booze and lit

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Shabari Kumar

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Jul 16, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/16/95
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it's a cliche that many writers were/are drunks, or at least enjoyed a
good tipple, but is there are any good literature about alcohol/drinking?

of course, there is the whole sufi wine as god's love stuff, and
bukowski, as well as my favorite line by claude mckay--gin is more
forgetting than all the waters of lethe. what else?

Robert Teeter

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Jul 17, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/17/95
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Shabari Kumar (sm...@columbia.edu) wrote:


: it's a cliche that many writers were/are drunks, or at least enjoyed a

"Blessings of your house, you brew good ale." --Shakespeare
"Addict [yourself] to sack [sherry]." --Shakespeare

"Oh, many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think." --A.E. Housman

There is an anthology along these lines called, I think,
_The Faber Book of Drinking_.


--
Robert Teeter
rte...@netcom.com


Katherine Catmull

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Jul 18, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/18/95
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>Shabari Kumar (sm...@columbia.edu) wrote:
>
>: of course, there is the whole sufi wine as god's love stuff, and
>: bukowski, as well as my favorite line by claude mckay--gin is more
>: forgetting than all the waters of lethe. what else?

"Write drunk; edit sober."

Kate

---
"Be the voice of night and Florida in my ear."

Meg Worley

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Jul 19, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/19/95
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Kate writes:

>"Write drunk; edit sober."

Which begs the question of the rabble, which are you? Those of
us who stab at the S)end key without rereading a word of our
blurtings, then, can be found occasionally passed out in rab's
alleys; the others (Mike Morris, I name you) who vet their
work before committing -- they walk the sober side of the
street.

Before Kate asks, I'll confess that I have posted drunk a
few times, but those were never my most regrettable posts.

Rage away,

meg


--
mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu comparatively literate

Michael Wise

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Jul 19, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/19/95
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Meg Worley <mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu> wrote:
>Kate writes:
>
>>"Write drunk; edit sober."
>
>Which begs the question of the rabble, which are you? Those of
>us who stab at the S)end key without rereading a word of our
>blurtings, then, can be found occasionally passed out in rab's
>alleys; the others (Mike Morris, I name you) who vet their
>work before committing -- they walk the sober side of the
>street.

I would tend to the drunk side--mostly because I rarely, if ever, edit.
However, I find wisdom in Kate's quotation, that one should tap the mine
of inspiration, then temper that steel with an editor's red pen (am I
good at mixing metaphors or what?). Writing is best done in a small bar
on a tiny backstreet somewhere completely out of this world (Beijing,
Granada, Hannover, Johannesburg: Meg, I'm sure, knows whereof I speak).
Samuel Delaney includes authorial asides from unusual locales in
the Einstein Intersection; each one gives a vivid sense of place.
Hemingway said he came to Paris to write about Michigan, that he would
have to go somewhere else to write about Paris. The hard work of editing,
though, is done far from the inspiration of place and drink. It is done
where the light is good, the dictionary's handy, on the desk. What one
thinks sounds really great does not pass the censor at the desk; if it
does, then it really must be great.


>
>Before Kate asks, I'll confess that I have posted drunk a
>few times, but those were never my most regrettable posts.
>

I will admit to the same thing, though my most regrettable posts were
written in the full light of sobriety. Drink softens my harder corners,
and I tend to be less dogmatic and more understanding and sympathetic
when I'm three sheets to the wind. But that's just me.

--
"I dont hate it," Quentin said quickly, at once, immediately; "I dont
hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air,
the iron New England dark: I dont. I dont. I dont hate it! I dont hate it!
Michael Wise <wwhi...@nevada.edu> Living Hemingwayesque

Rachel Powers

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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This thread has proven a point that I have maintained for quite some time
(and as the child of Hemmingway-addled foreign correspondants, I speak
with some authority): More than anyone else, writers have the gift of
romanticizing their profession (and its props) to perverse heights, with
the possible exception of gamblers. There seems to be an amusing tendency
to emphasize the bottle of gin, cottony mouth and shadows lengthening on
the study wall in the chinatown apartment, and a proneness to
deemphasizing the _work_.

My opinions make room for many mysteries, but "writing drunk means writing
better" is not one of them.

--
...........................................................................
rac...@netcom.com >> Rachel Elizabeth Powers >> Paxulb
...........................................................................


Meg Worley

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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Rachel writes:

>My opinions make room for many mysteries, but "writing drunk means writing
>better" is not one of them.

Okay, aside from taking issued with the polarity of that
inferred proclamation, I'd ask this: Which of the following
premises do you take issue with?

Drinking erodes inhibitions.
Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
Creativity is necessary for good writing.
_________________________________________
Drinking is helpful to the writer.


Mind you, I don't believe in that conclusion, as stated, but
I'm curious as to why your opinions can't make room for it.

Francis Muir

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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Meg Worley writes:

Rachel writes:

My opinions make room for many mysteries, but "writing
drunk means writing better" is not one of them.

Okay, aside from taking issued with the polarity of that
inferred proclamation, I'd ask this: Which of the following
premises do you take issue with?

Drinking erodes inhibitions.
Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
Creativity is necessary for good writing.
_________________________________________
Drinking is helpful to the writer.

Mind you, I don't believe in that conclusion, as stated, but
I'm curious as to why your opinions can't make room for it.

As an expert in the fields of drinking, not drinking, writing well, and
not writing well, let me present the cornerstone of the Fido belief system,
which is, in effect, that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever
between alcohol intake and the quality of literary output. Meg's statements
are clearly not absolutes and personally I doubt whether any of the three
are very important. Frankly, her line of argument is so sophomoric as to
lead me to suspect a troll. Do real people really talk about "creativity"
outside those creative writing courses? Inhibitions? What are they? Some
great writers have been total screw-ups, others not; there's no connection.

