The Reason For Cold Turkey

Hello, January! That magic time of year when weeks of unbridled decadence skid to a halt puddling into a big pile of regret and shame. It is time for a reckoning. (Doesn’t it feel like the holiday excuse period starts earlier and earlier? Using Labor Day as a free pass for excess is weaksauce. Nobody is buying “What the hell, it’s Labor Day!” as a valid reason to have cheese dip for breakfast. You do you. Just have the cheese dip. Why you gotta blame Labor Day?) January is the month when it’s time to rein in all those shenanigans and act like an adult, for Pete’s sake. Shed those extra pounds from all that gravy and chocolate. Return those superfluous gifts you overbought. In my case, January detox also commences the annual Big Cleanup, purging a year’s worth of crap that’s turned every surface of my living space into a junk drawer.

It was in the process of shoveling out one of those squirrel-nest piles that I found three fancy little books of cocktail recipes that I completely forgot that I owned. I probably had big intentions of featuring the books in some Pinterest-worthy, artfully arranged bar display with fancy empty antique bottles and brass corkscrews. I got really close to doing it, too, in that I bought these three books and shoved them in a drawer four years ago. Take THAT, Pinterest. Flipping through the books, I got to thinking about the tight relationship between writing and booze. Lots of authors like to bring the party to the page. Literature featuring booze is like a big liquor store: from cheap peach schnapps to pricey Scotch that smells like old socks, there is something for everyone. Here are some that made an impression on me.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald) The Great Gatsby is the book that really showed America how to get lit. Main character Jay Gatsby, putting out bait to attract his former love and current neighbor rich girl Daisy Buchanan, turns his exclusive West Egg, Long Island estate into neighborhood central for a 24/7 throwdown. His party only has two rules: Look fabulous and make bad choices. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “everybody in the club getting tipsy.”* Fitzgerald knew a thing or two about parties, having codified uninhibited and licentious behavior in his collection of short stories, Tales Of The Jazz Age. For all of his literary success, Fitzgerald never felt a part of the elite American wealthy society that he made so famous. That bittersweet longing for inclusion is brilliantly expressed in the book’s narrator Nick Carraway’s attendance at Gatsby’s endless, gin-soaked party. Nick is there, he’s an invited guest, he is welcomed by his host, and yet he can’t shake the feeling that he’s still on the outside looking in. As if with his nose pressed against the glass, peering in the window, Nick walks us through the kind of inevitable debauchery that results when a party is underwritten by organized crime and sponsored by a lovesick pretender.

*Possibly J-Kwon**
**Definitely J-Kwon

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails With A Literary Twist (Tim Federle) This book of cocktail concoctions proves there is a niche audience at the intersection of English Major Ave and Fully Stocked Bar St. I always thought I was the only person who lived at that address but LOOK. I HAVE ROOMMATES. Page after page of beverages, all inspired by and named for classic works of literature? SQUEEEEEE. Eventually, I’ll get around to making one of the many outstanding drinks in this book, but for now, it’s not necessary because I’m just drunk on all the literary references and stellar puns. As a bonus, this book’s list of classic titles fleshed out my TBR list. (How could I have forgotten I haven’t read The Unbearable Lightness of Being?) One day, I am going to meet author Tim Federle and make him several Pitchers of Dorian Grey Gooses. (Geese? Pitchers of Dorian Grey Geese? I need to work this out before Tim gets here….or just avoid the whole question and make him a batch of Woman In White Russians.)

Postcards From The Edge (Carrie Fisher) The main character in Carrie Fisher’s debut novel is an equal-opportunity substance abuser, so we’re not limited to alcohol here. This semi-autobiographical story of a working actress with a famous mother coping with her day-to-day life LA after rehab pulls no punches as it chronicles the reality of living the glamorous life in the world’s biggest fishbowl. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, and above all brutally honest. Carrie Fisher is unique in her ability to take cringeworthy, painful situations and craft side-splitting comedy while never succumbing to self-pity. It gives her work an emotional integrity that resonates long after you’ve stopped laughing.

“The Swimmer” (John Cheever) For every cheerful depiction of the convivial camaraderie of drinking, there is someone living the toxic nightmare of addiction. John Cheever captures the dark, chaotic recklessness of chronic alcoholism in his startling short story, “The Swimmer”. Surreal and hypnotic, the story depicts the slow collapse of a life dragged under by habitual benders and the hazy confusion brought on by too many booze-induced blackouts. Cheever knew a thing or two about drinking to excess. His lifelong struggle with alcoholism was a family affair, with his father and his brother both sufferers, and Cheever almost died from an alcohol-induced embolism before he was able to quit drinking for good. In “The Swimmer”, Cheever depicts the pain and vulnerability at the core of self-destructive behavior while avoiding showing any sympathy for the damage that it does. It’s poignant, enlightening, and a little scary.

Honorable Mention: The Secret History (Donna Tartt) Get drunk with your friends! Pretend you’re a deer! Maybe kill some people! HAHAHHAHAHAHA parties are fun!





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For more silly words about The Secret History, click here. And, for the record, I will happily make Pitchers Of Dorian Grey Gooses/Geese for Donna Tartt any time she wants.

