There is something incredibly relaxing about sitting down with a book and enjoying a nice cold beer. The only thing better would be actually sitting down for a drink with the author who wrote it, or maybe even your favorite character. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we asked nine writers to share with us their ideal literary drinking buddy. Let us know in the comments which author or character you’d want to cheers with this year!
“I’d like to drink Manhattans—no more and no fewer than two—in Manhattan with Rosie, because she wrote a memoir about drinking by herself in bars, something I can’t make myself do. Because while I sit there, where do I look? At my phone? At the book I brought in as company? Why do I need a prop? I’ve always wanted to tend bar, fix drinks, look in on the drinkers. And I’ve always wanted to be a regular, to belong. Rosie is at ease on both sides of the rail. I’d like to sip my Maker’s Manhattan, rocks, and talk to her about the difference between being lonely and being alone.” —Pia Z. Ehrhardt, author of Famous Fathers and Other Stories
“Of all the literary characters I’ve come across, the one I’d most like to have a pint with is Ford Prefect from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. He combines charming curiosity about Earth customs with gritty wisdom that comes from traveling the universe on his Electronic Thumb. He’s smart, funny, cares deeply for his friends and, most importantly, he always knows where his towel is. A nice, muscle-relaxing beer is the perfect beverage to share with Ford, since you never know when you might need to hop aboard a Vogon ship to avoid being destroyed in service of a new hyperspace bypass.” —Aubrey Hirsch, author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar
“We’d meet in a crowded bar, a slouching jazz band playing softly in the corner. He’d say, ‘I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.’ I’ve heard James Baldwin liked to drink whiskey. I like to drink whiskey, too. But that isn’t why he’s the author I’d like to have a drink with right now. He’d say, ‘The truth which frees black people will also free white people, but this is a truth which white people find very difficult to swallow.’”—Sherrie Flick, author of Whiskey, Etc. Short (Short) Stories
“I’m always in awe of James Baldwin’s ability to be incisive, compressed, and nuanced—all at once. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what keeps certain people away from political expression, and I think it comes out of the worry that they have to reproduce a kind of received language, and they’re not going to get it right, not going to sound like they wholly believe it. Can you blame them? Baldwin is a great guide for finding a political voice that’s organic and self-attuned, which is important not just for talking to others but for keeping ourselves awake and evolving. Just to sit across the table from that mind! And those famous pictures of him with Nina Simone! You just know that this was a person of mischief, high spirits, and fun. Maybe unpredictable but so alive and smart and worth every minute.” —Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door
“In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox arrives at Misselthwaite Manor rude and sour, ten years old, never having known cold weather or love or kindness. When she finds both, she blossoms. I want to sit with the adult Mary Lennox in a cozy bar, neither of us pressed for time. I’ll tell her I admire her strength, how, having known nothing but loneliness and despair, she was able to open herself up to growth and possibility and to help heal others. We will drink enough that I will ask her if it’s still part of her, that smoke-colored emptiness of those first ten years, if the pain hides inside of her like an inactive, dangerous virus, the way it does in me.” —Claudia Zuluaga, author of Fort Starlight
“A sidewalk table in Colette’s French sun. Time is relative. We drink champagne.
‘What do you need?’ she asks.
‘A psychic told me you helped with my first book.’
She squints old eyes. Won’t confirm or deny anything.
‘I saw myself in My Mother’s House and Sido,’ I say. ‘The home, the gardens. The animals. We had a red Dodge named the Diplodocus.’
‘Diplodocus was the name of our cat,’ she says.
There’s a hundred years between us and one of us is dead, yet we both nod at the coincidence.
‘I became a writer because I saw my life in that book. I always had the weird feeling the psychic was right. You were there. Were you?’
Colette’s distracted by a bird hopping in the branches of a tree. She was a girl who read Zola hidden in tree branches. She was a mime. I think she nods but I can’t be sure.
‘I’m writing another one.’
