Witty and informative, if a tad dated.
British author Kingsley Amis was perhaps best known for his comedic novel Lucky Jimmade into a film in 1957, and a television film in 2003. He also won the 1986 Booker Prize for The Old Devils.
He was a prolific writer of novels, poetry, and random non-fiction, particularly around the subject of booze (something with which he was well acquainted!). In 2008, his drink writing was pulled together into an anthology, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis. This year, Bloomsbury has republished that edition.
This collection comprises three works: On Drink, Everyday Drinkingand How’s Your Glass?
On Drink consists of a series of short essays about various aspects of drinking, including such matters as how to mix cocktails, how to serve guests on-the-cheap, what tools of trade you need, how to understand the basics of wine, and what to do with a hangover. Daily Drinking collects writing from Amis’s regular newspaper column. How’s Your Glass It consists of a series of quizzes (and answers) on all manner of drink-related subjects. The whole is topped off with a lively introduction by Amis’s long-time friend, Christopher Hitchens.
Amis was a profound wit. And in this collection, that wit comes through loud and clear. What also comes through, however, is how much this writing has dated. Some of it is dated merely because the information contained therein is no longer correct or relevant: Japan now produces some of the world’s best whiskey, Australian wines are readily available in the UK, and nobody drinks Pina Coladas anymore (well … I do … but not in public). This is to be expected. One can skim over the out-dated info, and get into Amis’s immortal advice about the making of the martini, and the serving of punch. There is still plenty to learn from his encyclopediac knowledge of the Bacchic arts. But what can’t be skimmed over is the sexism, racism, and classism. One is tempted to be charitable about On Drink since it was first published in 1972; he was just a product of his time. But the other two books came out in 1983 and 84 respectively. Quite frankly, some of the attitudes he evokes are gob-smacking even for the ’80s.
However, one grits one’s teeth and enjoys the humor where one can.
Friends on the hangover:
“Immediately upon waking, start telling yourself how lucky you are to be feeling so bloody awful. This … recognizes … that if you do not feel bloody awful after a hefty night, then you are still drunk and must sober up in a waking state before hangover dawns.”
Amis on that rocket fuel called slivovitz:
“Great, but after two or three you can feel the lining of our stomach wearing thin.”
And Amis on wine snobs:
“When I find someone I respect writing about an edgy, nervous wine, that dithered in the glass, I cringe.”
A slightly dusty product of its times, as well as of its esteemed yet flawed author, Daily Drinking is still an informative, quaint, surprising, engaging, and very witty read.
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Distributed by: Bloomsbury
released: March 2022