Synopses & Reviews
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 Paris in the 1920s; 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's New Orleans, and 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.
“A funny, tragic, and insightful journey for anyone who has read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, or John Berryman; prepare to be smitten with this fresh offering. Those unfamiliar with these writers will want to read their works.” Library Journal (starred review)
“Laing, with shimmering detail and arresting insights, presents a beautifully elucidating and moving group portrait of writers enslaved by drink and redeemed by 'the capacity of literature to somehow...make one feel less flinchingly alone.'” Booklist (starred review)
“The tortured relationship between literary lions and their liquor illuminates the obscure terrain of psychology and art in this searching biographical meditation....Laing's astute analysis of the pervasive presence and meaning of drink in the writers' texts, and its reflection of the writers' struggle to shape — and escape — reality....A fine study of human frailty through the eyes of its most perceptive victims” Publishers Weekly (starred)
“A provocative, evocative blend of memoir, literary history and lyrical travel writing.” Kirkus Reviews
In Olivia Laing's stunning work of unconventional biography, The Trip to Echo Spring
, she delves deep into the lives of six of America's most revered yet notoriously troubled writers: John Cheever, Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and the poet John Berryman.
She travels by train, plane, and highway to the key locations of each of these men's lives, from Key West to New Orleans, and from New York City to Washington state, seeing for herself the places that inspired much of their most famous works.
While there has been considerable scholarship on each writer, nobody until now has ever examined the clearest link between them: alcohol, and lots of it. Laing penetrates, with her astute and always engaging eye, the fascinatingly turbulent life of each author, revealing stunning truths about each one.
About the Author
Olivia Laing is a writer and critic. Her first book, To the River, was published by Canongate in the U.K. to wide acclaim and shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. She has been the deputy books editor of the Observer, and writes for The Guardian, New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. She is a MacDowell Fellow, and has received grants from the Arts Council and the Authors Foundation. She lives in Cambridge, England.