Alcohol: The Devil’s Deadly Disease

21 Oct

I know, I know.  This is my second consecutive non birthday/deathday post.  I’m sure you’re all incredibly upset.

It’s the first official day of fall break, and I’m still in Boone, like I always am.  Being a local, I don’t really have much of a reason to go anywhere else, which can be kind of depressing.  The nice thing is, though, that I don’t have to go anywhere on fall break, and all my old friends come here instead.  Same experience, less gas money.

Anyway, three or four of my friends came over last night and we played music (as we often do.)  One of my friends is incredibly talented, and has recently been spending all of his time learning old-time songs on banjo and playing with a bunch of old grizzled locals.  The thing is, though, that when he plays a song, he usually tells a story about whoever is most famous for recording that song/whoever did the recording he likes the best.

Right before we played “If the River Was Whiskey,” he talked about Charlie Poole (and more specifically, how he died): Charlie Poole and his band, the North Carolina Ramblers, were pretty much the name in country music in the mid 1920s.  But when the Depression hit in 1929, nobody was buying records anymore, for obvious reasons.  Charlie Poole was broke.

In 1931, Charlie Poole got a call from some people in Hollywood who wanted to fly him out to California to record the soundtrack for a movie.  Having been broke for two solid years, Charlie Poole decided to celebrate.

By going on a three month drinking bender.

For those three months, Charlie Poole was virtually always intoxicated.  Eventually, after Charlie hadn’t left his bed in days, his family took him to a doctor near where they lived in Spray, North Carolina.  Charlie died there on the doctor’s table.  He was 39.

So this, combined with the not-so-recent realization that most of my favorite/the most successful writers were alcoholics, got me thinking.  Hemingway drank all the time because he was so psychologically messed up, and eventually killed himself.  Fitzgerald, when he had really slowed down, drank a case of beer a day.  Kerouac gave himself cirrhosis.

Nine American writers have won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Of those nine, four were alcoholics (Hemingway, Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Eugene O’Neill) and a fifth was noted for being a very heavy drinker (Steinbeck.)

So what does this say about alcoholism?  About writers?  About, dare I say, geniuses?

I’ve got no idea.  But it’s pretty interesting.

-Bryan Etheridge
Prose Committee Chair

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