Hun­gover: The Morn­ing After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure

The Week (US) - - Arts - By Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall

(Pen­guin, $17) Shaughnessy Bish­opS­tall just might be the ex­pert that suf­fer­ers of hang­overs have al­ways needed, said Molly Young in The New York Times.

Not only is the Cana­dian jour­nal­ist a “tena­cious” his­tor­i­cal re­searcher. In his pur­suit of use­ful knowl­edge about the grim day-after con­se­quences of overindulging, “he’s will­ing to get thor­oughly torn up on a con­sis­tent ba­sis in col­or­ful cir­cum­stances.” In his lively new book, he shares sto­ries of bungee jump­ing, driv­ing a race car, and soak­ing in a boil­ing caul­dron of herbs while hung over; in ev­ery case, he was test­ing a po­ten­tial cure. And though he does even­tu­ally land upon an elixir that seems to com­bat all the dour phys­i­cal symp­toms, he’s never blind to the more elu­sive af­ter­ef­fects of heavy drink­ing, in­clud­ing “the scrim of de­spair and self-loathing” that re­mains the most in­cur­able symp­tom of in­tem­per­ance.

Part of the plea­sure of the book is learn­ing how bad hu­mans have been at tack­ling this all-too-fa­mil­iar ail­ment, said Brian Kelly in The Wall Street Jour­nal. Pliny the El­der’s sug­gested cure? Two eels suf­fo­cated in wine. In con­tem­po­rary Puerto Rico, hang­over suf­fer­ers still squeeze lime juice into their armpits, while in Haiti voodoo prac­ti­tion­ers stick nee­dles into the cork of the bot­tle that did the dam­age. Bishop-Stall him­self con­sumes char­coal as Vic­to­rian-era Lon­don­ers did and agrees to be buried in hay on top of an Aus­trian Alp. And as the list of po­ten­tial cures grows, he packs his chron­i­cle with “hu­mor­ous and en­light­en­ing” asides about al­co­hol’s spe­cial place in hu­man cul­ture.

The fix he dis­cov­ers—a pre-bed cock­tail of milk this­tle, frank­in­cense, and cer­tain vi­ta­mins and amino acids—does end the worst of his morn­ing-after phys­i­cal woes, said

John Far­rell in “And yet, in the end, it seems a dou­ble-edged sword”: The cure elim­i­nates Bishop-Stall’s most im­me­di­ate rea­son to stop his heavy drink­ing but does noth­ing to ad­dress “the more in­sid­i­ous ones—ex­haus­tion, lethargy, anx­i­ety, hol­low­ness, de­pres­sion.” Drink­ing, he knows, can kill a per­son, which means his quest for a hang­over anec­dote might be less than heroic. As he writes in clos­ing, “I’m not sure I’m work­ing for the greater good.”

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