160 Following


Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking - Olivia Laing

You can read my full review of this book, published in the National Post,  by clicking here:



Here's a taste:


The British writer and critic Olivia Laing’s 2011 book, To The River, begins: “I am haunted by waters. It may be that I’m too dry in myself . . .”  In that book, Laing walked the Ouse River hoping to discover why Virginia Woolf killed herself there. She says, “It wasn’t morbidity that drove me to that dangerous place, but rather the pleasure of abandoning myself to something vastly beyond my control.”


In The Trip to Echo Spring Laing reveals that between the ages of eight and eleven she "lived in a house under the rule of alcohol.” The effects stayed with her ever after. She also explains her reasons for writing this book: “I wanted to discover how each of these men – and, along the way, some of the many others who’d suffered from the disease – experienced and thought about their addiction. If anything, it was an expression of my faith in literature, and its power to map the more difficult regions of human experience and knowledge.” She continues, “I hoped I might come closer to understanding what alcohol addiction means, or at least to finding out what those who struggled with and were sometimes destroyed by it through alcohol had meant for them.”


She casts her eye on six alcoholic writers: John Berryman, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. The title is taken from a line from Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Brick, the drunk, when asked by his father, Big Daddy, “Where you goin’,” replies, “I’m takin’ a little short trip to Echo Spring.” By this he means he’s off to the liquor cabinet, named "Echo Spring" after his favorite brand of bourbon. It’s a neat twist, considering that part of the book describes Laing’s own trip, her pilgrimage, to the haunts of these writers: New York City, Connecticut, New Orleans, Key West, Seattle, and the rivers, the trout streams, the oceans and other waterways that flow through these writers’ lives, deaths, and prose, including the bridge over the Mississippi in Minneapolis from which John Berryman leaped to his death.


Again, Laing is haunted by waters.


More on the National Post's site.