Have you ever wondered how many great American writers were actually drunks, or what is also known as the thirsty muse. Well, here are my top ten picks of American writers who were drunks. Imagine how much more they could have contributed to their art if they had not been the sots that they were.
Harry Crews was born on June 7, 1935 in Bacon County, Georgia. A writer of novels, plays, and short stories. Some of the novels written are ‘The Gospel Singer’, ‘A feast of Snakes’, ‘Body’, ‘Scar Lover’, and ‘All We Need of Hell’. Crews’ drinking and exploits are legendary in the South. Crews has been sober since 1987—good for you Harry!
I felt there were times it was absolutely mandatory that the world be skewed, that I could no longer bear it dead-on, that it had to be twisted. - Crews
Born March 28, 1929 in Watertown, New York, some of Frederick Exley’s work included, ‘A Fan’s Notes’, ‘Pages From A Cold Island’, and ‘Last Notes From Home’. Most of his work was autobiographical.
Exley was also a huge sports fan, and former basketball coach. Because of his depression and drinking, he spent time in the ‘Stony Lodge Mental Institution’, and the ‘Harlem Valley State Hospital’. He died of a stroke on June 17, 1992.
After a month’s sobriety my faculties became unbearably acute and I found myself unhealthily clairvoyant, having insights into places I’d as soon not journey to. Unlike some men, I had never drunk for boldness or charm or wit; I had used alcohol for precisely what it was, a depressant to check the mental exhilaration produced by extended sobriety. - Exley
Raymond Chandler, born July 23, 1888 in Chicago, Illinois, a pulp fiction writer and author of ‘The Long Goodbye’, was a suicidal drunk. At one point in his life, he was a highly paid vice president of the ‘Dabney Oil Syndicate’. Because of his abusive nature and depression, he was fired from this position.
He also wrote ‘The Big Sleep’, co wrote the screenplay ‘Double Indemnity’, and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’. His only original screenplay was ‘Blue Dahlia’. He died in 1956 of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia (toxic condition caused by severe kidney disease).
Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is like magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off. - Chandler
Jack Kerouac was born March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. His work was mostly autobiographical, writing about his travels in the United States and abroad. His work included, ‘On the Road’, ‘The Town and the City’, and “The Legend of Duluoz’. Kerouac helped create the ‘beat’ generation and came to be known as the ‘King of the Beat Generation’. He died October 21, 1969, of internal hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
As I grew older I became a drunk. Why? Because I like ecstasy of the mind. - Kerouac
Jack London was born January 12, 1876 in San Francisco. His novels include ‘The Call of the Wild’, ‘White Fang’, ‘The Iron Heel’, ‘The Sea-wolf’, and ‘The Cruise of the Snark’. An amateur boxer, he reported on the Johnson vs. Jeffries fight, “The Great White Hope”, he wrote, “The black boxer Jack Johnson vanquished Jim Jeffries.”
London was a social hound. His drinking increased as time went on. He died, November 22, 1916, of uremia (same as Raymond Chandler) brought on by a morphine overdose.
The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. - London
Fitzgerald was born September 24, 1896 inSaint Paul, Minnesota. He is credited with helping to enlighten us to the ‘Great Jazz Era’. His novels include, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Tender is the Night’, ‘This Side of Paradise’, ‘The beautiful and the Damned’, and, ‘The Last Tycoon’. Fitzgerald was a huge drinker who occasionally drank with Ernest Hemingway. He died of a massive heart attack on December 21, 1940, while eating a candy bar.
First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you. - Fitzgerald
Thompson was born on July 18, 1937 in Louisville, Kentucky. Thompson was an American journalist and author most noted for his works ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, and ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail’. Thompson’s drinking caused many physical aliments that bothered him constantly, and caused him unrelenting pain. He committed suicide on February 20, 2005.
I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me. - Thompson
Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He is known for such greats as the short story, ‘The Tell-Tale-Heart”, and the poem, "The Raven".
Poe was a monumental drinker who could ingest incredible amounts of alcohol. He would go extended periods where he would drink himself into stupor. Just before his death on October 7, 1849, he was found wandering the streets, completely incoherent, and wearing someone else’s clothes. Poe died of delirium tremors caused by excessive alcohol intake.
Filled with mingled cream and amber I will drain that glass again. Such hilarious visions clamber Through the chambers of my brain -- Quaintest thoughts -- queerest fancies Come to life and fade away; Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. - Poe
Bukowski was born in Germany to American parents on August 16, 1920. He is most famous for his poetry and distinctive free verse style of writing. Most all of his poetry chronicles his drinking and degenerate life-style. One of his few novels ‘Barfly’ was made into a movie. He died of leukemia March 9, 1994.
Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have a feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now. - Bukowski
Born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway was an American war journalist, who went on to write many novels with a distinctive writing style. Affectionately known as ‘Papa’, his novels include, ‘The old man and The Sea’, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, ‘The Sun Also Rises’, and ‘A Farwell to Arms’. Papa’s drinking exploits are legendary.
In Papa’s final years, he broke down mentally, and despite help from doctors, blew out his brains with his favorite shotgun. He died July 2, 1961.
Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy. - Hemingway