Selected as a Top Ten Book of the Year by Dwight Garner, New York Times
A “fearlessly honest account” (Financial Times) of man’s love of drink, and an insightful meditation on the meaning of alcohol consumption across cultures worldwide
Drinking alcohol: a beloved tradition, a dangerous addiction, even “a sickness of the soul” (as once described by a group of young Muslim men in Bali). In his wide-ranging travels, Lawrence Osborne—a veritable connoisseur himself—has witnessed opposing views of alcohol across cultures worldwide, compelling him to wonder: is drinking alcohol a sign of civilization and sanity, or the very reverse? Where do societies fall on the spectrum between indulgence and restraint?
An immersing, controversial, and often irreverent travel narrative, The Wet and the Dry offers provocative, sometimes unsettling insights into the deeply embedded conflicts between East and West, and the surprising influence of drinking on the contemporary world today.
Now with an excerpt from Lawrence Osborne's latest novel, The Ballad of a Small Player.
The British-born peripatetic novelist and travel writer Osborne has proved himself spectacularly adventurous in previous works (The Forgiven; Bangkok Days; etc.); in his latest outing, he similarly unfurls serious adventures through righteous Muslim lands in search of a drink. Osborne scorns facile observations, especially about himself: he is a connoisseur of self-knowledge, in particular regarding his states of solitary drinking and altered moods. He is also a practiced traveler, and heads to the desiccated Arab lands as a kind of perverse punishment for example, when he tries (and fails) to score a bottle of champagne on New Year's Eve in Muscat, Oman, with his Italian lover. Bars are geared to Westerners ("the unclean") in places like Saudi Arabia and Malaysia only because it was good business, while often, curious Muslims are intercepted upon entering these bars and even punished by caning or thrashing. Osborne elicits some profound and harrowing reflections along the way about the wet and the dry cultures, falling rather cleanly along ideological lines namely, that being able to drink and enjoy public gathering spaces spells freedom, while being restricted from drinking alcohol, as suggested rather than dictated by the Koran, means being immured in private cells. From Dubai to Beirut, Islamabad to Brooklyn, Osborne's meditations on fermentation and distillation induce a host of refreshing, taut, timeless unmoorings.