Friday, December 21, 2007

If liquor doesn't get you, nicotine will

Last week's New Yorker had a bio of Malcolm Lowry, a lauded writer whose alcoholism claimed him at age 47; see my blog note, "Alcoholocaust," below. This week's mag covers iconic short story writer Raymond Carver (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love), also an alcoholic, but one who got sober in 1977, and stayed that way. But he kept smoking. He once said that he was only "a cigarette with a body attached to it." Lung cancer claimed him at age 50.

The mag's Lowry story took the author down a notch or two by suggesting that his wife was actually responsible for much of the greatness in Under the Volcano. The mag continues on its debunking tear by demonstrating beyond reasonable doubt that the savage blue pencil of Carver's editor Gordon Lish was responsible for creating the terse, minimalist style that made Carver famous.

Score: New Yorker 2, theory that alcohol helps the creative juices flow, 0.

Oh, and don't miss the cartoon on p. 68. A bar patron drinking coffee to a neighbor with a cocktail: "Been there, drunk that." I'd copy it here but I worry about overstretching the boundaries of the "fair use" doctrine.

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