Hungover: The Morning After and One Man’s Quest for the Cure
(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 Forbes.com. “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.”