The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink

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9781847677945: The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink
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Shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award.

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 cafés 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. 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.

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Review:

"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)

"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 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)

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

"Beguiling and incisive" (New York Times)

"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)

"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)

"Full of insight, compassion and unexpected beauty" (Guardian)

"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)

Book Description:

From the acclaimed author of To The River - one of the best reviewed books of 2011 - comes a fascinating and highly original investigation into the myth of the alcoholic writer, now shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award.

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