Biography & Memoir / December 05, 2014
"There have been many books and articles that revel in describing exactly how grotesque and shameful the behaviour of alcoholic writers can be. That wasn't my intention. What I wanted was to discover how each of these men — and, along the way, some of the many others who'd suffered from the disease — experienced and thought about their addiction. If anything, it was an expression of my faith in literature and its power to map the more difficult regions of human experience and knowledge."
Olivia Laing, The Trip to Echo Spring
As I spend almost every day with books and authors, I think I’m probably predisposed to find stories about writers and alcohol fascinating—it rather comes with the territory. But you don’t have to work in publishing to be hooked by The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing, you just have to love great writing.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver were some of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. They were friends, allies, students, mentors and inspirations. They were also alcoholics. Booze defined their work and their everyday lives.
In The Trip to Echo Spring, Laing—who grew up in an alcoholic family herself—tries to get to grips with these men and their troubled relationship with alcohol by visiting the places they were closely associated with. As she criss-crosses the United States, slowly connecting the dots between them, it becomes a quest of sorts:
“I thought it might be possible to build a kind of topographical map of alcoholism, tracing its developing contours from the pleasures of intoxication through the gruelling realities of the drying-out process. As I worked across the country, passing back and forth between books and lives, I hoped I might come closer to understanding what alcohol addiction means, or at least to finding out what those who struggled with and were sometimes destroyed by it thought alcohol had meant to them.”
The result is a lyrical and introspective attempt to better understand these writers, and an poignant examination of addiction's parasitic connection to creativity—how is that alcohol can inspire writers even as it gnaws away at them? There are no easy answers here. But reading Laing's book is like floating slowly down a meandering river. It's best if you just let yourself be carried along.
(PS: if you’re curious about the title, it comes from a line in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. ‘Echo Spring’ is a nickname for a liquor cabinet.)
Biography & Memoir / December 17, 2013
In her forthcoming book The Trip to Echo Spring (published later this month by Picador), Olivia Laing examines the link between writing and drinking through the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver.
All six of these writers were alcoholics and not only did they drink together, the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work.
Having grown up in an alcoholic family herself, Laing travelled from Cheever's New York to Williams's New Orleans, and from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, trying to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, and to unravel the high price of creativity:
DIVINE VINTAGE Book Launch
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Toronto School of Theology
47 Queen's Park Crescent East Time: 4:30 p.m.
Board Room 1
With thanks to IWEG (Independent Wine Education Guild)
Download invitation (PDF)
Travel / April 18, 2012
It's always fun to see the interesting ways that Lonely Planet is expanding into the app marketplace. Their offline translation apps are some of the niftier apps I've ever heard of—real-time translation on the go in the foreign country? The future is here, people!
Lonely Planet is now launching a series of new country guide apps, available as stand-alones and within the Lonely Planet Travel Guides app. Speaking as someone who's lugged her heavy Lonely Planet Ireland halfway across the country and back, I couldn't be more excited about this expansion.
Check it out in the app store!
The street is where you'll find the heart of a cuisine and a culture—somewhere among the taco carts and noodle stalls, the scent of wood fires and the hubbub of fellow diners. It's the most democratic food in the world, gratifying and completely delicious!
Travel / January 26, 2012
One of the things I like about working in the publishing industry is the long lead times: in an age of 24-hour newscasts and instantaneous gratification, publishers are unique in producing reflective, sustained, intelligent coverage of hot button issues.
But the glacial pace of traditional publishing has its drawbacks—I remember working on a book once that took a decade to move from conception to printing—and of course this is particularly problematic in travel publishing.
Case in point: Lonely Planet's 16th edition of the New Zealand travel guide is due to be published in September, but because it was written before last February's earthquake, the current edition is of limited use on the ground.
So this week Lonely Planet is releasing a free download of the Christchurch chapter on its website. The chapter, researched by Brett Atkinson in December, is the first Christchurch guide to be released since the earthquake, and Lonely Planet is taking the unusual step of making it available eight months ahead of the guide's official release.
Kudos to Lonely Planet for being nimble enough to get the most up-to-date post-quake travel information out to travellers as quickly as possible!
Any Canadian travellers planning a trip to New Zealand can find out more about the book here.
