I am all kinds of sluggish right now. Do not feel sorry for me because I brought it on myself. If I don’t know by now that the second martini on a school night is a stupid idea, then I deserve exactly what I am getting. Still, it’s a bummer to know that there isn’t a good time to be had that doesn’t have some kind of payback. Scream your lungs out at a concert-lose your voice for a week. Enter a chili dog eating contest-get an upset stomach. Bingeread a fabulous book-ok, can’t think of a downside for that one. Indulgence demands balance, so at some point or another, everyone gets a hangover.
Ancient peoples could not account for the severity of their hangovers, attributing splitting headaches and the morning-after craving for ancient pancakes to angry gods. Now, after a big night out, you only have to go back 12 hours on your Instagram feed to find out what went down. There you are, in the backseat of your Uber, chugging Fireball. FIREBALL. What the hell were you thinking? The night before, it’s all spontaneous musical numbers and high fives. It’s a magic bubble of invincibility, and since nothing can hurt you that fourth margarita is a good idea! And yes you can stay out until 4! You’ll be fine with 2 hours sleep! Of course you never are. The morning after brings the need for several extra strength Tylenol and a fountain Coke, and no small measure of gratitude that you woke up at home. As opposed to waking up covered in mud, blood, and body parts, because that is what happens when Donna Tartt is in charge.
First, a PSA: I am glad that Donna Tartt is a writer, because she writes my favorite books and I love having favorite books. Her novels are epic in scale, with her characters coming to terms with life events experienced at violent extremes. Some overcome, and some fail spectacularly, and it’s impossible to look away even when you can see what’s coming is not going to end well. The Secret History (Knopf, 1992) is a murder mystery reverse engineered from what is essentially a solved crime. The book opens with a confession to a murder, revealing that a cliquish group of six friends have killed one of their own, Bunny Corcoran, staging a hiking accident by pushing him down a ravine. The story then centers on the backstory of the motivation for Bunny’s death and the friends’ tangled and twisted relationships. Donna Tartt explores the way that the human desire turns into greed – greed for knowledge, greed for experience, greed for power – and how that greed turns cancerous.
Donna Tartt publishes one incredible book about every 10 years. I assume she could publish an incredible book anytime she wants to, but she is a badass who does not care how many books you think she should publish. The Secret History was her first book and it was an immediate bestseller, making her a literary star. This book shows how toxic hubris and arrogance are and movingly illustrates the beauty inherent in sacrificing for the ones you love. It also gives me perspective on my own wild nights, because there’s hangovers, and then there’s The Secret History hangovers.
My hangover: My head hurts and that light is too bright
Secret History hangover: Can anyone confirm or deny that we killed a dude last night
My hangover: Wow, I danced for several hours!
Secret History hangover: I drank myself into a fugue state
My hangover: I thought we’d never go home
Secret History hangover: I thought I was a deer
My hangover: I need greasy diner food
Secret History hangover: Breakfast is booze, cigarettes, and determining an alibi
My hangover: I’m taking a nap
Secret History hangover: Let’s invite Bunny to go on a hike
There’s always a price to be paid after a party is over, and if Donna Tartt is writing the hangover, payback isn’t just bitch. It’s a bitch with a baseball bat and access to all of your bank accounts. It makes me a little bit glad that I’m a book nerd with a love of down time. My “about last night” stories aren’t as flashy but then again I don’t have to budget for as much bail money. Still, some nights do go on longer than others. If you’ve got a hangover, please feel free to consult the handy chart below to triage your situation and determine the most efficient cure.
Symptoms: You have a limp from the 50-yard dash someone dared you to run. Your hair hurts and you require sunglasses to brush your teeth.
Hangover Level: Tore up from the floor up
Cure: Ketchup-based fast food and one whiny Facebook status post.
Symptoms: Right hand has three nightclub stamps on it. Left wrist has a medical id bracelet from a colonic clinic. You’re still dressed, but the bra you are wearing isn’t yours.
Hangover Level: Run over by a truck
Solution: Travel back in time and make new friends who won’t encourage you to qualify for Olympic Beer Pong. It isn’t even a real sport.
Symptoms: The good news is you’re awake and at home. The bad news is the dog woke you up because he’s hungry, but you don’t own a dog. Or the motorcycle in your living room.
Hangover Level: Football bat
Solution: Feed the dog. Change your name and move.
Watch The Philadelphia Story, the best movie about hangovers ever.