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In Love with Hell

In Love with Hell

Why do some writers destroy themselves by drinking alcohol? Before our health-conscious age it would be true to say that many writers drank what we now regard as excessive amounts. Graham Greene, for instance, drank on a daily basis quantities of spirits and wine and beer most doctors would consider as being dangerous to his health. But he was rarely out of control and lived with his considerable wits intact to the age of eighty-six. W. H. Auden drank the most of a bottle of spirits a day, but also worked hard and steadily every day until his death. Even T. S. Eliot, for all his pontifical demeanour, was extremely fond of gin and was once observed completely drunk on a London Tube station by a startled friend. These were not writers who are generally regarded as alcoholics. ‘Alcoholic’ is, in any case, a slippery word, as exemplified by Dylan Thomas’s definition of an alcoholic as ‘someone you dislike who drinks as much as you.’ The word is still controversial and often misunderstood and misapplied. What acclaimed novelist and poet William Palmer’s book is interested in is the effect that heavy drinking had on writers, how they lived with it and were sometimes destroyed by it, and how they described the whole private and social world of the drinker in their work.

He looks at Patrick Hamilton (‘the feverish magic that alcohol can work’); Jean Rhys (‘As soon as I sober up I start again’); Charles Jackson (‘Delirium is a disease of the night’); Malcolm Lowry (‘I love hell. I can’t wait to go back there’); Dylan Thomas (‘A womb with a view’); John Cheever (‘The singing of the bottles in the pantry’); Flann O’Brien (‘A pint of plain is your only man’); Anthony Burgess (‘Writing is an agony mitigated by drink’); Kingsley Amis (‘Beer makes you drunk’); Richard Yates (‘The road to Revolutionary Road‘); and Elizabeth Bishop (‘The writer’s writer’s writer’).
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Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General / Biography: Literary

On Sale: 22nd April 2021

Price: £18.99

ISBN-13: 9781472144980


Praise for The India House: [T]he mood of gentle regret and a sense of living in a time out of place resembles no writer so much as Chekhov.
Alex Larman, Observer
The India House builds on its somewhat dusty foundations to altogether dazzling effect.
D. J. Taylor, Spectator
Praise for Four Last Things: The depth and eloquence of this fine collection . . . might surprise even the most ardent admirers of his novels.
Paul Sussman, Independent on Sunday
Praise for The Pardon of Saint Anne: Palmer's beautifully crafted novel convincingly unfolds for us a story of inadvertent complicity in acts of unspeakable evil.
Lisa Jardine, The Times
Praise for The Contract: A beautifully written exploration of a once famous case that has uncomfortable relevance to our own times.
David Lodge
Praise for The Contract: A flawless and intelligent study of sex, politics and the abuse of power. It is both subtle and shocking: that is a rare and potent combination.
Jim Crace
Praise for The Pardon of Saint Anne: [A] haunting work over which one wants simultaneously to hurry and to linger.
Christopher Hawtree, The Times
Praise for Leporello: [A]n extraordinarily skilful novel.
Piers Paul Read, Catholic Herald
Praise for The Good Republic: Mr Palmer's book set a standard for an east European historical novel that has yet to be matched - an especially impressive feat for an outsider . . . It is a tribute to his novelist's skills that anyone reading the book has the feeling of complete authenticity in both history and geography. Readers are left longing for a sequel.
Edward Lucas, The Economist