‘I know,’ she says. Sweat beads on her lip. Is sweat uncomfortable for the dead? She drains the champagne flute, calls the garçon. ‘I miss champagne,’ she says.” —Sarah Yaw, author of You Are Free To Go
“My St. Patrick’s Day drink would be with Francie Nolan, the protagonist of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I must have read this novel 20 times in my youth, and Francie became a beloved friend, a kindred spirit. Though the book was set in a time decades before my own, the Brooklyn depicted in its pages—a provincial, sleepy backwater, like a perpetual Sunday afternoon in August—felt so familiar. Yet Francie assumed an ownership of this place that I too had felt—we were two Brooklyn girls walking those somnolent streets, urban sisters under the skin. And she adored her father despite—or perhaps because of—his faults. I too had a charming but feckless father, so this was yet another reason to love her.” —Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of The House on Primrose Pond
Lady Brett Ashley
“I would like to have a drink with Lady Brett Ashley, or probably six drinks, four bottles of wine, and an aperitif or two. I fell in love with her reading The Sun Also Rises in one sitting in college, while I sat on the steps of the student union. I still haven’t gotten over her. Yes, I have grown more sophisticated since, and I know that Ernest Hemingway has fallen out of favor for his bluster and misogyny and boozy, insecure caricature of manhood. But I know Lady Brett would like me. And I just want to hear her say ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’ right before we walk off together, and leave Jake on the steps. Poor Jake.” —Bill Roorbach, author of The Remedy for Love
“In late summer 1998, I took a bus from Rhode Island to Maine. I was, at 23, trying to figure out how to be a writer, typing one shitty and derivative short story after another, occasionally writing a line or two with some genuine heat, but mostly just failing. I didn’t believe—because I had no reason to—that I’d ever write anything worthwhile, but I was driven by the books I read to keep trying. I’d been introduced to the short stories of Andre Dubus a couple years earlier, and had the good sense to become obsessed with them—little masterpieces of tempo and tone, his best stories seemed to reach into my chest, rip out my heart, and put it on display, still pumping, right in front of my face. Because I was obsessed with the writing, I’d also become obsessed with the man—I knew he was a hard-drinking ex-Marine, a gruff and unmistakably flawed man who had somehow managed to produce these flawless narratives. Dubus was the kind of writer I wanted to be—the imperfect man who writes perfect stories. Such are the preoccupations and enthusiasms of youth, I guess.
“Anyway, there I was on the bus, despairing of ever being able to write anything worth a shit, and I noticed that we’d just passed into Haverhill, Massachusetts. Haverhill, where Dubus had lived and taught for decades, and where he still lived now, stuck in a wheelchair after losing a leg in an accident when he stopped to help a pair of stranded motorists on the highway at night. Suddenly I had this crazy idea: I could get off at the next stop, hitchhike back to Haverhill, and just show up at Dubus’ door. I shudder to think about it now, but I imagined that Andre would welcome me in, not thinking it at all weird or intrusive for a strange young man to appear unbidden on his front porch, and we would drink whiskey and trade stories and be men. We would become the best of friends in no time, and he would recognize in me some latent genius, and upon such recognition he would offer me the two or three secrets to writing sublime fiction. And then, with regret, I would be on my way once more.
“Alas, the bus didn’t stop again for another 30 or 40 miles, and thank god—otherwise I might have actually followed through and harassed an old man who almost certainly just wanted to be left alone. Instead I went home, kept plugging away at my own stories, eventually wrote some that weren’t too bad. Dubus, though, had pretty much written everything he was going to—six months later, in early 1999, he died of a heart attack. We never met, goes without saying. I’m glad, ultimately, that I didn’t go to Dubus’ house that day. But I do regret that we never had a chance to share a drink in a different context, when I might have been a little less needy, a little less of a greedy sycophant, and I might have been able to just enjoy the company of a big-hearted man who happened to write fantastic stories.” —Ron Currie, author of The One-Eyed Man