Title: The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker's Journey
Author: Lawrence Osborne
Themes: travel, alcoholism
Plot: From Amazon.com "Drinking alcohol: a beloved tradition, a dangerous addiction, even
“a sickness of the soul” (as once described by a group of young Muslim
men in Bali). In his wide-ranging travels, Lawrence Osborne—a veritable
connoisseur himself—has witnessed opposing views of alcohol across
cultures worldwide, compelling him to wonder: is drinking alcohol a sign
of civilization and sanity, or the very reverse? Where do societies and
their treatment of alcohol fall on the spectrum between indulgence and
These questions launch the author on an audacious
journey, from the Middle East, where drinking is prohibited, to the
An immersing, controversial, and often irreverent travel narrative, The Wet and the Dry
offers provocative, sometimes unsettling insights into the deeply
embedded conflicts between East and West, and the surprising influence
of drinking on the contemporary world today."
here it is an important—yet perhaps very often a ruinous—part of
everyday life. Beginning in the bar of a luxury hotel in Milan, Osborne
then ventures to the Hezbollah-threatened vineyards of Lebanon; a
landmark pub in London; the dangerous drinking dens on the Malaysian
border; the only brewery in the alcohol-hostile country of Pakistan; and
Oman, where he faces the absurd challenge of finding a bottle of
champagne on New Year’s Eve. Amid his travels, Osborne unravels the
stories of alcoholism in his own family, and reflects on ramifications
of alcohol consumption in his own life.
My Thoughts: Osborne's short memoir on Drinking, predominately in the Middle East and
North Africa, is rather rambling but full of interesting historical and
societal facts. I enjoyed the sporadic inclusions of alcohol-in-history
that Osborne peppers through his travels through the Middle
East-searching for illegal alcohol.
Osborne relates his own
alcoholism, although the reader is never quite sure how he truly feels
about it. Even as he describes the deaths of loved ones who abused
alcohol, he never quite connects it to his own alcoholism. He admits
that Islamic countries have valid reasons for creating "dry" states, but
cannot quite escape the lure of drunkenness...for even a single day
apparently. As another reviewer says, it is very morally ambiguous. He
seems to worship alcohol, and this is some feeble attempt to praise it's
benefits against Islamic practices.
While I found this
meandering memoir rather entertaining most of the time, and the
"non-fiction/historical" facts absolutely fascinating; I must admit I
found the "memoir"-ish parts rather boring and sometimes downright
condescending (pg. 32 comes to mind). I think Osborne would make a
wonderful writer of social/historical texts, but in this tome I found
him self-indulgent, condescending, and plain unpleasant. I have no
qualms with alcohol, but the way he glorifies the drunken state rubbed
me the wrong way.
Osborne, Lawrence. The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker's Journey. New York: Crown, 2013.