Fido

David J. Loftus

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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Donald Newlove, the Canadian novelist, wrote a rather hair-raising
drinking autobiography that also has essays on some of the other famous
drinking writers -- Malcolm Lowry, Faulkner, etc. The book is called
_Those Drinking Days_.

Tom Dardis also wrote a book of portraits of drinking writers called _The
Thirsty Muse_.

Both men basically conclude: Don't drink and write.


David Loftus

Meg Worley

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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David J. Loftus <dl...@netcom.com> wrote:
>Donald Newlove, the Canadian novelist, wrote a rather hair-raising
>drinking autobiography that also has essays on some of the other famous
>drinking writers -- Malcolm Lowry, Faulkner, etc. The book is called
>_Those Drinking Days_.
>
>Tom Dardis also wrote a book of portraits of drinking writers called _The
>Thirsty Muse_.

John Crowley (a different one) also wrote something along
the same lines, entitled *White Logic* or something like
that. There are a couple of other titles of studies of
writing and boozing that are floating around in my mind,
but I can't recall them at the moment.

John Camp

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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Francis Muir argues:
>
>Meg Worley writes:


One of the more interesting drinking-writing books of the past few years
is William Styron's "Darkness Visible," which concerns Styron's descent
into a suicidal depression, and the mis-treatment of his malady by certain
medical members. Styron suggests that his problem started when he was
forced to STOP drinking -- that he had been more or less drunk for
several decades when he suddenly developed an intolerance -- essentially,
an allergy -- for alcohol, and could no longer drink. Sober, he really
couldn't face either life or work, and so went off the edge. Styron
liked drinking, enjoyed being drunk; for him, it was a kind of
medication that kept him going for much longer that he might of, had
he been sober...

JC


Rachel Powers

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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In article <3um863$5...@cssun.mathcs.emory.edu>,
Meg Worley <mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu> wrote:

>Rachel writes:
>
>>My opinions make room for many mysteries, but "writing drunk means writing
>>better" is not one of them.
>
>Okay, aside from taking issued with the polarity of that
>inferred proclamation, I'd ask this: Which of the following
>premises do you take issue with?
>
>Drinking erodes inhibitions.
>Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
>Creativity is necessary for good writing.
>_________________________________________
>Drinking is helpful to the writer.
>
>
>Mind you, I don't believe in that conclusion, as stated, but
>I'm curious as to why your opinions can't make room for it.
>
>
>Rage away,
>
>meg
>
>--
>mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu comparatively literate


I'll see if I can make this a little less simplistic, though perhaps I am
to be blamed for starting it off on that foot:

The types of inhibitions that are lifted when drinking are not exactly the
same that we would choose to banish when we write. Woody Allen claims in
Annie Hall (pretentious reference #1) that he hasn't smoked pot since his
last experience left him trying to take his pants off over his head.

Hell, I don't know if "inhibitions" or "creativity" play _that_ much of a
role in writing. I do know (since I'm Tolstoy's ghost-writer--just
kidding, folks!) that intellect and incisive thought are of the utmost
importance. Sloppy, short-cut thinking is a writer's worst enemy.

Alcohol may unleash a lot of emotion at times, but who cares? We've all
read (maybe even written...) adolescent poetry: high on feeling, low on
exacting thought.

I am not necessarily a big fan of heavy, ponderous "intellectual" works.
Well, yes I am. I can sum my feelings up in one way, however: a work is
going to have to have a lot more that emotion and uninhibitedness if it's
going to sound like something other than a visit to one's shrink.

Meg Worley

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Jul 20, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/20/95
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Rachel writes:

>The types of inhibitions that are lifted when drinking are not exactly the
>same that we would choose to banish when we write. Woody Allen claims in
>Annie Hall (pretentious reference #1) that he hasn't smoked pot since his
>last experience left him trying to take his pants off over his head.
>
>Hell, I don't know if "inhibitions" or "creativity" play _that_ much of a
>role in writing. I do know (since I'm Tolstoy's ghost-writer--just
>kidding, folks!) that intellect and incisive thought are of the utmost
>importance. Sloppy, short-cut thinking is a writer's worst enemy.
>
>Alcohol may unleash a lot of emotion at times, but who cares? We've all
>read (maybe even written...) adolescent poetry: high on feeling, low on
>exacting thought.
>
>I am not necessarily a big fan of heavy, ponderous "intellectual" works.
>Well, yes I am. I can sum my feelings up in one way, however: a work is
>going to have to have a lot more that emotion and uninhibitedness if it's
>going to sound like something other than a visit to one's shrink.

I can't disagree with Rachel on any of this, save the universality
of some of the claims. Some writers, by drinking, do unleash
inhibitions that are necessary to their art. Others -- perhaps
a vast majority -- do not. I am put in mind of poor old John
Prine, who in concert had to strike a careful balance of
booze to blood: Too much to drink and he couldn't stand up
or coordinate his movements, but too little and he froze up
with fear and ran offstage. (I haven't seen him in a few years,
so I don't know how he is these days.)

Dave Wells

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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From: mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu (Meg Worley)
ry.edu (Meg Worley)

>I am put in mind of poor old [...], who in concert had to strike


>a careful balance of booze to blood: Too much to drink and he
>couldn't stand up or coordinate his movements, but too little and he
>froze up with fear and ran offstage.

This is one of the potentially catastophic effects of habitual heavy
indulgence in alcohol by those who have to perform in public.
Reduction in blood alcohol level can cause desperate anxiety (also a
withdrawal effect with other drugs). This can precipitate a serious
dependency spiral for performers. For example: the well-known British
comedian and impressionist Mike Yarwood suffered a disasterous
collapse after heavy drinking led to "stage fright" which encouraged
him to drink before performances which...

