Reading, writing and drinking — ‘A Sidecar Named Desire’ offers the perfect trio

The holiday season started with a cup of cheer.

Then there was a sip of wassail, some mistletoe and wine, and rummy-tum-tum along the way. It’ll likely end with a cup of kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne and a pretty nice headache. The only thing left to do, then, as in the new book “A Sidecar Named Desire” by Greg Clarke and Monte Beauchamp, is to write about it.

Imagine the surprise felt by one of our ancient ancestors who put a few grapes aside for a snack later. She must’ve been angry at first — and then pleasantly surprised.

Her discovery, and those that came after her, have been decried by “temperance zealots” throughout the years; Prohibition was a big thing and abstinence is promoted even now. And yet, say Clarke and Beauchamp, “considerable” evidence points to a tie between drinking and “great writing.”

Ancient Roman poets loved their wine, for instance, and Shakespeare was a big fan. Thomas Jefferson ordered cases and cases of it on a visit to France, and author Roald Dahl not only drank it, but he wrote a short story about wine, too.

Beer was once used in lieu of a paycheck in ancient Egypt, but Greeks and Romans claimed that beer was “inferior” to wine. Even so, say the authors, Jack London loved his suds and Jane Austen made beer using a common ingredient available in her back yard. Norman Mailer claimed to “need” a beer every afternoon.

If you’ve ever wondered which came first, author Michael Veach says bourbon’s name came from Bourbon Street. Langston Hughes was said to have love a glass of it, and William Faulkner listed whiskey as one of his writing tools. Gin and tonic seems to have been a P.G. Wodehouse creation. E.B. White had a martini when suffering from writer’s block and Ian Fleming “inadvertently” helped vodka sales with James Bond’s martini instructions. Among other things, Hemingway loved Bloody Marys, Kerouac enjoyed margaritas, Steven King once said that alcohol use made for a “better writer,” and Hunter S. Thompson drank (mostly) bourbon and scotch. And Tolstoy?

Nope, he was a teetotaler.

A roaring fire, a glass of wine, and a good book. Is there a better trio? When the book is “A Sidecar Named Desire,” the answer is an emphatic “no.”

In beginning each chapter with a history of the proceeding alcohol at hand, authors Greg Clarke and Monte Beauchamp peek into the glasses of writers from antiquity to modern-day, literature to light reading. These are tasty sip-at-leisure chapters, more continuous sidebar than paragraphical, and perfect for browsing or a quick dip made possible by drawings that indicate a jigger of lightheartedness is shaken, not stirred in. And if you really like to get involved in your reading and want the full experience, there are recipes to try. Salud!

Imbibers and abstainers alike will love learning about their favorite writers in “A Sidecar Named Desire,” so have a little serving. Auld acquaintance may’ve been “forgot” but this is a book you won’t.

More in Life

Bacon is prepared on a fire pit, June 19, 2020, in the Copper River Valley, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Eating from fire

My attitude toward camp cooking is that you can eat pretty much anything you would eat at home.

Irene Lampe dances a robe for its First Dance ceremony at the Sealaska Heritage Institute on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Courtesy photo | Annie Bartholomew)
Weavers celebrate new robe with first dance

The event is part of a resurgent trend for traditional weaving.

Kalifornsky Kitchen: Summer traditions

Over the years, a paella feed has marked momentous occasions, like moving or birthday parties.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Looking in the rearview mirror

I stepped through a time warp last week.

Concert on Your Lawn revives spirit of KBBI festival

The concert came about after the pandemic forced KBBI to cancel a planned Solstice weekend concert.

Minister’s Message: Finding hope in dark times

A life lived without hope is like a life lived without love.

Morel pasta is enjoyed outside on May 19, 2019, near Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kalifornsky Kitchen: Morels all the ways

When the Swan Lake Fire started, we knew we had an opportunity to get even more morels.

This portrait—one of few that Richard Shackelford reportedly allowed to be published—graced the 1909 commencement booklet for the California Polytechnic School, of which he was the president of the Board of Trustees. (Photo courtesy Clark Fair)
A tale of Two Shacklefords, in a way — part three

Untangling the origins of Shackleford Creek’s name.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: It’s all in the game

It’s amazing what a deck of cards or a set of dice can teach a young person.

Kachemak Cuisine: Find comfort in hard times by cooking good food

The first tastes of spring for me are rhubarb, fresh-caught fish from Kachemak Bay and chives.

Fiddlehead ferns shooting up from the ground, on May 24 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Foraging for fiddleheads

Springtime in Alaska is the beginning of foraging season for me.