Writers Drawn to Drink

The intersection of writers with Prohibition was at its most intense in New York City — the mecca for all talented young men and women in the 1920s. Seven thousand arrests for alcohol possession in New York City between 1921 and 1923 (when enforcement was more or less openly abandoned) resulted in only seventeen convictions.

For some writers, Manhattan, with its habitual speakeasies and after-hours clubs as well as its famous flouting of the law even in restaurants, became synonymous with drinking too much. Eugene O’Neill and F. Scott Fitzgerald were two writers who were only able to stop drinking, or at least moderate their drinking, after they left what one minister called “Satan’s Seat.”

Apparently Prohibition was too much a temptation for many writers, some of whom became well known. Of course, Chekhov said, “A man who doesn’t drink is not, in my opinion, fully a man,” so maybe O’Neill, Fitzgerald, and others were his disciples in this way.

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