When Novelists Sober Up

In the Summer of 2009, Tom Shone wrote an article for The Intelligent Life on how sobering up has affected some of the Western world’s greatest novelists. He discusses great novelists like John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Charles Bukowski. Shone’s theory seems to be that getting sober tends to have a negative effect on the writer’s work most of the time. Here’s an excerpt:

Minimalists tend to do better than maximalists. Flinty and workmanlike seem to win the day. It is the self-proclaimed geniuses who suffer. Writers of long sentences seem to do worse than the writers of short ones—Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s endless clauses being the epitome of the drunken style. Comparing yourself to Tolstoy is a bad sign. (If it has to be a Russian, Chekhov is a much better bet.) Americans do much better than Brits. Americans from the north seem to do better than Americans from the South. Prose-writers fare better than poets.

Read the article here.

March 7, 2010


Thomas Prieto

Contributing Columnist

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