Monday, October 4, 2010

Garrett Peck

From Debra Eckerling's Q & A with Garrett Peck, author of The Prohibition Hangover:

How did The Prohibition Hangover come about?

I had this moment of epiphany at Christmas 2003. … I was at my grandmother’s house in Scottsdale, and had brought a really nice bottle of Burgundy to share with Christmas dinner. Three generations sat at the table: my grandmother, my mom, and me. When I opened the wine, my grandmother got a bit snooty about the fact that she didn’t drink; my mom and I are social drinkers, and we both collect wine.

My grandmother (born in 1913) was part of a generation that stigmatized alcohol use. Those values of temperance weren’t passed on; hence both my mom and I drink. I thought, “Wow, that’s quite a shift in society!” We went from a country that stigmatized alcohol to the extent that we changed the Constitution (and then changed it back after Prohibition turned out to be a disaster), and here we are today where two-thirds of adults drink. The stigma against alcohol is largely gone.

At that moment, the idea came to me, and I knew I wanted to write about it.

* * *
Why this topic? This format?

I wanted to try something that no one else had ever done, which was to explore how Americans became a drinking nation again in the 76 years after Prohibition. The last really seminal work on Americans and alcohol was published in 1979 by William Rorabaugh. It was called The Alcoholic Republic, and it explored the roots of the temperance movement in the early 1800s. But the period after Repeal was completely unchartered waters! And that’s where I dove in.

While I do have a short chronology at the beginning of the book to tell how we got into the mess of Prohibition – and how we got out of it nearly 14 years later—I quickly realized that the story needed to be told thematically, rather than chronologically. Each chapter is a standalone theme. For example, I address how the craft beer market has come bubbling up, why Sideways is the best movie about wine ever made, what churches say about alcohol today, and I capped it all with a chapter on underage drinking, which is part of a huge national discussion right now. Ultimately I concluded that the US should lower the drinking age to 18 as a way to combat binge drinking among young adults. I suspect this will be controversial.
Read the complete interview.

Learn more about the book and author at Garrett Peck's website.

Garrett Peck's best books about Prohibition.

Writers Read: Garrett Peck.

The Page 99 Test: The Prohibition Hangover.

--Marshal Zeringue