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The Trip to Echo Spring Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing
  

The Trip to Echo Spring Why Writers Drink

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Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2013.

Beautiful, captivating and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.

If you like Olivia Laing you might also like to read books by Sara Baume.

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Synopsis

The Trip to Echo Spring Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing

Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2013.

Why is it that some of the greatest works of literature have been produced by writers in the grip of alcoholism, an addiction that cost them personal happiness and caused harm to those who loved them? In The Trip to Echo Spring , Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. All six of these writers were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast . Often they did their drinking together - Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafes of 1920s Paris; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973. Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever's New York to Williams' New Orleans, from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery.

Reviews

'Olivia Laing's writing is beautifully modulated, her tone knowledgeable yet intimate. She can evoke a state of mind as gracefully as she evokes a landscape. The Trip to Echo Spring is a book for all writers or would-be writers. It's one of the best books I've read about the creative uses of adversity: frightening but perversely inspiring' -- HILARY MANTEL

'It's deliciously evocative, Laing's melancholic and lyrical style conjuring the location, before effortlessly segueing into medical facts about alcoholism, the effects on the lives of each writer, and well-chosen passages from their work. This is a highly accomplished book, and highly recommended' The List

'A triumphant exercise in creative reading in which diary entries, letters, poems, stories and plays are woven together to explore deep, interconnected themes of dependence, denial and self-destructiveness. It is a testimony to this book's compelling power that having finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again' Scotland on Sunday

'I loved The Trip to Echo Spring. It's a beautiful book that has stayed with me in a profound way' -- NICK CAVE

'Laing is a fine and stylish travel writer, with a sharp eye for passing detail and an acute ear for oddly amusing conversations' -- Gordon Bowker Independent: i & Radar

'Beguiling, beautifully written... brilliant and original' -- John Carey The Sunday Times

'Laing is a brilliant wordsmith and this is a beautifully accomplished book' -- Frances Spalding Independent

'Laing's analysis of the complex addiction is consistently shrewd. But what makes The Trip to Echo Spring truly worthwhile is that she, like those she writes about, is a terrific writer' -- John Sutherland The Times

'The Trip to Echo Spring is original, brave and very moving. Laing's way of looking at a natural world that is free from human faults repeatedly prompts something like the spiritual awakening AA attendees hope for. Her insights shine with beauty yet are shaded by sympathy and compassion' Observer

'Laing's prose is lucid and exuberant. She rejects the opportunities for humour, although some of the stories are very funny indeed; and traces rather than interrogates her subjects. She knows them intimately and the result is a thoughtful study, part literary biography, part travel memoir' Financial Times

'Laing's descriptions of the American landscape, as she travels south from New York to New Orleans and Key West, and then north up to St Paul and Port Angeles, are a joy to read. She has a keen eye for the details of American streets... She captures the discomfort of long train journeys... and evokes the smells and sounds of an unknown city. A thunderstorm is recorded in intimate detail; the snatched conversations of fellow travellers are threaded into her narrative... there is much to enjoy in this trip across America. In Ms Laing's hands these famously complicated men become fragile, and terribly human' The Economist

'Laing writes so well, so seductively in fact, that this deconstructed way of pursuing a story works brilliantly again' London Evening Standard

'Laing is often perceptive. She has a flair for elegant, cursive summaries of these various bodies of work and the shaping pressures of drink upon them' Times Literary Supplement

'A wonderful read' GQ Magazine

'In pages of great lyric beauty, Laing travels in the footsteps of Cheever and company across America from New York to New Orleans. At times the writing shows a Hemingway influence ('In Alabama the earth was red and there was wisteria in the trees'); at others, a demotic Raymond Carver cut ('The hell with it'). The book, a hybrid of travel and literary criticism, is always engaging to read, as it casts a humane eye on the accidents, illness, social impairment and other damage caused by drink to the poet Berryman in particular, whose outraged innards and pale, wayworn face showed the horror of his multi-day benders and the moaning after the night before' Spectator

About the Author

Olivia Laing's first book, To the River, was described as 'sublime' by the Times, 'magical' by the Telegraph and 'deeply intelligent' by the Literary Review. It was a book of the year in the Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. Olivia is the former Deputy Books Editor of the Observer and writes for a variety of publications, including the Observer, New Statesman, Guardian and Times Literary Supplement. She's a 2011 MacDowell Fellow, and has received awards from the Arts Council and the Authors' Foundation.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999

Author

Olivia Laing

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Author's Website

olivialaing.co.uk/
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Publisher

Format

Hardback

Categories

Biography / Autobiography
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ISBN

9781847677945

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