The Distilled Kingsley Amis
This is a book I’ve bought a few times but never for myself, and which I never dared read in case it didn’t make it’s intended destination, well thanks to the generosity of Bloomsbury I now have a copy of my own. Appropriately it arrived the day I returned from wine training and I can confirm that had I started reading a copy planned for anyone else I would indeed have kept it.
The first thing to say about this book is that it’s very (very) funny. I admit I’m a wine geek and that perhaps a teetotaller would be less amused, but a teetotaller probably wouldn’t be choosing to read a book called ‘Everyday Drinking’, so I’ll say again – it’s a very funny book. It’s also informed and opinionated. Opinion I expected seeing as it started life as a series of columns and then as a number of books before being gathered together in its present format. Given that the articles were originally written between 1971 and 1984 it’s pretty impressive that the only thing that seems to have dated are the prices. The days of being able to buy a good claret for about £3 a bottle are long gone (god damn it I was born to late) I suspect wine’s of the quality Amis refers to would go for between £30 and £50 minimum these days.
I struggle with humour titles, and indeed ‘funny’ books generally – they are the ones most likely to go to the charity shop, not because I don’t enjoy them, but because often I find the joke only works once. What’s particularly pleasing about ‘Everyday Drinking’ (bearing in mind that it’s not sold as humorous) is that whilst it makes me want to do that really annoying thing of reading excerpts out loud because I think it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read, it’s also genuinely, and seriously informative. Basically it’s re-readable which is always a bonus, equally there would be far worse places to begin forays into your booze based education, which I consider to be very high praise indeed.
As someone who’s spent the last decade drinking and tasting for profit, (I’m contractually obliged to taste, as opposed to drink, beers, wines, and spirits whenever required) as well as for pleasure, I’ve read a fair bit around the subject. I consider myself knowledgeable both about wine and the way people write about wine, though by no means an expert on either – so far I’ve approached the Amis book in bits, dipping in and out – that after all is the beauty of a collection of articles, but I will be going back with a notebook and working my way through in a more orderly fashion.
This unusual degree of organisation is because I have to deliver some training on wine related matters and I’m planning on shamelessly ripping off Amis – especially on the topic of Wine Resenter’s, as I have the distinct impression that’s what I’m going to be faced with. I’m also finding it just slightly ironic (as well as reassuring) that what my employers spent three days and a wedge of cash on teaching me is neatly encapsulated by Amis and thoughtfully wrapped into a single volume by Bloomsbury.
Further advantages of ‘Everyday Drinking’ over intensive training are a list of cocktail recipes and a lack of role play opportunities. Training won out by offering a genuine, live, Master of Wine which made up for the aforementioned role play, and who I dare say if pressed could have provided some decent cocktail suggestions. If you can’t find an MW though, I thoroughly recommend Amis instead.