June 18th, 2008
During last month’s drinking spree … oops, I mean research expedition … in San Francisco, I appropriately came across some excellent writing about hangovers. A recent New Yorker article, A few too many: Is there any hope for the hungover?, goes deep into the world of hangover remedies. The two major types are discussed: folk (Russians swear by pickle juice and vodka) and pharmaceutical (preventive pills like RU-21 — get it?).
The body of research on hangover cures is thin, notes the writer, Joan Acocella. That’s basically because no upstanding research institution is willing to do what is required to find a treatment for the effects of overconsumption: bankroll a massive study involving a large population of drunken (read: difficult to control) human test subjects who, most people think, deserve to suffer the consequences of their folly anyway. “Which is curious, because anyone who discovered a widely effective hangover cure would make a great deal of money,” notes Acocella.
In describing the different physiological and psychological facets of a hangover, she quotes the master, British novelist and bon vivant Kingsley Amis. He describes the “metaphysical hangover”: “When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. . . . You have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.”
Brilliant. Doesn’t it make you feel better? Luckily, Amis wrote three books on drinking — On Drink in 1972, Everyday Drinking in 1983 and How’s Your Glass? in 1984 — which have recently been gathered together and reissued as a single volume titled Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis. Maybe a little eloquence on the pleasures and pains of overconsumption is all the cure we need.