Writers typically have to show themselves in public relatively rarely.

To balance this uncharacteristically gloomy and potentially puritan
commentary, let me share a story from a fascinating book of Richard
Burton anecdotes I leafed through (but stupidly failed to buy) a
couple of years ago. Burton made a bet with one of his fellow
performers that he could perform King Lear (I think) at least as well
after half a bottle of vodka. Dame Peggy Ashcroft was (unwittingly)
used to judge the result. Burton (inevitably) downed the whole bottle.
Dame Ashcroft judged his performance "If anything slightly better than
usual, Darling". Regardless of the effects on his health and craft, I
find it difficult to believe that Burton wasn't having such a good
time that it mattered little.

Dave


Fiona Webster

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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Rachel writes:
>Hell, I don't know if "inhibitions" or "creativity" play _that_ much of a
>role in writing.

Inhibitions, especially when they come in the form of neurotic defenses
against self-expression, can indeed get in the way of writing. The question
is, what technique, for any one writer, helps them get rid around those
defenses?

In my own writing, I rely on a circumscribed form of madness. When I'm sane,
I'm neurotic -- and thus restricted in my self-expression. When I'm mad, I
can write -- wildly, effusively, not always to good effect. The mad woman
does the writing. The sane woman does the editing.

--Fiona Webster

Jeff Inman

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu (Meg Worley) writes:
>Rachel writes:
>
>>My opinions make room for many mysteries, but "writing drunk means writing
>>better" is not one of them.

>Drinking erodes inhibitions.
>Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
>Creativity is necessary for good writing.
>_________________________________________
>Drinking is helpful to the writer.

>Mind you, I don't believe in that conclusion, as stated, but
>I'm curious as to why your opinions can't make room for it.


Do you believe it in some unstated way? Nevermind. At the risk of
seeming a prude, I've got a few counter-formulas, for you:

one angle:
- Removing inhibitions with alcohol does more than remove inhibitions
- Some of those other things are detrimental to creativity.

another angle:
- creativity isn't *sufficient* for good writing


I guess those are obvious enough. Not to say that there might not be
some kernel of truth in your formula. Seems pretty obviously
dangerous to me, though.

I can remember a beautiful young woman that I knew casually when I was
a perpetually-stoned adolescent, who said that she preferred to "get
high on life", and how I suddenly knew that she was from a different
universe. Now, I guess things are the other way around. The people I
meet are mostly more interested in making life be comfortable and
entertaining whereas I'm struggling to experience it as fully as I
can. I even quit coffee, three years now, to find out which part of
my experience was the real part, and which part required continual
maintenance from a coffee-urn. (Good news: some of the good part was
real.) But I guess the main thing was my father, who struggled with
trying to be a drinker and a writer at the same time, while I was
growing up. He finally quit drinking and now seems to me to be a
model of focus and discipline. Classic sequence maybe. Well, there's
the other other sequence, too. I've talked with him about it a few
times. Once he mentioned the lure of the drinking writer image, for
him, with Faulkner, etc. But, it turns out that getting drunk doesn't
transform you into Faulkner, with one historical exception.

--
"Milk those poignant thoughts, my sad little clown."

Jeff Inman
j...@santafe.edu

Francis Muir

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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Fiona Webster writes:

Inhibitions, especially when they come in the form of neurotic
defenses against self-expression, can indeed get in the way of
writing.

Only if you believe that self-expression is essential to writing.

Fido

Michael Richard

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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Rachel Powers (rac...@netcom.com) wrote:

: The types of inhibitions that are lifted when drinking are not exactly the


: same that we would choose to banish when we write.

Then how about this absinthe stuff? Ain't there some worm that
doth prick the muse in there? It's buffed up legends all its own.

the Robot Vegetable

Ted Samsel

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Jul 21, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/21/95
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Meg Worley (mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu) wrote:
: Rachel writes:

: >Alcohol may unleash a lot of emotion at times, but who cares? We've all

: >read (maybe even written...) adolescent poetry: high on feeling, low on
: >exacting thought.

But adolescents tend to write such poetry. Elderly maundering rage is
a whole other critter, especially when larded with some "experience".

: >
: >I am not necessarily a big fan of heavy, ponderous "intellectual" works.

: >Well, yes I am. I can sum my feelings up in one way, however: a work is
: >going to have to have a lot more that emotion and uninhibitedness if it's
: >going to sound like something other than a visit to one's shrink.

I didn't think that therapy was supposed to be "fun". (;-)

: I can't disagree with Rachel on any of this, save the universality


: of some of the claims. Some writers, by drinking, do unleash
: inhibitions that are necessary to their art. Others -- perhaps

: a vast majority -- do not. I am put in mind of poor old John
: Prine, who in concert had to strike a careful balance of

: booze to blood: Too much to drink and he couldn't stand up
: or coordinate his movements, but too little and he froze up

: with fear and ran offstage. (I haven't seen him in a few years,


: so I don't know how he is these days.)

I haven't been mistaken for Prine lately, but he hasn't been in
town. The Mighty Sparrow & Yanni were here last week. No one mistook
me for either of them.


: --
: mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu comparatively literate

--
Ted Samsel....tejas@infi.net
"driving a Hudson Hornet on the disinformation triple bypass:
cruising for burgers & garage sales. Hooks baited, lines en-
tangled, roadkill cooked"


S Hampson

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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Since no one else mentioned it, the booze and lit of American writers
has often been questioned--always left an open question--but it isn't
really about relieving inhibitions while writing but the long extended
and hopeless binges to sustain the craft. As if anyone--or Hemingway,
Faulkner,etc rather--could write drunk or drinking, it was the after
and in between, the dealing with that peculiar misery that writing is.


