“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” — Henny Youngman
Summertime and reading is a classic combination, and Santa Cruz is one of the best spots on the planet to stake out a bit of sand and dig into a good book. But there’s another literary pairing that’s just as timeless. Anyone in a book club knows what I’m talking about: booze. While I won’t go as far as William Faulkner, who famously said, “Pouring out liquor is like burning books,” I believe a page-turner and a good stiff drink is what summer is all about. Ask Ernest Hemingway, who put the daiquiri on the literary map and gave drinkers a great piece of advice he probably never followed: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
The list of famous and accomplished authors who liked a drink or two or 10 is long. Chalk it up to inner demons or inner muses—most likely both—but the tipple is such a well established part of literary history that it’s become a trope. When asked if he drank, Stephen King replied, “Of course—I just said I was a writer.” Dorothy Parker still has namesake cocktails served in bars from Soho to São Paulo. Visit Faulkner’s grave in Oxford, Mississippi, and you’ll probably find a bottle of his favorite whiskey, Jack Daniels, left in tribute. If you’ve read Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, you know it isn’t Wheaties, it’s martinis. Ian Fleming was an ardent fan of the martini; in fact, he placed one into 007’s hands so often that a tongue-in-cheek study by the British Medical Journal found that the spy drank 65-92 units of vodka a week. It gives a whole new meaning to “shaken, not stirred.”
Like all faithful, bickering partners, books and booze have a checkered past. For a powerful look at the corrosive price of this sometimes terrible marriage, read Olivia Laing’s insightful, sympathetic book, The Trip to Echo Springs, On Writers and Drinking. The title refers to an obscure line from a Tennessee Williams play that means a trip to the liquor cabinet. Through the troubled careers of luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver, she dispels any romantic notions about drunken reverie and creative genius.
But when the marriage is good, it’s a beautiful thing. Within reason, alcohol can enhance a good story, especially for readers, who are essentially guests at the literary salon. What guest doesn’t appreciate a good cocktail? Just as beer livens up the barbecue and wine turns us into critics at the art opening (preference for wine has been scientifically correlated to a higher IQ, which in turn may be correlated to a higher sense of self-importance), they also open our minds to insight. And snacks!
If you’re inclined to bend the elbow while you turn the pages, Bookshop Santa Cruz is ready to meet you halfway with their Books and Brews Summer Series. It’s designed to lure literary-minded locals to some of the best breweries and taprooms in town, with the promise of books, games, discussions, and the golden nectar that brings them all together—craft beer. For our summer reading guide, we’ve taken that idea and run with it, imagining a book/drink pairing for some of this summer’s top lit events. As for me, time to hit the hammock and crack open War and Peace. This year I’m going to finish it. No, really. But first, I feel thirsty …
Pale Ales and Deep Insights
Jaimal Yogis, July 14
The clean, malty finish of Corralitos Blonde Ale flows well with the ocean sense of Jaimal Yogis’ All Our Waves Are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride, which follows him from the Himalayas to Jerusalem to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, where he finds “that the perfect ride may well be the one we are on right now” (see sidebar, page 22). You can grab a copy of his book when he appears at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Friday. 7 p.m., Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Free.
Favorite Books vs. Favorite Beers
Books and Brews’ Lit-Hops, July 27
The cool concept for this 21st century beer hall is a wall of 70 self-pour taps filled with beers, wines and ciders from all over the world. In keeping with the mood of abundance, more than a dozen favorite reads from booksellers will be paired with beers to match their mood. A couple of personal suggestions: pair Discretion Brewery’s strong Good Faith ale with George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel about love, loss, the afterlife and the human condition. And try Lúpulo’s English Bitter, Little Lies, with Maile Meloy’s novel, Do Not Become Alarmed. The possibilities are endless, but keep in mind that you could drive your friends and family crazy. I speak from experience. 7 p.m., Pour Taproom, 110 Cooper St., Suite 100B, Santa Cruz. $16 ticket includes one free book and 20 percent off your food and drinks. Non-ticketed attendees still welcome.
‘Here I Am’ for IPA
Jonathan Safran Foer, July 12
Humble Sea Brewery’s Mankini IPA—bold, brave, and all up front—goes perfectly with Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am, an inventive, hard-hitting story of a fragile family in a moment of personal and global crisis, who must confront and become who they really are. Foer is appearing in Santa Cruz at an offsite, ticketed Bookshop Santa Cruz event. 7 p.m., Santa Cruz High School, 415 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. Ticket packages are $19.98 and include two tickets to the event and one copy of ‘Here I Am’ in paperback.
