I was thinking about my blog WILD MEN, WILDER WOMEN & THE WILDEST PARTIES when I realized that I had understated one important thing: Being wild—in the context of my description—does not mean that you don’t work both hard and effectively.
In fact, virtually all those I named in my piece produced quite outstanding work over extended periods of time despite drinking to excess, sleeping around, and doing much else besides—and they virtually all smoked.
They were not, in the main, into drugs. I guess that was a generational thing. I was never tempted by drugs either—probably for the same reason. Under different circumstances I might well have been. I think everyone needs a way to relax and we should accept that fact and not be judgmental. As always, it’s a matter of degree, whether your constitution can handle it—and whether you can work as well as your inner voice tells you when you are under the influence of some substance or other.
Where creative work is involved, that inner voice is decisive. It takes time to develop it—years rather than months—but once it starts to speak, you’d be well advised to listen to it. It doesn’t care whether you drink to excess, breakfast on heroin, or sleep with your best friend’s wife—providing you are producing the best work you are capable of. It is unforgiving in that regard.
Two of the most talented writers I have ever met were the playwright, Brendan Behan, and the columnist and author, Brian O’Nolan.
Both drank so much that I was truly amazed they could stand let alone write, yet both produced truly exceptional work.
Brendan Behan died in 1964 (the year I graduated from university) at the age of 41. Brian O’Nolan lived to the ripe old age of 54 and died in 1966. I guess you could say they pushed it a bit.
America’s drug of choice today seems to be some kind of legal medication, or—more likely—a cocktail of the same. Roughly half the population are so addicted, and virtually all seniors. Personally, I find that frightening beyond belief, but it may explain some of the voting patterns. Meds are powerful enough in themselves, but who knows their effects when used in combination?
But, each to their own.
Is writing a drug? You know I have a sneaking suspicion that it is. It gives a wonderful high.
Top photo: Brian O’Nolan better known as Myles na gCopaleen
Brian O'Nolan (Irish: Brian Ó Nualláin; 5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966) was an Irish novelist, playwright and satirist, considered a major figure in twentieth century Irish literature. Born in Strabane, County Tyrone, he is regarded as a key figure in postmodern literature. His English language novels, such as At Swim-Two-Birds, and The Third Policeman, were written under the nom de plume Flann O'Brien. His many satirical columns in The Irish Times and an Irish language novel An Béal Bocht were written under the name Myles na gCopaleen.
O'Nolan's novels have attracted a wide following for their bizarre humour and Modernist metafiction. As a novelist, O'Nolan was powerfully influenced by James Joyce. He was nonetheless sceptical of the cult of Joyce which overshadows much of Irish writing, saying "I declare to God if I hear that name Joyce one more time I will surely froth at the gob."
Lower photo: Brendan Behan
Brendan Francis Behan (/ˈbiːən/ bee-ən; Irish: Breandán Ó Beacháin; 9 February 1923 – 20 March 1964) was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both English and Irish. He was also an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Born in Dublin into a republican family, he became a member of the IRA's youth organisation Fianna Éireann at the age of fourteen. However, there was also a strong emphasis on Irish history and culture in the home, which meant he was steeped in literature and patriotic ballads from a tender age. Behan eventually joined the IRA at sixteen, which led to him serving time in aborstal youth prison in the United Kingdom and was also imprisoned in Republic of Ireland. During this time, he took it upon himself to study and he became a fluent speaker of the Irish language. Subsequently released from prison as part of a general amnesty given by the Fianna Fáil government in 1946, Behan moved between homes in Dublin, Kerry and Connemara and also resided in Paris for a period.
In 1954, Behan's first play The Quare Fellow was produced in Dublin. It was well received; however, it was the 1956 production atJoan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in Stratford, London, that gained Behan a wider reputation – this was helped by a famous drunken interview on BBC television. In 1958, Behan's play in the Irish language An Giall had its debut at Dublin's Damer Theatre. Later, The Hostage, Behan's English-language adaptation of An Giall, met with great success internationally. Behan's autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy, was published the same year and became a worldwide best-seller.
He married Beatrice Ffrench-Salkeld in 1955. Behan was known for his drinking problem, which resulted in him suffering fromdiabetes, which ultimately resulted in his death on 20 March 1964. He was given an IRA guard of honour which escorted his coffin and it was described by several newspapers as the biggest funeral since those of Michael Collins and Charles Stewart Parnell.