Jim Hartley

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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Meg Worley <mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu> wrote:
>Kate writes:
>>"Write drunk; edit sober."
>
>Before Kate asks, I'll confess that I have posted drunk a
>few times, but those were never my most regrettable posts.

You know, this whole question is quite amenable to empirical analysis,
and thus I propose this little test.

If a panel of impartial judges were presented with say 10 or so posts
penned by Meg while in assorted levels of inebriation, could the
judges tell which ones were written while she was sober?

But, perhaps Meg wouldn't be a fair subject for the test; it does
presume a subject who has some inhibitions while sober...

--
Jim Hartley
jhar...@mtholyoke.edu

M.A. Powe

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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Meg Worley (mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu) wrote:

: Okay, aside from taking issued with the polarity of that


: inferred proclamation, I'd ask this: Which of the following
: premises do you take issue with?

: Drinking erodes inhibitions.


: Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
: Creativity is necessary for good writing.
: _________________________________________
: Drinking is helpful to the writer.

The first logical error is the assumption that the term "inhibitions" in
the first premisse is equivalent to the term "inhibitions" in the middle
premisse.

The second is that the middle premisse assumes something not proven. Or,
perhaps more precisely, the term "inhibitions" refers to a wide range of
behaviors which have no obvious relation to creativity. Was Jane Austen
sexually inhibited? As far as we know. Was she creative? Yes.

I'm reminded of a comment by Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelof regarding
inspiration. He told an interviewer that inspiration was not measured in
time -- it might take one second to find the right word, or twelve years,
but in both cases the successful search was "inspiration." When
considering the role of creativity in writing, we might take Ekelof's
point to heart. "Inhibitions" do not prevent a writer from writing, nor
do they prevent a writer from writing well. Talent and method are
probably the mix which is being ignored here. "Any man may write, if he
will but set himself doggedly to it," said Samuel Johnson. That's method.

It also strikes me that the "drunken writer" is pretty much of a 20th
Century phenomenon. Perhaps this is the outcome of the lamentable impact
of psychology on modern writing -- the objectification of "creativity" so
aptly demonstrated in this discussion.

At any rate, the physiologically destructive effects of extreme alcohol
consumption are now so well documented, we might ask rather how much
<better> Faulkner would have been if he had not been a heavy drinker.

--
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
do...@teleport.com Michael Powe
"What hath night to do with sleep?" --Milton
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John Camp

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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One effect alcohol may have on a writer (or a writer with pretentions
of quality) is simply to slow him down. Editing a piece of fiction,
after the basic writing is done, is not only tedious, but demands a
certain incisive quality of mind that, IMHO, would be difficult to
achieve when drunk or suffering the after affects of a drunk. I'm not
referring to anything massively creative, here, but simply the smoothing
of sentences, and remembering that this action took place on a Monday,
not a Tuesday, and that minor character's name is Joe so you don't want
to have any other Joes mentioned, or that this character rode to town
with that one, so he wouldn't later be getting his car out of the
parking garage...A writer who is drinking can do this (an editor can't,
by the way, if someone should think it's the duty of an editor to do it),
but it would take much longer than if he were sober and feeling well...

(An editor can't do it because style is still involved; if an editor does
it, he/she will ALWAYS pick the wrong words.)

A particularly interesting drinking/writing question involves Poe:
could he have written some of the things he did if he weren't feeling
fairly snaky? Then there's Sam Coleridge, who smoked a pipe and
(supposedly) conceived Kubla Khan, started to put it down when he awoke,
but when he was interrupted, and then went back to it, found that it
had disappeared; that sobriety couldn't assemble the words...


JC

M.A. Powe

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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On Sat, 22 Jul 1995, Meg Worley wrote:

> I was trolling when I laid out that sophomoric argument. As,
> for that matter, Rachel may have been when she cast out the
> bait I snapped at -- that her 'opinions could not make room
> for drunkenness in writers'.

<cough><cough> I think I've got something caught in my throat.

Considering the popularity of the "drunken writer" image, and the extent
to which it has become the focus of the image of some famous writers; I'm
struck in fact that your little syllogism actually reflects popular
mythology. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.

I've never read a bio of Faulkner. I wonder how often he really was
drunk in front of the typewriter.

My image of the writer is rather focussed on Trollope and George Eliot.
The one rising and writing for 2 hours before breakfast, every day for
over twenty years; the other, researching and travelling and making notes
about all the structural matters for months before commencing writing.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Michael Powe do...@teleport.com
"Want of tenderness is want of parts, and is no less a proof of
stupidity than depravity." --S. Johnson
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=


Alison Chaiken

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Jul 22, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/22/95
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I'm surprised that everyone is taking so seriously a putative
connection between creativity and drunkeness. It's my understanding
that the two phenomena simply often occur in the same people, namely
that very creative people have a higher prediliction towards
alcoholism. High creativity and left-handedness also often occur in
the same people, but in that case noone has suggested that the
phenomena are causally related. Therefore it's probably reasonable to
guess that alcoholism is a problem for writers as it is for other
creative people (i.e. musicians).

It's certainly my belief both from personal experience and anecdotal
evidence that creative people of all types (dancers, literati,
scientists, musicians) are more likely to be addictive personalities
than the average population. A friend of mine who unfortunately has
since died told me that you can tell if you are an addictive
personality by answering (among many possible questions) the following
question(s):

Do you read compulsively? Do you read cereal boxes? Would you never
go into the bathroom without something to read? Do you feel unhappy,
restless, even desperate if you are caught without something to read?

According to my late friend, compulsive reading is a neurotic behavior
found often among artists. I think that alcoholism is another such
behavior, but that it may not be causally related to anyone's ability
at writing.

--
Alison Chaiken ali...@wsrcc.com
(510) 422-7129 [daytime] <http://www.wsrcc.com/>
I can't be out of electrical current: I still have plenty of outlets!


