The writers of great literature often supply us mere mortals with memorable lines, especially if they serve as the openers for their works. Thus, for instance, Tolstoy‘s Taxonomy of the Family, which kicks off Anna Karenina:
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
This serves as raw material for endless variations which then embellish our own–lazy–conversation and writing:
All successful sports teams are alike; every unsuccessful sports team fails in its own way
All good movies are alike; every bad movie is terrible in its own way.
And so on. You catch my drift.
Or to consider another example, consider Jane Austen‘s unforgettable opening for Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Armed with this line, one can, with some facility, provide a suitable response to Christopher Buckley‘s homage to dipsography, the art of drinking, and, as it turns out, his drinking buddies, the slogan for which reads, ‘Alcohol makes other people less tedious. And food less bland.’ (‘Booze as Muse‘, The New York Times, 30 June 2013):
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a boring drunk’s boring drunk friends will write chapter and verse–boring ones–about their drinking exploits and their love of the bottle.
In this tedious jaunt through the flagon-and-Boy’s Club-infested shelves of his life, Buckley describes ‘three-martini lunch’ dreams involving Tom Wolfe, writing assignments involving Bloody Mary recipes, works in the obligatory Kingsley Amis reference (among several others to–mostly male, I think–writers), before leading up to what surely was the central motivation for writing this piece, the opportunity to let us readers know that he, too, like many before him, had tried to, but failed to keep pace with, that writer’s writer, that drinker’s drinker, Christopher Hitchens:
I mentioned Christopher Hitchens a moment ago. It seems fitting that he should provide our nightcap. He and I once had a weekday lunch that began at 1 p.m. and ended at 11:30 p.m. I spent the next three weeks begging to be euthanized; he went home and wrote a dissertation on Orwell. Christopher himself was a muse of booze, though dipsography and fancy cocktails were not his thing. Christopher was a straightforward whiskey and martini man. In his memoir, “Hitch-22,” he made a solid case for liquidity.
“Alcohol makes other people less tedious,” he writes, “and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.”
Unfortunately, very little could have made less tedious the increasingly unhinged rantings of Hitchens as his expiry date loomed, and on the evidence available to us, the same goes for this considerably-less-than-novel paean to alcohol of Buckley’s. Men musing about their alcoholic recipes and proclivities is boring enough, but my tolerance runs out especially quickly when confronted with boastful tales of consumption marathons in the company of equally uninteresting hacks.
The next time Buckley feels the ‘entheos’ to write about his alcoholic adventures and adventurers, he should respond to it in the only way possible: drink himself to sleep, and spare us the details.