Race To Revolution: Hamilton Edition, Aug. 7
Lúpulo Beer House cultivates relationships with small brewers and specializes in beers that are hard to come by. The workshop feel here harkens back to alehouses of old, where you ducked in to drink a pint and wrestle with ideas. As a nod to history buffs, lovers of the musical Hamilton, and our proud national heritage of beer-soaked political debate, this Books and Brews event at Lúpulo will feature literature about the fantastic and sometimes forgotten founders of our imperfect union. It will also test your founding American trivia skills in the hotly competitive yet highly good-natured Race to Revolution game. Did you know that George Washington kept a beer recipe in his notebook? That random fact may or may not help you, but know this: when swag bags, bragging rights, and liberty are at stake, Americans have shown that we can rise, stumble, and hold forth to the occasion. Doing it all in the company of fellow revolutionaries with a beer in hand just makes it more fun. 7 p.m., Lúpulo Beer House, 223 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz. $5 ticket includes entry to play the Race to Revolution game, $5 off coupon for Bookshop purchases at the event, and 50 percent off your founding drink.
Pilsner-Stained Love Letters
Community Read: ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven’ by Chris Cleave, at New Bohemia Brewing Company, Aug. 21
Named after the old kingdom of Bohemia in central Europe, New Bohemia Brewing Company is a great place to drink a Vienna Lager like Velvet Revolution and discuss a book about WWII. You didn’t think you’d coast through this series without actually reading a book, did you? That’s why we’re here, people. Oh yeah, and the beer. Luckily, Chris Cleave’s brilliant novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, is well worth your time. His grandparents’ love letters serve as inspiration for historical fiction that drops you into the heart of WWII. From London to France to Malta, the stories of characters who serve, falter, fall in love, and challenge injustice is smart, witty, and chilling. It reminds us how far and wide punishment spread beyond the Jews during WWII. Anyone “different” was marginalized and targeted. Those lessons still resonate today. Fire up your literary insights and dip into the meaty (not to mention thirsty) conversation. 7 p.m., New Bohemia Brewing Company, 1030 41st Ave., Santa Cruz. 50 percent off your first beer with a copy of ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven.’
Jonathan Franzen’s Feminist Literary Cocktails
Read & Rights Literary Fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Aug. 27
For those of you more inclined toward cocktails, this fundraiser is your event. It has something for everyone: a great cause, a vintage feminist literature collection, a performance from The Handmaid’s Tale by Jewel Theatre Company, and much more. But beyond the satisfaction of giving to an extremely important at-risk health care provider, your reward for donating is admission to the Literary Refreshment Lounge, where Jonathan Franzen will be available to mix you a feminist literary cocktail of his own creation. Will it taste good? Hopefully. Will it be wickedly clever? Undoubtedly. Or maybe you’d rather Laurie King serve you a glass of red wine. Sherlock Holmes would approve. Authors Lisa MacKenzie and Karen Joy Fowler round out the bartending staff, ready to put their own spin on your literary libations. Your job is to show Planned Parenthood some love and belly up to the bar. 4-6 p.m., Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are available on a $15–$50 sliding scale. Note: All are welcome to attend this event—only the Literary Refreshment Lounge requires a ticket. George and Gail Michaelis-Ow will match donations up to $10,000.
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
Book Swap at Beer Thirty, Sept. 5
Wish a fond farewell to summer crowds by raising a Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Ale and sharing your literary passions with other readers. Beer Thirty is a return to abundance, with 30 rotating taps, 300-plus bottles, and a beer garden. There’s nothing better than to wax on about your favorite books, right? Or is that just me? In any case, this old-fashioned book swap gives my fellow enthusiasts permission, along with 90 seconds each (they know us well, they have a timer) to gush about our best and brightest discoveries. Even better, it gives organized book geeks a chance to take notes. Bring your dog if you like, a book that you love, and give it away (the book, not the dog). In return, you get to leave with a new gem. 7 p.m., Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House, 2504 S. Main St., Soquel. You must bring a book to participate in this event.
Non-Alcoholic (You Know, For Kids!)
Put Your Trust in Ice Cream
Amy Ettinger, July 17
When liquor won’t do, the Penny Ice Creamery’s Blueberry Black Licorice ice cream is a very good substitute. Amy Ettinger’s book Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America explores the history, characters, turf wars, and intriguing flavor combinations behind America’s favorite sweet treat. She’ll be at Bookshop Santa Cruz to discuss the delectable details, and Mission Hill Creamery will be providing the ice cream. What’s not to love? 7 p.m., Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Free.
Shirley Temples at the Park
Outdoor Storytime with Billie Harris, July 19 and Aug. 20
For those of you whose kids did not go to robotics, dinosaur, or spy camp (yes, non-parents, these exist), bring the next generation out to the park, where the inimitable actress, bon vivant, and superior storyteller Billie Harris will be at Bookshop’s reading benches to continue her long love affair with reading stories to children. Drink-wise, Shirley Temples go perfectly with Green Eggs and Ham. For grownups, cold brew coffee, fruit smoothies, green tea, and the ever popular H20 go with all manner of the written word. 10 a.m., Garfield Park, 634 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz. Also 4 p.m. on Aug. 20 at San Lorenzo Park, 137 Dakota Ave., Santa Cruz.