Meg Worley

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Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
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Michael Powe writes:
>On Sat, 22 Jul 1995, Meg Worley wrote:
>
>> I was trolling when I laid out that sophomoric argument. As,
>> for that matter, Rachel may have been when she cast out the
>> bait I snapped at -- that her 'opinions could not make room
>> for drunkenness in writers'.

Um, that was e-mail.

16b...@waikato.ac.nz

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Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
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mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu (Meg Worley) writes:
>
> John Crowley (a different one) also wrote something along
> the same lines, entitled *White Logic* or something like
> that. There are a couple of other titles of studies of
> writing and boozing that are floating around in my mind,
> but I can't recall them at the moment.
>

That wouldn't be down to short term memory loss now
would it, Meg, dear?


- pleb retort


Francis Muir

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
Meg Worley writes:

Michael Powe writes:

On Sat, 22 Jul 1995, Meg Worley wrote:

I was trolling when I laid out that sophomoric
argument. As, for that matter, Rachel may have
been when she cast out the bait I snapped at --
that her 'opinions could not make room for
drunkenness in writers'.

Um, that was e-mail.

And it is clear that Michael Powe understood his source. This is probably as
good a time as any to remind one and all that private mail is the property of
the sender, not the receiver, and it is quite improper to repost it publicly.
Phew. That's better.

Fido


Robert Teeter

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
Alison Chaiken (ali...@wsrcc.com) wrote:
: I'm surprised that everyone is taking so seriously a putative

: connection between creativity and drunkeness. It's my understanding
: that the two phenomena simply often occur in the same people, namely
: that very creative people have a higher prediliction towards
: alcoholism. High creativity and left-handedness also often occur in
: the same people, but in that case noone has suggested that the
: phenomena are causally related. Therefore it's probably reasonable to
: guess that alcoholism is a problem for writers as it is for other
: creative people (i.e. musicians).

You're right, of course, that alcoholism and creativity may not
be related causally (i.e., the first causing the second), but they may
have a common root cause. Same with creativity and left-handedness; many
people *have* suggested that the two are related in that both seem to
be caused by a dominant right brain. That doesn't mean, however, that
all left-handed people are creative or that all creative people are
left-handed.


--
Robert Teeter
rte...@netcom.com


Victoria Smallman

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
Another good book on writers and drunkenness is Anthony Cronin's _Dead as
Doornails_, an autobiographical portrait of life in the artistic
community of Dublin in the 50s and 60s. It's mostly about Cronin and his
drinking buddies, Brendan Behan, Flann O'Brien, Patrick Kavanaugh and a
few others. Pretty interesting. Cronin's biography of Flann O'Brien,
_No Laughing Matter_, talks alot about the relationship between
O'Brien/O'Nolan's alcoholism and his creativity. It's pretty clear that
it was no help to him, in the end.

Vicky

--

____________
Victoria Smallman, Department of English, McMaster University
e-mail: g912...@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca

Brian Pickrell

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
John Camp (jc...@mr.net) wrote:
: fairly snaky? Then there's Sam Coleridge, who smoked a pipe and

: (supposedly) conceived Kubla Khan, started to put it down when he awoke,
: but when he was interrupted, and then went back to it, found that it
: had disappeared; that sobriety couldn't assemble the words...

I've always believed this episode was overplayed. I've woken up
many times with the belief that I'd just conceived something fab-
ulous, if only I could write down the words before I forgot them...

I think the subconscious is adept at producing the feeling that you've
conceived something fabulous, more so than at conceiving fabulous things.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brian Pickrell

--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brian Pickrell


Michael Wise

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
M.A. Powe <do...@teleport.com> wrote:
>
>It also strikes me that the "drunken writer" is pretty much of a 20th
>Century phenomenon. Perhaps this is the outcome of the lamentable impact
>of psychology on modern writing -- the objectification of "creativity" so
>aptly demonstrated in this discussion.

Actually, I believe that the link between drunkenness and poetic
inspiration goes back quite a lot further than that. The T'ang dynasty
poet Li Bai is as widely known for his drunkenness as for his poetry.
Drink figures heavily in the short life of Christopher Marlowe (who was
killed in a barfight), Richard Savage (bio'ed by Samuel Johnson, himself
not a teetotaller), and Percy Shelley. The French poets of the nineteenth
century spent much time wasted on absinthe; Oscar Wilde gushed over the
stuff. I don't think the point you're making can be supported on any
grounds, unless you meant something different.

>
>At any rate, the physiologically destructive effects of extreme alcohol
>consumption are now so well documented, we might ask rather how much
><better> Faulkner would have been if he had not been a heavy drinker.
>

One might just as realistically ask if Faulkner would have written
anything at all if he had not been a heavy drinker. After all, perhaps he
would have had a brilliant career as the postmaster of Oxford if he
hadn't lost so much mail. It is unfair to assume that if the great writer
had lived a life of virtue, his prose would have been much better. The
better part of writing is anguish, not necessarily at writing, but at the
rejection, the unfairness of the publishing world. One might as easily
say that Van Gogh would have been a better painter if he hadn't been mad.

--
"I dont hate it," Quentin said quickly, at once, immediately; "I dont
hate it," he said. I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air,
the iron New England dark: I dont. I dont. I dont hate it! I dont hate it!
Michael Wise <wwhi...@nevada.edu> Living Hemingwayesque

Michael Wise

unread,
Jul 23, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/23/95
to
I, like Francis, am well acquainted with drinking well, writing poorly,
drinking hardly, writing well. For some inexplicable reason, I do some
good writing in bars and cafes; the darker and sleazier the better,
though I will venture to an outside table if and only if it is dark
outside. While I work in the above-mentioned dive, I partake in whatever
happens to be pouring out the tap. If it's coffee, it's coffee; if it's
beer, it's beer. Like Francis, I've done some great writing when it was
beer, but I've also done some poor writing; same with coffee.

