MAGNIFICENT OBSESSIVES

Drinking played a huge part in “Papa” Hemingway’s life — and death.  But while Hemingway biographies have become a cottage industry over the years, no Hemingway scholar has seen fit to write a book on the subject (although Tom Dardis devoted a chapter to Papa’s binges in his classic 1991 treatise on alcoholic writers, The Thirsty Muse).

Now Philip Greene, a co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans, has filled this void with his entertaining book To Have and Have Another:  A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.  Even if your youthful ardor for Papa’s quien es mas macho work has dimmed over the years (as ours has), you have to admire Philip’s obsessive thoroughness.  After over two decades of research, he’s come up with recipes and backstory not only for every cocktail that Hemingway’s fictional characters ever drank, but also Hemingway himself.  No small feat, considering that Papa approached drinking the same way he approached boxing:  as a competitive sport, with the winner the last man standing.

Hemingway also fancied himself something of a mixologist, and Philip doesn’t miss a beat here either.  He’s even tracked down an original tropical drink by Papa, the Tomini, which the novelist fashioned from coconuts and limes growing in the back yard of his Key West home.  (Recipe:  2 ounces gin, 4 ounces fresh coconut water, juice of one lime, and Angostura bitters to taste, shaken with ice.)

Papa killed himself with a rifle blast to the head 51 years ago.  He was a better shot than the movie industry, which shot itself in the head over 30 years ago, but is still with us:  brain-dead, incapable of meaningful work, but obstinately clinging to a culturally irrelevant existence.  Which brings us to another book by and for obsessives.

The movie industry’s self-inflicted wound was Jaws — a good film, but one which made so much money that Hollywood’s corporate overlords decreed that thenceforth all movies would take after the titular shark of Spielberg’s blockbuster:  they would become relentless marketing machines that chased not intelligent adult audiences but their own tails, “miring every multiplex in spectral repetitions of former success,” as Joshua Cohen put it in a recent issue of Harper’s magazine, “franchises with recurring casts acting out recursive plots; sequels becoming threequels; do-overs; reenactments.”

What’s an alienated aesthete to do?  Just as Papaphiles now have Philip’s handbook, cinephiles now have the American Library Association’s Queue Tips:  Discovering Your Next Great Movie.  Chicago-based critic Rob Christopher asked ten writers from different disciplines for lists of their pet films to rent or stream.  (Rob himself contributes the best lists, including “Nine Westerns That Aren’t Westerns” and “Flops That Aren’t Actually Half Bad.”)  The resulting syllabus is heavy on the work of late lamented visual artists who wouldn’t stand a chance of getting their now classic films made today (Welles, Penn, Tarkovsky), as well as recent titles by the few contemporary American filmmakers (Malick, Lynch) who still joust at the windmills of Hollywood, Inc., stubbornly refusing to let go of the now downright quaint notion that movies are not just market-driven digital content, but an art form.

All well and good, you say, but what’s Queue Tips doing in a blog about Tiki drinks?  As it happens, the Beachbum penned one of the book’s lists, “Tropical Cocktails at the Movies,” an expanded version of his 2008 Grog Blog post.

And speaking of tropical cocktails:  apparently they’re not just for rum anymore.  Of all things, a Tiki moonshine recipe appears in this month’s Whisky Advocate magazine.  What Philip Greene is to Hemingwayiana and Rob Christopher to movie trivia, Matthew Rowley is to white dog.  In 2007 he wrote the definitive book on the subject (Moonshine!:  Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers * How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin’ the Law * Recoverin’ the Next Day), but five years later he’s still on a quest to quaff the spirit wherever it’s found, from illegal hillbilly stills to high-end boutique hipster distilleries — all of which he explores in his Advocate article “It’s a Nice Day For a White Whiskey.”  You can download a PDF of the piece over at his Rowley’s Whiskey Forge blog.

TO HAVE AND HAVE ANOTHER

QUEUE TIPS

MOONSHINE

 

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