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Summary

Olivia Laing's widely acclaimed account of why some of the best literature has been created by writers in the grip of alcoholism

In The Trip to Echo Spring, Olivia Laing examines the link between creativity and alcohol through the work and lives of six of America's finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. 

All six of these men were alcoholics, and the subject of drinking surfaces in some of their finest work, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to A Moveable Feast. Often, they did their drinking together: Hemingway and Fitzgerald ricocheting through the cafes of Paris in the 1920s; Carver and Cheever speeding to the liquor store in Iowa in the icy winter of 1973. 

Olivia Laing grew up in an alcoholic family herself. One spring, wanting to make sense of this ferocious, entangling disease, she took a journey across America that plunged her into the heart of these overlapping lives. As she travels from Cheever's New York to Williams' New Orleans, and from Hemingway's Key West to Carver's Port Angeles, she pieces together a topographical map of alcoholism, from the horrors of addiction to the miraculous possibilities of recovery. Beautiful, captivating, and original, The Trip to Echo Spring strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to reveal the terrible price creativity can exert.

©2019 Olivia Laing (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Trip to Echo Spring

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Auto-tune????

Fab book as one would expect from this author - but the narration?! What's going on? Sounds like it has been digitally 'processed' in some way. If it hasn't - the narrator should get a job in artificial intelligence.

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Fine book, great narration

Excellent book. Beautifully written. The lives of the writers discussed were often bleak, but the book is ultimately about recovery. These days I take comfort in reading about alcohol rather than drinking it.
Kate Reading does a superb job with the narration. She gets the perfect tone for the material.
My only quibble (and it would have been an editorial decision) is the Americanisation of the dates in the book. Olivia Laing is a British writer, but we hear "five June" rather than "the fifth of June".
I'm going to check out Olivia Laing's other books.
I also hope that Kate Reading gets to read more titles like this.

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  • Pamela Abbey
  • 25-04-21

Great Narration!!!!!! Great story about 20 Century make writer who suffer with alcoholism. If you like this topic and want more

If you love Williams, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, writers etc. and want to gain more insight into them and their struggles. Her voice is soothing, with a peaceful English accent, reading with great interest. WHY DO SO MANY AUDIO BOOKS have NARRATORS , that 100 PERCENT COMPLETELY DESTROY MAGNIFICENT LITERATURE, so much so you cannot listen for more than a minute or LESS?!!!!!!!!
I do not understand this!!!!!
Is it done on purpose? It certainly seems so.
About 10 percent have excellent narrative skills.
I wonder if anyone else feels this way?

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  • julie
  • 16-11-21

Great listen!

This was a great listen!! I much enjoyed traveling with the author, hearing her story, and learning about the struggles of some incredible authors. I appreciate that Laing didn't glamorize the union of writing and alcoholism, but instead presented each life experience (including her own) as a confluence of writing and drinking that simultaneously formed the writers and informed their writing. Alcoholism is devastating on many levels, and Laing handles every stratum with perfect prose. Well done!!

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  • catherine barbosa
  • 21-10-21

You will learn a lot

Of all the authors and their lives. Their experiences with alcohol and how everything around them is affected. The only thing is the book, due to the subject, is not the most off uplifting of the books. I am not sure if it is because I am the daughter of an alcoholic, and the memories sound familiar, but it is pretty sad. In another aspect, she had fantastic research, and she is an avid reader; her knowledge and impressions are well described
You feel like you are with the author on the train and in a continuous hope for someone to become sober, knowing that the majority never be.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-10-21

Writers as Drunks

Despite the widespread mythologizing of alcohol as some kind of fuel for the creative energies of many artists, alcohol as Laing superbly evokes with her portrait of six great American writers, was far more of a destructive factor than anything remotely positive. These great authors (Cheever, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Berryman, Carver) all famously struggled with a host of demons--alcohol though being the common one. But there's nothing glamorous or romantic about their struggle; alcohol just reduced them physically, morally, emotionally, and even creatively. To those who jibe that they wouldn't have been great artists without their demons I would counter that perhaps they could have reached greater heights as artists but more--is the price of great art worth the ruination?

I am glad that we still have these great works of literature. They do make the journey toward oblivion more bearable after all. I am just sad to learn about the toll that alcohol took from these men.

And that this story was limited to six white men is one of my only gripes. Those these six were giants, I think that broadening the study by looking at a more diverse sample could have only enriched what is already an interesting if depressing study.

Lastly, I love Kate Reading's reading of this book. Her voice is elegant and soothing. I'm not sure what some readers who have bashed her reading of this book heard unless they just had a bad download or are listening to it at too fast or too slow a speed (I listened to it at 1.25 speed and it was perfect).