Author(s): Olivia Laing
Shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award.Why were so many authors of the greatest works of literature consumed by alcoholism? In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing takes a journey across America, examining the links between creativity and drink in the work and lives of six extraordinary men: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. Beautiful, captivating and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.
One of the best reviewed books of 2013, also shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award, now available in paperback
Shortlisted for Costa Biography Award 2014.
* Olivia Laing's writing is beautifully modulated, her tone knowledgeable yet intimate. She can evoke a state of mind as gracefully as she evokes a landscape. The Trip to Echo Spring is a book for all writers or would-be writers. It's one of the best books I've read about the creative uses of adversity: frightening but perversely inspiring -- HILARY MANTEL * The Trip to Echo Spring is original, brave and very moving. Laing's way of looking at a natural world that is free from human faults repeatedly prompts something like the "spiritual awakening" AA attendees hope for. Her insights shine with beauty yet are shaded by sympathy and compassion Observer * Laing's analysis of the complex addiction is consistently shrewd. But what makes The Trip to Echo Spring truly worthwhile is that she, like those she writes about, is a terrific writer -- John Sutherland The Times * I loved The Trip to Echo Spring. It's a beautiful book that has stayed with me in a profound way -- NICK CAVE * Beguiling and incisive New York Times * Laing's prose is lucid and exuberant. She rejects the opportunities for humour, although some of the stories are very funny indeed; and traces rather than interrogates her subjects. She knows them intimately and the result is a thoughtful study, part literary biography, part travel memoir Financial Times * Beguiling, beautifully written... brilliant and original -- John Carey The Sunday Times * Laing is a brilliant wordsmith and this is a beautifully accomplished book -- Frances Spalding Independent * It's deliciously evocative, Laing's melancholic and lyrical style conjuring the location, before effortlessly segueing into medical facts about alcoholism, the effects on the lives of each writer, and well-chosen passages from their work. This is a highly accomplished book, and highly recommended The List * A triumphant exercise in creative reading in which diary entries, letters, poems, stories and plays are woven together to explore deep, interconnected themes of dependence, denial and self-destructiveness. It is a testimony to this book's compelling power that having finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again Scotland on Sunday * Laing is a fine and stylish travel writer, with a sharp eye for passing detail and an acute ear for oddly amusing conversations -- Gordon Bowker Independent: i & Radar * Laing's descriptions of the American landscape, as she travels south from New York to New Orleans and Key West, and then north up to St Paul and Port Angeles, are a joy to read. She has a keen eye for the details of American streets... She captures the discomfort of long train journeys... and evokes the smells and sounds of an unknown city. A thunderstorm is recorded in intimate detail; the snatched conversations of fellow travellers are threaded into her narrative... there is much to enjoy in this trip across America. In Ms Laing's hands these famously complicated men become fragile, and terribly human The Economist * Laing writes so well, so seductively in fact, that this deconstructed way of pursuing a story works brilliantly again London Evening Standard * Laing is often perceptive. She has a flair for elegant, cursive summaries of these various bodies of work and the shaping pressures of drink upon them Times Literary Supplement * A wonderful read GQ Magazine * In pages of great lyric beauty, Laing travels in the footsteps of Cheever and company across America from New York to New Orleans. At times the writing shows a Hemingway influence ('In Alabama the earth was red and there was wisteria in the trees'); at others, a demotic Raymond Carver cut ('The hell with it'). The book, a hybrid of travel and literary criticism, is always engaging to read, as it casts a humane eye on the accidents, illness, social impairment and other damage caused by drink to the poet Berryman in particular, whose outraged innards and pale, wayworn face showed the horror of his multi-day benders and the moaning after the night before Spectator * Laing makes us care about these writers' sufferings, the self-wreaked ravages on vital organs, the inexorable blackings-out of genius. But she makes us cherish even more what they left behind: literature soaked with "the power to map the more difficult regions of human experience" Independent on Sunday * The book's subtitle, Why Writers Drink, undersells Laing's achievement. She has produced not an answer to a glib question, but a nuanced portrait - via biography, memoir, analysis - of the urge of the hyperarticulate to get raving drunk... The book achieves its greatest force through Laing's mix of intellect and intuition, which often recalls the New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm New Statesman * Olivia Laing [is] a rising English critic who matches smart textual analysis of 20th-century greats with down-and-dirty ferreting around the places where they lived and worked... This is a superb idea, exceptionally well executed Metro * Why read it? For its intoxicating prose and maverick spirit Tatler * An elegant rumination on what it is that leads writers to take up the bottle London Review of Books * By turns uplifting, horrific, and desperately sad, this is a fascinating, lyrical and original approach to addiction Good Book Guide * Laing's lively, stylistically original and sometimes acutely personal study of writers and alcohol avoids literary cliche while coaxing out the subtext of their writings to show the causes and effects of addiction -- Books of the Year The Times * [A] charming and gusto-driven look at the alcoholic insanity of six famous writers ... There is much to learn from Laing's supple scholarship-and much to enjoy, too, in her obvious passion and engagement New York Times Book Review * Juicy and sensitive New York Times Magazine
Olivia Laing's first book, To the River, was described as 'sublime' by the Times, 'magical' by the Telegraph and 'deeply intelligent' by the Literary Review. It was a book of the year in the Evening Standard, Independent and Financial Times and was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year. The Trip to Echo Spring has been shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award and was also widely reviewed. Olivia is the former Deputy Books Editor of the Observer and writes for a variety of publications, including the Observer, New Statesman, Guardian and Times Literary Supplement. She's a 2011 MacDowell Fellow, and has received awards from the Arts Council and the Authors' Foundation.