The Reason I Check Under The Bed

Diving into Stephen King’s world means making a lot of sacrifices. Peace of mind, a full night’s sleep, inability to walk by a sewer manhole cover without shuddering in fear—you give up all these things when you read his books. Upon reflection (and I have an actual reflection, in a mirror, because I’m not a vampire, trust me because I check all the time thanks to Salem’s Lot) it’s apparent to me that I am on permanent terror alert because Stephen King has messed with my head.

King’s body of work is rife with brilliant examples of benign takedowns: surface perfection lulls you in, seduces you, then tries to steal your soul or hijack your brain or at the very least disfigure you. He’s so good at it, and he’s scared me so many times, that I have diagnosed myself with Post-Traumatic King Disorder.  It, where an bucolic all-American small town is a front for a hungry spider. The efficient, banal government officials destroying minds and lives in Firestarter. The solid New England Victorian-house-with-a-view in Pet Sematary. King will jack with what you trust and laugh while he does it and he probably has a really creepy laugh and now I have to go make sure there’s nothing waiting to bite my legs off hiding under the table one sec BRB.

Mechanical Terror I honestly don’t know what happened to Stephen King when he was learning to drive because in the Kingverse, cars are out to get you. When I took Driver’s Ed I practiced going over railroad tracks and finding the hazard lights button on the dashboard. In Stephen King’s Driver’s Ed class, apparently he practiced cyborg mechanics and demon possession. Is that what you have to know to operate a Class I Vehicle in Maine? I haven’t trusted a car since Christine, the novel about a car who goes on a vendetta-fueled killing spree to punish her owner’s tormentors. Or  the short story “Trucks” (vehicles come to life and try to make the world a better place HAHAHAHA just kidding they drive over people for sport and turn survivors into fuel slaves). Thanks to Stephen King every car I see has a distinct air of menace. If I see headlights flicker, forget it. I need a drink and a nap to recover from the trauma. Stephen King is the reason that I lobby AAA to add a Roadside Demon Exorcism service.
AAA: hi, what is your car emergency?
Me: my Ford Focus keeps going to karaoke bars
AAA: that seems pretty harmless
AAA: a Lounge Demon! we’re sending a team immediately

Furry Terror In the Kingverse, there’s lots of wonderful animals who aren’t trying to eat and/or kill you. And then there’s the mutated rat kingdom in “Graveyard Shift”, which absolutely is trying to eat and/or kill you. Since reading this story, if I make eye contact with a rat I try to smile in a way that says “Please don’t come into my house, restrain me, and drag me to your underground lair so you can eat my extremities.” Thanks a lot, Stephen King. You’ve turned me into a crazy person who tries to make reassuring, non-edible eye contact with rats. My other King-induced animal trauma is a reasonable post-Cujo reaction: AVOID ST. BERNARDS. Naturally, I cancelled all my ski trips to the Swiss Alps.
Switzerland: hello, what is your Alps emergency?
Me: tell the Matterhorn I’m out
Switzerland: what if we offer you free Gruyere
Me: no deal my fondue pot is broken
Switzerland: a Cheese Demon! we’re sending a team immediately


If you feel scared, look at this picture of stuffed animals on a pillow covered with cat pictures (NOT MADE OF ACTUAL CATS)

Invisible Terror You know how sometimes you get an itchy patch and you scratch it and it turns out you’re the host for a murderous alien life form, hahaha? That is the kind of hilarity you can expect out of the short story collection Night Shift. Or the laugh riot that is The Stand, where Stephen King forces you to ponder the question “What if everyone gets the exact same virus cold thing at the exact same time and dies, torpedoing key planet infrastructure?” Y’all—I did NOT pay attention that one semester I took Home Ec. I don’t know how to can or sew or color my own hair. I don’t have any viral apocalypse grooming skills actually. Therefore, I have a mild anxiety attack every time I sneeze. Or if anyone sneezes or feels tired or behaves slightly out of character. As an alert citizen, I make sure that the authorities always know about suspicious situations.
CDC: hi, what is your disease emergency?
Me: i just saw a viral video
CDC: can’t actually make you sick
CDC: Drake! we’re sending a team immediately

Indiscriminate Terror This is actually a terror PSA for you. This is the seemingly harmless, but actually near-fatal scenario: You run into me at the grocery store. It’s July and you notice I’m wearing fuzzy snowflake-patterned pajama pants and an old Hootie and the Blowfish tshirt. You greet me heartily. I answer you, but you sense something is just a little off. A small, uneasy feeling takes root in your stomach. Glancing into my basket, you see barbeque potato chips, a vat of french onion dip, a 6-pack of Lima-A-Ritas and a jumbo box of Tampax.
You. Are. In. Danger. Follow your instincts. Don’t make eye contact. Back away slowly. Abandon your cart and get the hell out. Shit is about to get real in a Godzilla-Tokyo kind of way.
Godzilla: Mothra hold my earrings
Mothra: ‘Zilla why you trippin
Godzilla: I ate four cupcakes and I feel bloated and Tokyo looked at me funny
Mothra: PMS makes women so irra-
Godzilla: (eats Mothra)(burps fire)

Action Items
Stephen King’s son Joe Hill is also very good at scaring the hell out of you. Read Heart-Shaped Box but don’t say I didn’t warn you.