Perhaps I am romanticizing the locale, but I do not go to dives for any
other reason than to write. I enjoy the activity going on around, and the
noise, as long as I am not drawn in. It helps me to concentrate. I also
don't find myself on a clock or figeting around looking for something to
do in a bar, like I would at work or at home. People in the bar think I
am strange, because to them a bar is a place to meet people, or to have a
drink and relax... "and you're workin'?" they say. Well, I don't meet
people in bars. My friends gave up the bar scene, actually, we
collectively gave up the bar scene, with three of us having spent a night
in jail, but I believe we individually, furtively, secretly, still frequent
bars closer to home (i.e. within walking or driving-quietly-though-dark-
neighborhoods distance). So I go to a bar, sit in a dark corner, and ask
the waitress to bring me one and run a tab, light a cigarette, fire up
the notebook, and concentrate on what I am trying to say, and how I want
to say it.

I noticed that only one person seemed to catch what truly seems to be the
problem of the phenomenon of drunkenness and writers. Creativity is
linked to compulsive or addictive behavior, not in a positive, creative
sense, as the mythology of "inspiring drink" would have us believe, but
often in negative, unfortunate ways. However, the two tendencies do seem
to co-exist. It would be wrong to say that drinking makes one a better
writer, or that it keeps one from being a better writer. The causal link
is fallacious; one could postulate that being a good writer makes one a
better drunk. Correlation does not imply causation.

SubGenius

unread,
Jul 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/24/95
to
M.A. Powe (do...@teleport.com) wrote:

: Meg Worley (mwo...@mathcs.emory.edu) wrote:

: : Okay, aside from taking issued with the polarity of that
: : inferred proclamation, I'd ask this: Which of the following
: : premises do you take issue with?
: : Drinking erodes inhibitions.
: : Inhibitions are detrimental to creativity.
: : Creativity is necessary for good writing.
: : _________________________________________
: : Drinking is helpful to the writer.

: The first logical error is the assumption that the term "inhibitions" in
: the first premisse is equivalent to the term "inhibitions" in the middle
: premisse.
: The second is that the middle premisse assumes something not proven. Or,
: perhaps more precisely, the term "inhibitions" refers to a wide range of
: behaviors which have no obvious relation to creativity. Was Jane Austen
: sexually inhibited? As far as we know. Was she creative? Yes.

+---------------------------------SubG------------------------------------+
And the `logical error' in your critisism is assuming that all
disagreements in the usage of a word are `logical errors'. Also the
presumtion that accepting a contrafactual notion as axiomatic is a
`logical error'.

Do you also label spelling mistakes as `logical errors'?
+---------------------------------SubG------------------------------------+

: It also strikes me that the "drunken writer" is pretty much of a 20th

: Century phenomenon. Perhaps this is the outcome of the lamentable impact
: of psychology on modern writing -- the objectification of "creativity" so
: aptly demonstrated in this discussion.

+---------------------------------SubG------------------------------------+
Nuts.

Unpack that `pretty much' and perhaps I'll buy it, otherwise this sounds
like a pernicious load of codswallop deserving of punishment by getting
walloped upside the head with a copy of the works of Rabelais.
+---------------------------------SubG------------------------------------+

: At any rate, the physiologically destructive effects of extreme alcohol

: consumption are now so well documented, we might ask rather how much
: <better> Faulkner would have been if he had not been a heavy drinker.

+---------------------------------SubG------------------------------------+
Exercises in the contrafactual conditional, apparently offered as
probabilistically enhancing the negation of some statement, in the
same post as a couple logic flamelings. What fun. We might rather
ask how much better Faulkner would ahve been if he had been a Japanese
woman living in the Eighteenth Century. Or if he had been a big,
dumb fish several millenia ago. Whee!


Yours etc.,

SubGenius


Jeff Inman

unread,
Jul 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/24/95
to
rte...@netcom.com (Robert Teeter) writes:

: Alison Chaiken (ali...@wsrcc.com) wrote:
: > I'm surprised that everyone is taking so seriously a putative
: > connection between creativity and drunkeness. It's my understanding
: > that the two phenomena simply often occur in the same people, namely
: > that very creative people have a higher prediliction towards
: > alcoholism. High creativity and left-handedness also often occur in
: > the same people, but in that case noone has suggested that the
: > phenomena are causally related.

Perhaps that's because you can get alcohol, but you can't get
left-handed.

: You're right, of course, that alcoholism and creativity may not


: be related causally (i.e., the first causing the second), but they may
: have a common root cause. Same with creativity and left-handedness; many
: people *have* suggested that the two are related in that both seem to
: be caused by a dominant right brain. That doesn't mean, however, that
: all left-handed people are creative or that all creative people are
: left-handed.

Just the good ones.

Francis Muir

unread,
Jul 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/24/95
to
Michael Richard writes:

Rachel Powers writes

The types of inhibitions that are lifted when drinking are
not exactly the same that we would choose to banish when we
write.

Then how about this absinthe stuff? Ain't there some worm that
doth prick the muse in there? It's buffed up legends all its own.

As I understood it, the legend was that absinthe made the heart grow fonder.
Sorry, sorry. This is re.arts.books, so let me point you in the direction
of Marie Corelli's WORMWOOD. Mizz Corelli is a ghastly writer and this may
well be the one that sealled her fate. Stanford has a First Edition in their
Special Collection and one would wish that it was also the Last Edition and
that entry to the Special Collection is as difficult as it ever was.

Basically Mizz Corelli is agin it. She is also agin pretty much everything:
Paris, men, &c. I acquired my copy at a RABfest swapmeet where I left the
CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE on the table. A fair trade; it's important to know
that there are writers infinitely worse than Bulwer-Lytton.

