Today is April 16 and that means we’ll be mixing the Suffering Bastard today. It’s Sir Kingsley Amis’ birthday, which provides another entry in our columns celebrating literary giants and their vigorous drinking. Thus far they’ve been American, notably Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, but today we go across the pond to direct our attention to Sir Kingsley Amis. But first, one of his quotes:
“Now and then I become conscious of having the reputation of being one of the great drinkers, if not one of the great drunks, of our time”
Sir Kingsley Amis
Amis was born on April 16, 1922 as an only child to parents in London. His school career was unremarkable until a teacher introduced him to Shakespeare. It turns out that he found he liked it when he composed a poem of his own. He eventually won a scholarship to Oxford and started there in 1941. War rationing made all kinds of things scarce, but Amis somehow managed to find enough sherry to get drunk for the first time and ended the experience vomiting into a chamber pot.
Without money as a student he studied discarded bottles in the park as a guide to getting plastered at minimum cost. As a result, his idea of a good night out became three barley wines and a pint of rough cider for five shillings. This spirit continued later, as he wrote such things as “up to a point, go for quantity rather than quality”.
By 1942 Amis joined the army and ended up in Normandy. Nonetheless, it’s questionable whether he spent as much time looking for Nazis as he did looking for girls and booze. He found some of each in France, trading soap bars for Calvados, the apple brandy of the region. Upon his return to Oxford he fell in love with, married and started a family with Hilary Bardwell. Even if she did disappoint him in being “not nearly so depraved as I had hoped”. Since Amis described himself as “selfish, self-indulgent, lazy, arrogant and above all inextinguishably promiscuous by nature”. So it’s no surprise he kept a harem going on the side.
The Writing and the Hangovers
He eventually got his degree, but also publicly declared his dons had less dignity than a “procession of syphilitic, cancerous, necrophilic shit-bespattered lavatory attendants.” He was slightly kinder to J.R.R. Tolkien, who he merely called “Incoherent and often inaudible.” Pulling through, though, in 1954 he made a name for himself with his debut novel Lucky Jim. He was disciplined too: it seemed that no matter how squashed he was the prior evening he was always at his typewriter promptly each morning. He became prolific, writing more than 20 novels, seven or eight collections of poetry and 14 non-fiction works. Importantly, three of the non-fiction works were On Drink (1972), Everyday Drinking (1983) and How’s Your Glass (1984).
Unsurprisingly, he was sometimes known as the Laureate of Hangovers. As he wrote in Lucky Jim,
“Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done so once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”
Your correspondent first considered the Lucky Jim, his signature cocktail, for Drink of the Day. That drink, however, is simply a dry vodka martini with cucumber juice added. This proposal was immediately rejected by the Chief Protocol Officer who insisted the Suffering Bastard would be far more appropriate and palatable.
- Old Fashioned Glass
- Simply pour ingredients into ice filled glass and top with ginger ale.
- Rinse and repeat.
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