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The Wet and the Dry : A Drinker's Journey
by Lawrence Osborne

Overview - Selected as a Top Ten Book of the Year by Dwight Garner, "New York Times"
A "stylish and engaging...fearlessly honest account" ("Financial Times") of man's love of drink, and an insightful meditation on the meaning of alcohol consumption across cultures worldwide
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).
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More About The Wet and the Dry by Lawrence Osborne
 
 
 
Overview
Selected as a Top Ten Book of the Year by Dwight Garner, "New York Times"
A "stylish and engaging...fearlessly honest account" ("Financial Times") of man's love of drink, and an insightful meditation on the meaning of alcohol consumption across cultures worldwide
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 restraint?
These questions launch the author on an audacious journey, from the Middle East, where drinking is prohibited, to the West, where 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.
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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780770436889
  • ISBN-10: 0770436889
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY)
  • Publish Date: July 2013
  • Page Count: 226


Related Categories

Books > Travel > Essays & Travelogues
Books > Travel > Special Interest - General
Books > Cooking > Beverages - Wine & Spirits

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-05-13
  • Reviewer: Staff

The British-born peripatetic novelist and travel writer Osborne has proved himself spectacularly adventurous in previous works (The Forgiven; Bangkok Days; etc.); in his latest outing, he similarly unfurls serious adventures through righteous Muslim lands in search of a drink. Osborne scorns facile observations, especially about himself: he is a connoisseur of self-knowledge, in particular regarding his states of solitary drinking and altered moods. He is also a practiced traveler, and heads to the desiccated Arab lands as a kind of perverse punishment—for example, when he tries (and fails) to score a bottle of champagne on New Year’s Eve in Muscat, Oman, with his Italian lover. Bars are geared to Westerners (“the unclean”) in places like Saudi Arabia and Malaysia only because it was good business, while often, curious Muslims are intercepted upon entering these bars and even punished by caning or thrashing. Osborne elicits some profound and harrowing reflections along the way about the wet and the dry cultures, falling rather cleanly along ideological lines—namely, that being able to drink and enjoy public gathering spaces spells freedom, while being restricted from drinking alcohol, as suggested rather than dictated by the Koran, means being immured in private cells. From Dubai to Beirut, Islamabad to Brooklyn, Osborne’s meditations on fermentation and distillation induce a host of refreshing, taut, timeless unmoorings. (July)

 
BookPage Reviews

Boozy travels in the Middle East

Travel writer and novelist Lawrence Osborne faced infinite bureaucratic delays getting a visa for his trip to Pakistan. Since his goal was to find out if he could get drunk in dry Islamabad, a friend joked that the holdup was due to his job description: “visiting alcoholic.” In his new book, The Wet and the Dry, Osborne travels across the Middle East trying to get a drink in ostensibly sober Muslim cultures. What emerges from this journey is a nuanced, intriguing portrait of alcohol and sobriety in the Islamic world.

Osborne finds that it is possible, if not always easy or safe, to get a drink in Islamabad—and in Beirut, Oman, Dubai and Malaysia. Often sequestered in hotels catering to the international traveler, some bars are leftovers from British imperialism, dusty time capsules where Osborne can get a gin and tonic at 6:10 each evening. Other bars are hidden away, targets for Islamic fundamentalists, and therefore dangerous to drink in. One gets the impression that Osborne relishes the danger.

Part travelogue, part memoir, The Wet and the Dry inevitably focuses on Osborne’s own relationship with alcohol. He is comfortable calling himself an alcoholic and detailing long days and nights in bars, blackouts and hangovers. The dark allure of alcohol seems more glamorous and compelling to him than the woman he brings along to Oman. And yet his travels begin as an attempt to “dry out” in the Islamic world, to see what sobriety and sober cultures have to teach him.

The personal crisis that brings him to this odyssey seems to be his mother’s death, and the legacy of alcoholism in his own family, yet Osborne never swears off drinking completely, even in the driest cultures. When he and his lover cannot find any alcohol in Oman and end up drinking strawberry juice to see in the New Year, he writes of the dreadful clarity of sobriety.

Ultimately, this book is more about the traveler than the travels. Osborne’s haunting, crystalline prose is as refreshing as a cool gin and tonic on a hot day in a dark room. But beware the kick!

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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