percentage of alcoholics and coke-addicts as do musicians or actors, who publicly fall apart with staggering frequency.

In the latest big news, Robert Munsch (famous Canadian children's writer... Cassandra loves his books) has publicly acknowledged his battles with alcohol and cocaine. I never considered this a possibility. Like most, I guess I figured that being a children's author partook of some of childhood's innocence. That the author of "Aaron's Hair" and "More Pies" spent so much of his time stoned came as an unwelcome revelation.

I shouldn't be surprised, though. I have no doubt that being a children's author requires the same sort of mind and carries with it the same sort of pressures that come with all writing. Or artistry of any kind, I guess. I'm sure there are painters out there chasing heroin, sculptors picking up chisels when they can barely pick up themselves, and fashion designers trying through bloodshot eyes to get fabrics to drape just right.

Writers have a long history of battling addiction, and it seems that the more well-known an author is, the more likely it is that they are susceptible. Stephen King's On Writing documents his battles with cocaine and booze. Ernie Hemingway is famous for hard drinking. Dorothy Parker likewise. One writer I admire, Barry B. Longyear, wrote a fictionalized memoire of his time in rehab called Saint Mary Blue. It's an eye opener.

I don't believe I have an addiction (unless chocolate counts). I don't drink or smoke anything. I have a horror of needles and I haven't put anything up my nose since I was two (it took mom ten minutes to dig the peas out, so it's not something I'm anxious to try again). However, I come from a long line of alcoholics and the children of alcoholics are statistically more likely to become alcoholics themselves.

Of course, as Mr. Longyear mentions in his book, addiction is the only disease that tells you that you haven't got it.

No comments: