Friday, December 01, 2006

Books for drunks

Five novels for your inner drunk, among which is Hangover Square, by my latest passion, Patrick Hamilton:

Hamilton — who, until a recent revival in which his vicious streak of black humor and sometimes-astonishing gift for disturbing imagery was discovered by a new generation of critics, was best known for providing Alfred Hitchcock with the raw material for Rope — tells the story of the perfectly named George Harvey Bone, a schizophrenic good-for-nothing who drowns out the “dead moods” inside his skull by constant drinking. Bone doesn’t have a job; he has a career that largely consists of talking about all the things he could do if he wasn’t drunk. He doesn’t have friends; he has, like most alcoholics, a bunch of people he drinks with and who can’t stand him the minute they sober up. And he doesn’t have a girlfriend; he has an actress he’s obsessed with and who loathes him, and who will meet a grisly but unforgettable fate, burning up among Hamilton’s beloved London lowlifes in an eerie foreshadowing of the nightmarish days to come (Hangover Square was begun in 1939 and completed in 1941). The descriptions of Bone and his contemptible ’friends’ careering aimlessly from pub to pub are among the truest in all of drunk fiction.

Doesn't that just sound like the best?

I haven't acquired this book yet, but, having read two and a half Hamilton books and with two and a half more on my shelf ready to go, I consider myself something of an expert, and I can tell you that in Hamilton's books, people go to bars, or round to the pub, and it's never a happy experience, though it may sometimes be vaguely satisfying, and you watch the drinks perform their transformations, loosening people's tongues or quickening their tempers or dulling their good sense, and it is an achingly real reading experience. Thank you, Mr Hamilton, for being the observant drunk you were.

Also on the list, Crime and Punishment. Missing from the list, Under the Volcano, although frankly, I don't really remember what it's about, just the feeling of having drunk too much and going about in a stupor. (Link via Ed.)


kimbofo said...

I have Hangover Square in my TBR list. From what I can gather, Hamilton captures London pub life exquisitely. I am a London pub monster, by which I mean I spend half my life in London pubs. (I design pub crawls in my spare time!) I can't wait to read this book.

rachel said...

I know it's a play, but "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" had me feeling like I'd been up all night, drinking and fighting.