Fido

Postscript. Last I heard Absinthe could not legally be made in France, but
that Pernod had a manufactory in Spain. The only time i ever used it was
to freshen the taste of water in those goatskin water-carriers we slung
alongside the Berliet trucks on our way South across the Sahara to Fort
Polignac.


Lisa Chabot

unread,
Jul 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/24/95
to
I invariably post drunk--drunk on the glory of my own prose, revelling
in its wit and weight, humming along with it, and press send with triumph!
If I were to wait until cold, gray morning, my head pounding with
embarassment and rationality, I'd certainly flinch, delete the file
with a groan, and spend the rest of the day purging myself with
technical manuals and clear water. As it is, the day dawns, somebody
reads it, and I spend the day under my desk, pretending nothing has happened,
that these little postings are not mine but somebody else's kids.

How much better to at least first revel in the creations! toss them in the
air, bite their heads off and drink their intoxicating blood; tomorrow,
we'll die the weakling deaths of disapproving or non-existent followups.

Also, my service provider logs me off if I don't type beaverishly for
fifteen minutes.

But, other than that, the only artificial stimulant I use to get going
is boredom, with an occasional lack of sleep chaser.

Some editing jobs, however, seem to cry out for strong drink and much
maudlin behavior. (Particularly editting other people's work.)

--
All women become like their mothers: that is their tragedy.
No man does: that's his.

william r smith

unread,
Jul 24, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/24/95
to
Alison Chaiken wrote:

Do you read compulsively? Do you read cereal boxes? Would you never
go into the bathroom without something to read? Do you feel unhappy,
restless, even desperate if you are caught without something to read?

According to my late friend, compulsive reading is a neurotic behavior

...


Ohhhhh, shit.

William Sburgfort Smith

_______________________________________________________________________________
William Smith will...@mhpcc.edu
Maui High Performance Computing Center WWW: http://www.mhpcc.edu/mhpcc.html
_______________________________________________________________________________

John Camp

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
In article <DC5q0...@eskimo.com>, pma...@eskimo.com (Brian Pickrell) says:
>
>John Camp (jc...@mr.net) wrote:
>: fairly snaky? Then there's Sam Coleridge, who smoked a pipe and
>: (supposedly) conceived Kubla Khan, started to put it down when he awoke,
>: but when he was interrupted, and then went back to it, found that it
>: had disappeared; that sobriety couldn't assemble the words...
>
>I've always believed this episode was overplayed. I've woken up
>many times with the belief that I'd just conceived something fab-
>ulous, if only I could write down the words before I forgot them...
>
>I think the subconscious is adept at producing the feeling that you've
>conceived something fabulous, more so than at conceiving fabulous things.
>
>-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>Brian Pickrell


Your point would be stronger if Coleridge had not actually produced
a fabulous fragment, with every indication that there was more to it.

JC


John Camp

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
In article <3uspm7$1...@scoville.wsrcc.com>, ali...@wsrcc.com (Alison Chaiken) says:
>
>I'm surprised that everyone is taking so seriously a putative
>connection between creativity and drunkeness. It's my understanding
>that the two phenomena simply often occur in the same people, namely
>that very creative people have a higher prediliction towards
>alcoholism.

I'm not sure that creative people have a greater predeliction for
alcohol than the average person. If you check any bar about ten
o'clock in the morning, you'll see a fairly high number of dummies
sitting around dangling their tongues in their G&Ts.

There exists the possibility that alcoholism is connected with
creative people simply because creative people are noticeable, and their
characteristics are recorded more often than others. European travellers
in 19th century America -- Dickens and de Tocqueville, for two --
noted that very large numbers of Americans seemed to be drunk all the
time. If many 19th century authors seemed to have trouble with
drink, maybe it was because *everybody* had trouble with it.

On the other hand (for you computer people, that's the same as OTHO),
it may be possible that great artists are so sensitive to the world that
they need to tone down their receptors, simply to make life acceptable;
that alcohol is a form of medication. Or it could be medication to ease
the sense of failure, or falling from a high place. I think most great
artists carry with them the feeling of walking on an edge between
great success and utter oblivion. After a while, you might need a drink
just to keep walking.

JC

John Camp

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
One of my regrets in life is that I've never been able to enjoy alcohol,
and achieve that looseness that my friends can simply by drinking a bit.
When I was a child -- seven or eight, I suppose -- my aunt and uncle and
my parents had a summer lawn party with iced beer. The day was very hot,
and I started sneaking cups of the beer. After downing several -- many --
I became extremely ill and spent a protracted time worshipping at the
porcellain throne. To this day, I can't drink more than about 1/4 beer,
or a glass of wine, before I begin to react...

On a hot day, I can get down a couple of G&Ts; especially if I've just
mown the lawn.

But the lack of a serious drinking ability is something I regret...

JC

Jim Hartley

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
John Camp <jc...@mr.net> wrote:
>In article <DC5q0...@eskimo.com>, pma...@eskimo.com (Brian Pickrell) says:
>>John Camp (jc...@mr.net) wrote:
>>: fairly snaky? Then there's Sam Coleridge, who smoked a pipe and
>>: (supposedly) conceived Kubla Khan, started to put it down when he awoke,
>>: but when he was interrupted, and then went back to it, found that it
>>: had disappeared; that sobriety couldn't assemble the words...
>>
>>I've always believed this episode was overplayed. I've woken up
>>many times with the belief that I'd just conceived something fab-
>>ulous, if only I could write down the words before I forgot them...
>
>Your point would be stronger if Coleridge had not actually produced
>a fabulous fragment, with every indication that there was more to it.

