Books and memoirs allow us to live vicariously through characters’ glamorous lives and impossible opportunities—and in many case, that means the kind of exhilarating parties we can only dream of. From Jay Gatsby to Chelsea Handler, these characters and narrators live the high life. But on the flipside, these stories serve as cautionary tales for when the revelry turns reckless, ending in disillusionment or even death. Meet books’ biggest party animals.
West Egg’s most gossiped-about bachelor isn’t just the life of the party, heis the party. In order to attain the wealth, renown, and woman he yearns for, James Gatz reinvents himself as the charismatic, mysterious Jay Gatsby—and throws lavish parties solely for the purpose of drawing in his old flame Daisy Buchanan. What Gatsby learns, however, is that even the richest fêtes can’t bring him any closer to that glowing green light across the water. What’s more, his willingness to open his house to all strangers invites more trouble than he’s prepared to handle.
The comedienne and Chelsea Lately host’s second book is a collection of mostly autobiographical essays spanning from her teenage misadventures to the kinds of wild partying stories most people would be too shamefaced to admit to. Vodka, a desire to get laid, and her own overconfidence thrust Handler into a number of ridiculous situations, while we get to sit back, breathe out, “Holy crap!” and find out what happens next.
Clay and Trent
Bret Easton Ellis published his debut novel Less Than Zero when he was 21. The fact that he was still in college cements his closeness to the hard-partying characters in this work and his next book, The Rules of Attraction.Less Than Zero tracks rich college student Clay as he spends winter break in LA, only to fall back into his friends’ debaucherous and dangerous lifestyle. During that break, Clay becomes increasingly disillusioned with the party scene as he witnesses his friends’ apathy toward heroin use, snuff films, and even rape.
I contemplated several of Shakespeare‘s human partiers—Falstaff, Toby Belch—before deciding that the biggest rabble-rouser had to be a supernatural being. Fairy Puck makes his first appearance sprinkling a love potion over four sleeping humans in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but we’ve seen this mischief-maker reappear in various adaptations and other fictional works… and he always brings the party with him.
Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf
Every other chapter of Cecily von Ziegesar‘s satirical series features its privileged Upper East Side teens attending—or, more often, throwing—all manner of ridiculously opulent bashes. In fact, most of the series’ most important plot points occur at a party, whether it’s Serena stealing the spotlight from Blair, Little J’s latest social-ladder-climbing scheme, or the ongoing mystery of Gossip Girl’s true identity.
Say what you will about the reprehensible anecdotes within Tucker Max‘s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell—he’s a great storyteller, and inarguably the real-life king of partying. Who else can claim the dubious honor of raising hell at a college tailgate party, a charity auction, Las Vegas, a road trip, and really any venue imaginable? Even though you’ll want to slap the shit-eating grin off his face, your hand will be too busy turning to the next debaucherous story.
Hawkeye and Trapper
The surgeons of the 4077th MASH are perhaps the best embodiment of the “work hard, play hard” theory: They ensure that they’re such brilliant surgeons while on-duty so that they can get away with all manner of carousing and prank wars when they’re not stitching people back together. No surprise, it works remarkably throughout the original novel, film, and beloved TV series. See? Some partiers know how to balance it all out.