Travel / December 22, 2011
Favourite book of the year for me? It’s not cheating to take a paperback edition of a previous fave-of-the-year, but people will chirp so I’ll needlessly defend my choice by saying it’s packed with more incredible photographs, more solid content, and more countries…? No, not more countries, had them all last time and still does; Lonely Planet’s Travel Book 2nd edition in paperback is still my pick of the year.
Being in sales I really love the numbers this beauty puts up in any edition, but it does so because it is epic and people immediately grasp that when they see it, and don’t want their coffee tables to look super lame so they buy it in droves. Lonely Planet is a truly inspiring company, and The Travel Book is distilled travel inspiration. Tony Wheeler — the indomitable founder of Lonely Planet — sums this book up nicely: “It just reminds me how much of the world there is still to see” — That's Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet founder, 145 countries visited and counting ...
There is so much of the world to see, and I like to be reminded every time I pick this book up that I need to get out there and see more of it. It really is THE travel book.
Peace, I’m outta here.
PS: I’d also like to quickly remind anyone who hasn’t read Shantaram written by Gregory David Roberts and published by St. Martin’s to do so post-haste. It has fought off a lot of great fiction to stay in my top 10 for years. It’s an excellent read — if you like stories you’ll love it.
Graphica / November 14, 2011
We have our Spring 2012 sales conference later this month and details of all our new books are flooding in.
There are lots of great titles, but as a comics guy, I was particularly excited to see a new book from Guy Delisle, author of Shenzhen, Pyongyang and The Burma Chronicles. Due to be published in April next year, the new book – also a travelogue and apparently his longest work yet – is about his time in Jerusalem.
Drawn and Quarterly have just posted a preview of the book and it looks fascinating:
There are more pages on the D+Q blog.
D+Q also revealed that there is a short documentary film about Guy coming out soon. I love watching artists at work, so I can't wait to see it in full.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City will be available in April 2012, and is available for pre-order from Chapters-Indigo, Amazon, and your local independent bookstore.
There was lots of excitement in the office last Friday over some big news from Lonely Planet: in celebration of World Tourism Day, Lonely Planet is announcing a new partnership with the United Nations to provide information for first responders in humanitarian emergencies. Staff from UN agencies deployed in the event of a disaster will be able to use Lonely Planet’s information to help them familiarize themselves with the country before traveling.
"Lonely Planet's expert content makes it easier for humanitarian workers to hit the ground running in unfamiliar environments," said Gwi-Yeop Son, Director of Corporate Programmes at OCHA. "We value Lonely Planet's commitment to provide accurate and up-to-the-minute information for our teams on the ground."
“Lonely Planet’s mission is to provide trustworthy and informative content about a destination,” said John Boris, Executive Vice President of Lonely Planet Americas. “Our unique, in-depth information will empower the teams of humanitarian workers to learn quickly about the areas they are working in and the people they will be assisting.”
This is wonderful news, and a huge vote of confidence in the quality of Lonely Planet's information. Congrats to Lonely Planet!
You can read more about the partnership here.
This past week I’ve been on vacation in San Francisco, my first trip outside Canada in some time. Heading back to work this morning through familiar streets, armed with my cell phone, bus pass, and a steaming mug of home-brewed coffee, I was struck by the conveniences of being a local. The everyday practicalities of travel can be frustrating—tracking down wifi, finding a pay phone, dealing with public transit—all these small details of life which you wouldn’t give a second thought at home can become a big hassle in an unfamiliar city.
The perfect travel companion, Lonely Planet Offline Translator acts as your own personal translator, providing bespoke translations based on what the user has typed or spoken into the phone. Unlike other language translation apps, Lonely Planet Offline Translator is completely offline, which means it can be used anywhere with no data/roaming fees or connection delays.
Initially launching in eight languages, the app translates words, phrases or whole sentences into immediate audio or text translations. Designed specifically for travelers, the app utilizes over 40,000 words for its translations. It also features a completely searchable dictionary.
I love travel apps, and this one sounds pretty nifty—to my mind, this make much more sense than lugging around a heavy dictionary everywhere you go. What do you all think? Ever used the Lonely Planet apps abroad?
Happy travels everyone!