I'm not sure how this is related to the thread on booze and lit. As I
understand the story, the problem had nothing to do with waking up and
forgetting. Wasn't it Dirk Gently's midnight visit that caused old Sam
to forget the rest of Kubla Khan?

Fortunately, all was not lost--there was that idea about the albatross.

--
Jim Hartley
jhar...@mtholyoke.edu

Joseph M Green

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
t was a person from Porlock -- probably an economist who wanted to
know whether The radio broadcast of War of the World's was based
on Wells' novel and thought that he would inquire of old Sam -- since
he was so very far from any reference. He then chatted with Sam about
how he couldn't stand Portrait when he was a tad but grew to understand
so much as he became sadder but wiser.

By the by -- as Norman Fruman as shown in "Damaged Archangel" Coleridge
made all of this up. Fruman the first to inquire about how many
copies of Purchas His Pilgrimage were extant, where they were, how
much they weighed -- and much else -- and to wonder just why
and when old Sam wandered lonely on the Moor -- ill -- lugging
a 15 lb rare volume for miles -- and so on...

M.A. Powe

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
Francis Muir (fra...@pangea.Stanford.EDU) wrote:
: Meg Worley writes:

: Um, that was e-mail.

: And it is clear that Michael Powe understood his source. This is probably as
: good a time as any to remind one and all that private mail is the property of
: the sender, not the receiver, and it is quite improper to repost it publicly.
: Phew. That's better.

And since you choose to make this a public issue in all ignorance of the
facts:

I already made my apologies to Ms. Worley for what seems to be a
misunderstanding. I get a fair number of e-mail replies to public
messages; and occasionally, as in this case, the reply comes with
"newsgroup" distribution attached. Basically, this means that when I
reply to the e-mail, Pine asks me if I want the reply to go to the
newsgroup(s) as well as to the sender. Since this only happens
occasionally, it has been my assumption that the individuals whose
mailers attach this distribution are indifferent to the posting of my
replies. Therefore, I choose: when the exchange includes material or
discussions outside what I interpret to be "public," I don't post to
newgroups. When the information appears to me to be acceptably
"on-topic," and of public interest, I do. As, in the case under
dispute. It now appears, that some people simply don't know what their
mailers are doing. I quite clearly knew what I was doing, and as far as
I am concerned, I have been handling my mail in an ethical and thoughtful
manner -- striving both to protect the integrity of correspondents and
further discussions in which I was involved.

I am certainly completely indifferent to how my e-mail is handled, don't
care one banana whether you post it or not; and when I do have some reason
to care, as for instance, giving out my home address or something like
that, I <say> so. I would never say something in e-mail I would be
embarrassed to say in public. From my point of view, an e-mail reply to a
newsgroup article is merely the best method of assuring that what I say
gets to a particular individual. Thus, I simply regard this "privacy of
e-mail" issue as a tempest in a teapot. <However>, I recognize that not
everyone feels this way. And, as I already told Ms. Morley <privately>,
which is where the substance of this discussion was <properly> handled, I
will not post her mail again. Presumably, in the meantime, she will take
measures to assure that her mailer does not continue to attach newsgroup
distribution to private correspondence. Thus, the problem is solved at
both ends. End of discussion.

And yes, I am annoyed.

M.A. Powe

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
Michael Wise (wwhitman@calamus) wrote:
: M.A. Powe <do...@teleport.com> wrote:

: >At any rate, the physiologically destructive effects of extreme alcohol
: >consumption are now so well documented, we might ask rather how much
: ><better> Faulkner would have been if he had not been a heavy drinker.

: One might just as realistically ask if Faulkner would have written
: anything at all if he had not been a heavy drinker. After all, perhaps he

Well, I was being a bit facetious. I mean, I regard the conception of his
drinking being a contributing factor to his greatness as equally valid as
the contention that his drinking impaired his greatness. At least the
latter hypothesis has verifiable fact behind it -- namely, that he did
enormous physical damage to his brain.

There's much to be said about the psychology of drinking, too. You can
get people drunk on near-beer, if they think it's alcoholic. So, it's
quite possible that the effects of the alcohol itself were incidental to
whatever Faulkner was seeking from it (and, we presume, found). Being a
"reformed alcoholic" myself, I've lived on both sides of the fence; and
I'm inclined to credit the psychology. The point at which one stops
drinking is the point at which one realizes that the alcohol is not doing
what one thought it was doing. Faulkner, obviously, never reached that
point.

Ted Samsel

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
No one has mentioned old Fred Exley.......
(?)
--
Ted Samsel....tejas@infi.net
"driving a Hudson Hornet on the disinformation triple bypass:
cruising for burgers & garage sales. Hooks baited, lines en-
tangled, roadkill cooked"


Michael Wise

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95
to
Francis Muir <fra...@pangea.Stanford.EDU> wrote:
>
>Postscript. Last I heard Absinthe could not legally be made in France, but
>that Pernod had a manufactory in Spain. The only time i ever used it was
>to freshen the taste of water in those goatskin water-carriers we slung
>alongside the Berliet trucks on our way South across the Sahara to Fort
>Polignac.
>

Pernod no longer makes the REAL stuff; instead they make a taste-alike
that is the rage of France and some parts of Spain. Basically it tastes
like Ouzo with the color of absinthe. No wormwood though. That was the
gastly ingredient that was banned, though I read in a coffee-table book
that it was not necessary the wormwood that did it, just good
old-fashioned hell-bent-for-leather alcohol poisoning with an anise drug
mixing that would astonish a pharmacist caught up in the mundane world of
beta blockers and antihistamines. The wormwood allowed a government to
take action against the dangerous effects of absinthe without addressing
the root cause and the cash cow. In Amerika, however, we got Prohibition
instead.

David J. Loftus

unread,
Jul 25, 1995, 3:00:00 AM7/25/95