Jody Bottum writes on the space between “sober and dull” versus “drunk and interesting”:

Alcohol is the lubricant of social interaction: We rub against each other like rough-cut gears, the burred ratchets of unpolished clockwork, and without a little oil to ease our way, we’d grind one another down to raw metal.

Then, too, alcohol is a flavoring—something splashed on life to add a little zest. A dollop of wine deglazes the caramelized drippings and draws out the essences. A measure of beer enlivens a batter. A jigger of brandy warms a dessert. And why not? Liquor makes the banter seem wittier, the company more charming, the party more exciting.

For that matter, alcohol is an emotional regulator: a mood restorative, an attitude adjustor. A martini can pick you. A Manhattan can calm you down. A beer can steady your nerves. A shot of rye can drown your sorrows. The taste of absinthe lets us imagine the experience of decadent French poets. The swirl of bourbon, the slight viscosity as it clings to the glass, gives us clues to the thought of highflying American novelists. …

Drunks may imagine their friendships as rich and interesting, filled with drama. But to the nondrinking observer, the alcoholic’s human relationships look merely impoverished and unpleasant. The result is the opposite of unique and dramatic. Just predictably sloppy and expectedly dull: an amateur production of Hedda Gableron a rainy Wednesday evening in Sioux City, Iowa. Drinking may be fun, but drunkenness is a race between the boring and the disgusting, with death closing in fast on the frontrunners.

The dullness is what Leslie Jamison tries to address in The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, her new book about her alcoholism, and it proves a long, tedious journey up from the bottom of a bottle. …

It was all supposed to make her interesting, she explains that she thought at the time. Dull people lead sober lives, lacking interesting flavors and moods. Even more to the point, she wanted to be an artist, and alcohol, she believed, fuels creativity and insight. …

In the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses, Kirsten tries to explain her drinking by saying that, without alcohol, she “can’t get over how dirty everything looks.” The world seemed brighter and more interesting when she was drunk. For Leslie Jamison, however, it wasn’t an improvement of the world she sought. It was she herself that she saw as brighter and more interesting. …

Neither a mark of the demon rum nor a regular dosing with magical elixir for the artistic and the interesting, alcoholism in Jackson’s novel is revealed as the boring, predictable, and mean-spirited thing it is. …

Drinking is exciting, exhilarating, and ecstatic. Drunkenness is merely dull—a dullness that rots the liver. Rots the brain. Rots the soul.

I haven’t read The Recovering, and I don’t plan to. Bottum’s review is enough for me. I’d suggest, however, that it’s not drinking itself that is exciting, exhilarating, ecstatic. It’s drinking in the context and company of great people. That’s why drinking in a proper sense is a positive lubricant, because it helps us drop some of our atomistic sensibility defensiveness and be a bit more human than we might otherwise be. The great thrill to good drinking is an experience of the other, isn’t it?