Sunday, November 27, 2005

Write First, Drink Later

I essentially went to Manila to comfort a friend who was having a birthday party by his lonesome. He was on his third beer when I met him. After we finished (four hours later), I texted about 40 messages of which only one (girl) came over for the remainder of that party. I was supposed to go back to Baguio (supposed to stop at Rosario, LaUnion) but, as usual, overshot or rather overslept and reached Candon. Ha ha ha. And now let's go to the Frank Cimatu Random Lecture on Writing on Drinking and Writing.

I, surprisingly, have my own rules on drinking.These are: 1) No drinking before sunset (which I realized was almost impossible in Los Angeles in summer when we have our drunk sessions with Rowland and his Korean friends because the sunset those times would come at 9 pm) 2) No drinking in front of my dogs 3) I don't write after I drink.

People, when confronted with the words "drinking" and "writing" will inevitably blurt out "Edgar Allan Poe" as if that's the only thing Poe was good at.

Writers are cautious over drinking and writing. One of my favorite novelists, John Irving, wrote: "You know what Lawrence said: "The novel is the highest example of subtle interrelatedness that man has discovered. I agree!And just consider what drinking does to "subtle interrelatedness." Forget "subtle"; "interrelatedness" is what makes novels work -- without it, you have no narrative momentum; you have incoherent rambling. Drunks ramble; so do books by drunks."

If you are drunk, you can not enunciate "subtle interrelatedness." My favorite Irving book is "Cider House Rules" which is not really about apple cider.

Madison Smartt Bell countered, "Drinking makes you loquacious; as we all know, and if what you've got for company is a piece of paper, then you're going to talk to it. Just try to enunciate, and try to make sense."

"A man's prose style is very responsive -- even a glass of sherry shows in the sentence," write John Cheever, who loved to drink.

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you," wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald.

There are no journalists I can get on defense. Maybe somewhere Hemingway had a defence for booze but I can't find it.

I remember during my UP Writer'sWorkshop when Eli Guieb wrote about friends drinking and one of the teachers shouted,"In vino veritas." When I first mingled with the older Baguio journalists, I meant the ones that really mattered, I heard that phrase too many times. In wine there is truth. But all they drink is gin and I don't drink gin.

Most journalists get their stories by drinking with their sources. Or rather a source would call them for a beer and the truth or their version of it would come out. Sometimes the Baguio journalist would be so emboldened by drink that he would then argue with the source. As a result, no story. The wiser source would just sponsor a round of beer (or rather, rounds) and not talk.

I would rather believe that journalists drink because of the stories they handle. Violence. Crime. Politicians lying. People getting hungry and desperate. They feel the world slipping from them. They see their idealism taken over by cynicism. And their cynicism turning into "sinisisi" or "blaming."

Richard Rhodes wrote, "writers who use alcohol to shut themselves down at the end of the daay risk hangover or worse, heavy drinking damages short term memory-- exactly the kind of memory you need to juggle words and sentences and evoke associations as you write."

We are back to Irving's subtle interrelatedness again. What Rhode meant was that what's worse than a drunk writer writing is writing with a hangover. Ha ha ha. Where was I? Oh Candon.

The reason I don't drink with my dogs


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