Monday, January 9, 2012

Writers Gone Wild

Ernest Hemingway isn’t the only writer featured in Writers Gone Wild, but he is one of the best known.

Lets face it, writers are a scurvy bunch who like: boys and tobacco (Marlowe, allegedly); alcohol (Hemingway, Faulkner, Chandler, Thomas, etc.); drugs (Aldous Huxley, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Rimbaud, etc.); women (Henry Miller, Hemingway, Boswell, etc.); they associate with prostitutes (Henry Miller, Eugene O’Neill, Boswell, Dashiell Hammet), and they have all of the human vices in ample abundance. A scurvy lot indeed, but at least they’re not lawyers.

Bill Peschel confines himself to writers from the late 17th century on, although he does mention Ben Jonson and Shakespeare. Writers such as François Villon, a thief, or Tasso, a bit of a loon, or Chaucer or Boccaccio all escape unscathed.

So what you have is a collection of anecdotes, most of them humorous about a variety of writers. We learn about Hemingway’s battles with soon-to-be ex-wives, and other writers; Dr. Johnson’s possible dalliance with his landlady; Byron’s lust for just about anything on two legs, and Shelley’s somewhat nutty politics and religion.

The funniest anecdote, and unfortunately one that is blasphemous and obscene, but outrageously funny, is given early on (pages 15-16) and involves Charles Sedley, someone, gentle reader, that most of us have probably never heard of. I know I hadn’t until I came across him here.

Next up will be six tragedies by Seneca, followed by some comments about the Kindle I got for Christmas.