Friday, December 18, 2015

Susan Cheever

Susan Cheever's latest book is Drinking in America: Our Secret History.

From her Q & A with Deborah Kalb:

Q: You write of drinking, “It is our big solution and it is our big problem.” How has alcohol taken on this dual perception?

A: It’s always had a dual perception. One interesting thing about our history is that we have trouble telling the difference between drinking, which is so great, and drunkenness, which is so dreadful. The big question is, where is the line between drinking, which is so good, and drunkenness, which is so bad? It always has a dual meaning.

Q: You write in the book about the pendulum swinging back and forth throughout U.S. history when it comes to attitudes about drinking.

A: The pendulum goes one way in the 1830s, when everyone is cognizant of how much alcohol helps in [various] jobs…it goes the other way in the 1930s, when we pass a constitutional amendment outlawing it. One of the interesting things about the duality is that it’s one of the great goods and one of the great evils, in one thing.

Q: In the book, you note, “The terms alcoholism and alcoholic were not even coined until the 1840s.” How did those terms come into being, and how did perceptions change during that period?

A: I don’t know the etymology of the terms, but what happened in the 1840s, and began in the 1830s, was...[read on]
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--Marshal Zeringue