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Top 10 Famous Literary Alcoholics

Posted on : 22-08-2010 | By : Big J | In : news

Tags: , , , ,


First off…

Alcoholism is not a joke.

We would never promote irresponsible drinking, but with all the media attention given to the celebrities entering rehab and getting DUI’s, I decided to do a few posts about famous alcoholics in different mediums.  Some became sober, some didn’t, but they all did great things.

So here we are…

The top 10 famous alcoholic writers:

hunter s thompson10. Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005): “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs, or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Most famous for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was later made into a movie starring Johnny Depp.  HST was brilliant in his own right and was the creator of Gonzo Journalism…which is a subjective first-person narrative.  And he made it exciting.  Every page is a ride. He was hilarious, he was smart, and he was a true original.

9. Norman Mailer (1923-2007):  “Drink has killed a lot of my brain cells and I think I would have been a better writer without it, but it would be one less way to relax.”

Along with Hunter, Mailer was was an innovator in narrative non-fiction.  Some loved him, some hated him.  He was wild, he was rude, he was brilliant…winning the Pulitzer Prize twice.  Check out a documentary film about his life here.

8. Truman Capote (1924-1984): “I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I’m homosexual. I’m a genius.”

His novels Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, are argued to have been written while on the sauce.

He made numerous attempts at sobriety and treatment but without any success.




7. Stephen King (1947-Present): “I work until beer o’clock.”

I had no idea.  Along with booze, he’s been addicted to cocaine and prescription meds.  You know him, he’s somehow written over 60 books, a handful of which have been made into major movies.

He admits in his memoir On Writing that he doesn’t even remember writing some of the novels he wrote in the 80’s and during that time he’d sometimes have to type with cotton balls stuffed up his nose so he didn’t bleed over his typewriter.


6. Jack Kerouac (1922-1969): “I’m Catholic and I can’t commit suicide, but I plan to drink myself to death.” – Which he did.

American novelist, poet and artist…he was considered a large influence to many greats, including Hunter S. Thompson and Bob Dylan.

He did literally drink himself to death.  After a short 47 years of life, he was rushed to the hospital with abdominal pains that were caused by cirrhosis, the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking.

5. William Faulkner (1897-1962): “Well, between scotch and nothing, I suppose I’d take scotch. It’s the nearest thing to good moonshine I can find.”

American novelist, film screenwriter and poet…winning the ’49 Nobel Prize for literature.

With a serious drinking problem his entire life, it is reported that he never wrote under the influence and that he didn’t see the booze as a creative influence.  He attempted to use the drink to escape the day-to-day pressures of life.

4. James Joyce (1882-1941): “The light music of whiskey falling into a glass – an agreeable interlude.”

Irish writer and poet, Joyce was most famous for his modernist novel Ulysses and it’s controversial successor Finnegans Wake.

So as well as being one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, he was a binge drinker and would often cause a few tussles in the local pubs.





3. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849): “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”

40 Years is all he had.  And in them he invented the genre of detective mysteries, but most people remember him solely from his poem The Raven.

Word is he was quite the lightweight, and would get pretty drunk off very little, but still took to it often enough.  He also had quite the suspicious death…and still remains a mystery but most believe it was due to alcoholism.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940): “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

Many consider him to be the greatest American novelist, his most prominent work being, of course, The Great Gatsby.

He began drinking in college, and would host the most elaborate parties where he would most often end up super intoxicated and do something to end up in the tabloids and news.




1. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961):   “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

Arguably the most famous of the bunch, he found pleasure in taking the piss out of his literary colleagues’ difficulties with the poison.  When Fitzgerald finally admitted that alcohol had bested him, Hemingway encouraged him to toss his “balls into the sea — if you have any balls left.”  His alcoholism continued to absolutely demolish his liver until his suicide in ’61.

For more information on alcoholism, please head to Alcoholism Help Online.

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Comments (7)

I have half the talent as a writer as any of these men, but I wouldn’t have traded places with any of them. Life is a talent, too. I ‘ll never feel cheated, lonely, or be pursued by whatever demons did these men in, and I consider that a fair trade.

Good point. Sometimes I wonder if some genius depends on some level of mental inhibition.

But like you said, at what cost?

Where’s Bukowski?

I knew I would hear it about Bukowski! Haha. And you’re right, he was great. Its tough to cut it off at ten. Who should he have replaced?

Others could have fit too…Tennessee Williams, O. Henry, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker…

Should have made the list 15.

It’s true, hard to replace any – but Bukowski belongs on that list because a large chunk of his writing – much larger than any of the others – is actually about drinking. The others drank like fish, but didn’t write about it so much.

I say you take off Steven King (whom I love) because alcohol culture never quite made it into his writing.

Cool piece though, fun to yak about.


yeah that’s a really good point. I’m gonna email you. Maybe we should do a piece on just Bukowski!

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