Nonfiction

Muslim view of booze

 

The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey. Lawrence Osborne. Crown.

Looking to deal with a serious drinking problem, British novelist and travel writer Lawrence Osborne decides to traverse the Muslim world to gain a different perspective on alcohol.

Out of this quixotic adventure comes a book that examines the role and history of strong drink, its impact on the author’s life and the availability of beer, wine and distilled spirits in Islamic countries from Egypt to Indonesia. The colorful characters and fascinating situations Osborne encounters provide much of the book’s allure.

Osborne has surely faced his share of deadlines but perhaps none as strange and pressing as his attempt to score a bottle of champagne in the sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula as the clock winds down to midnight on New Year’s Eve.

In Lebanon, he checks out the bar scene in Beirut, visits a vineyard in the Hezbollah-dominated Bekaa Valley and meets Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt in the Shuf Mountains for a taste of arak, the potent anise-flavored firewater regarded as Lebanon’s national drink.

Osborne’s travels, interspersed with the occasional hangover, take him to Pakistan’s only brewery, whose owner tries to keep a low profile amid his nation’s virulent hostility to alcohol. The author paints a bleak picture for the future of alcohol in the Islamic world. In Turkey, the only Muslim country where adherents of the faith can legally drink and where Osborne has acquired a small house, the governing party is placing heavy taxes and restrictions on alcohol.

Osborne set out to observe and perhaps learn from a culture of abstention. Along the way, he weaves in memories of his alcohol-besotted past and examines Islamic history and the teachings of the Quran for clues to the restrictions on booze. Two years of drinking in Muslim countries that reject “the corrosive pleasures of alcohol” leave Osborne sympathetic but in the end he’s not about to forgo the cocktail hour.

Jerry Harkavy reviewed this book for the Associated Press.

Read more Books stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">THE BOOK OF LIFE.</span> Deborah Harkness. Viking. 559 pages. $28.95.

    Fantasy

    Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy comes to a satisfying conclusion

    A witch in love with a vampire comes into her full powers in the final satisfying installment of the All Souls trilogy.

  •  
 <span class="bold">Courtney Maum</span>

    What are you reading now?

    “I’m reading Brando Skyhorse’s Take This Man. Several years ago, I applied for a scholarship at the Can Serrat residency program in Spain and got a letter back saying that the stipend had gone to a writer named Brando Skyhorse. I remember pacing around the house yelling, ‘Who the hell is this Brando Skyhorse?!’ I’ve calmed down in the years since and am glad that the scholarship went to a writer as fearless and funny as Skyhorse. The things his mother put him through as a child could have destroyed a man’s integrity, but Skyhorse saved himself through writing, and in that, he is a role model for me.”

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">A MOST IMPERFECT UNION: </span>A Contrarian History of the United States. Ilan Stavans. Illustrated by Lalo Alcaraz. Basic. 269 pages. $26.99.

    History

    Collaboration takes a more colorful look at U.S. history

    A New England college professor and a California cartoonist collaborate on a colorful look at our storied past.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category