Most products promise to make the buyer more appealing. The cologne, shoes, suit, hair conditioner, eyelash extensions are – the hopeful buyer is assured – bound to make them more appealing and attractive. People will swoon, will become helpless, mere victims to the power and effect the bearer possesses from their shiny hair.
With this in mind, it is curious that a new Danish beer promises to make the creative juices flow sufficiently to write a book. The premise seems to be that by drinking the beer and achieving the ideal level of alcohol in the bloodstream the writing of a novel is somehow inevitable.
As an advertising promotion, this is unusual. Writing is occasionally celebrated; it might even be respected, but, as it is a solitary business, it does not have the same veneer of dash and charisma that attaches to a musician, or singer. The notion that a talent show might choose a writer, say a poet or a short story writer, is not probable. As it is, actors are presumed to create their own lines, when it suits them, or ‘improv’ which is perceived as a sign of magical alchemy, although that is far from being assured. This widespread misconception illustrates the place of writing.
Beer promotions tended to follow the same male stereotypes; or perhaps with craft beers, they focus on the aged secrets of making the brew with its distinctive taste, it’s special ingredients: the water and hops.
I have never come across a beer, or any other wine, or spirit, that claimed its use would make the drinker an artist. It’s true other forms of artistry have come from drinking several libations. Mostly though, any artistic efforts with a few drinks are often not very good when reviewed the next day.
Hemingway made the same point in his long running feud with Faulkner. It’s not likely Faulkner wrote under the influence, not at the desk anyway. Shelby Foote said he didn’t believe Faulkner was drunk when he wrote, and Hemingway’s remark may mean he was puzzled at reading sentences with dependent clauses, and could only attribute it to drunkenness in the writer.
The ideal amount of alcohol 0.75% it is said. Where the evidence is for this is not clear. Maybe there are journals of writers, Maupassant, for instance: “Had a few bocks, then a really good Sancerre, followed up with a few more bocks, then reached peak drunk and dipped my nib in the inkwell for a good sesh at the writing desk.” That would all be in French, évidemment. Sartre could really polish several bottles but it has to be said his prose got worse for it.
If novels are written under this level of alcohol it might be timely for publishers to declare it. This book was completed between February and November 1935 with three dry martinis every day. Writers know when they have a really strong piece of work inside them and also when its not working. If the chemistry is right, it might be that they are not taking in enough units. Sure, poets like Brendan Behan and Dylan Thomas went way over any allowable quota, but that’s poets. Novels are a marathon; it requires the same planning as each chapter and section. Overdo it one day and the pages are not going to come.
Should any books come from this beer there will be some groups expressing their disapproval. In this litigious and health conscious time we might see books labelled with health warnings: Please read this book responsibly. If your reading is not under control, seek the assistance of a professional.
23rd December 2014