Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Recommended Reading: "Everyday Drinking" by Kingsley Amis

Everyday Drinking is a compilation of three out-of-print publications by Kingsley Amis, Kingsley Amis on Drink, Every Day Drinking, and How's Your Glass. Amis, who died in 1995, was an extremely funny and witty novelist who also wrote poetry, literary criticism, short stories, and essays. One of the first compilations of poetry I purchased as a young adult that wasn't dictated by an English Lit professor's reading list was The New Oxford Book of Light Verse, chosen and edited by Kingsley Amis. (It turns out that very funny things were being written in the 15th century).

Amis was a prolific author, and also a prolific consumer of alcoholic beverages. Christopher Hitchens writes in the book's introduction, "[T]he world now knows what Kingsley's innumerable friends had come to realize, which is that the booze got to him in the end, and robbed him of his wit and charm as well as his health." This is a hard reminder of the potential consequences of alcohol consumption, one that launches the book with a slightly sober (yes, that had to be said) tone. Soldier on, however, because Amis' clever writing will having you laughing shortly.

Amis sets down the principles for preparation of actual drinks and the tools required to assemble them. Advice is propounded on how not to get drunk, as well as how to cope with a hangover (in both its physical and metaphysical manifestations). He covers topics such as "the interesting and neglected topic of not drinking." And in the book's final section there is an extensive, and informative, quiz.

As a topic for an entire book, the subject of drinks can wear thin. Everyday Drinking, like booze itself, is best enjoyed in modest portions over time. Taken in measured amounts, this book is witty, fun, and offers some good laughs.