From Walker Percy’s Signposts In A Strange Land, the following is an excerpt taken from a longer one that appeared in 2001 in the Claremont Review of Books:
Not only should connoisseurs of bourbon not read this article, neither should persons preoccupied with the perils of alcoholism, cirrhosis, esophageal hemorrhage, cancer of the palate, and so forth—all real enough dangers. I, too, deplore these afflictions. But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of bourbon drinking, that is, the use of bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cure the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic.
What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: “Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?”
“I once knew a man who gave up drinking, smoking, eating rich food, and chasing women,” Johnny Carson once joked. “He was healthy right up until the day he killed himself.”
I love the image of bourbon as a response to “the anomie of the late twentieth century.” I wonder what’s suited to our own time.