Behavior: The Writer's Vice

In Western literary tradition, Critic Leslie Fiedler has said, great writers need a flaw, a "charismic weakness." Often that weakness is drinking. "You're a rummy, but no more than most good writers are," Ernest Hemingway told Scott Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald himself called alcohol the "writer's vice." Now, through a study of Fitzgerald as "an alcoholic par excellence," Washington University Psychiatrist Donald W. Goodwin has attempted to explain the remarkable statistics about the drinking habits of well-known American writers of the past century: a third to a half were alcoholic; of six Americans awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, four (Eugene O'Neill,...