Megan Abbott is the Edgar award-winning author of the novels Dare Me, The End of Everything, Bury Me Deep, Queenpin, The Song Is You and Die a Little. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books and The Guardian. She can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Megan Abbott: I can’t pinpoint the exact age but, as with most of my generation, I am sure it was Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers. They must have been solely designed for suburban teenage girls in the suburbs killing time at the 7-11 parking lot.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
As a child, my parents rarely drank, but my grandparents, whom I considered very sophisticated, were drinkers in the old style. I loved the way cocktails structured their Saturday nights: A drink at their apartment—usually VO; a drink at the restaurant before even opening their menus; a drink during dinner; and, some nights, a tiny glass of crème de menthe back at the apartment. It was all very elegant, and it reminded me of old Cary Grant and Irene Dunne movies. At age seven, with my Shirley Temple, I loved observing it and couldn’t wait to grow up and be a part of it. Now, more than grown up, I realize I would never, ever be able to keep up with them in their prime.
What’s your drink of choice? Why?
In practice, beer. And I’m no beer snob, probably to a fault. If I’m at a game, or at a divey bar, I’m happy with Budweiser. I like Schlitz in a can.
In the realm of the ideal, though, my drink of choice will always be a gimlet, in honor of my greatest literary inspiration, Raymond Chandler. In The Long Goodbye, there’s a famous passage about the making of a proper gimlet (half gin, half Rose’s lime juice, nothing else). I read that at age 22 and it became my model of an adult cocktail.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
My 21st birthday. A biker bar in Detroit, a karaoke machine and a bar-wide rendition of “You’re So Vain.” A strong second would be visiting the Guinness factory in Dublin with my dad and brother. It was ten o’clock in the morning and we were hammered. We had to take naps after.
What about the worst time?
Let’s just say it was during college and it involved El Toro tequila, the bottles with little red hats. I still can’t look at tequila, or red hats.
My favorite movie drinking scene is Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story, both deliriously drunk and unleashed. Skinny dipping. It’s one of the few movie scenes to capture the exhilaration of being drunk with someone you’re drawn to. That gradual process of both parties moving closer and closer together. As the champagne flows, that delicious anticipation: what will happen? Is something going to happen?
Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?
We live in such a recovery culture, I feel like there’s no way to answer this without sounding like a boozehound. The honest answer is I drink because it fleetingly takes some of the hard edges off the world. I’m not someone who’s likely to have a serious cocktail (one martini is all right and a thousand is not enough), but some days, I just know one cold bottle of beer will really solve everything. To quote Homer Simpson, there are days I think, “I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
Whatever Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are drinking. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Photo by Drew Reilly