Under the influence

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Sherwood Anderson

The Man: A thrice-divorced workaholic, Anderson used heavy drink to relax and to further irritate his various long-suffering wives. His father, also a drunk, though a conspicuously lazy one, served as both model and cautionary example.

His Work: The revered short-story collection Winesburg, Ohio is not about wine, but does feature a number of characters who, in their existential loneliness and small-town angst, sure seem like they could use a drink. Anderson also produced a number of rather less-revered novels and stories, including one called "The Triumph of the Egg," which really is about an egg.

His Drink: Dry classic gin martini with olives

His Death: Partying aboard an ocean liner bound for Brazil, Anderson swallowed part of a toothpick, either from an hors d'oeuvre or his ubiquitous cocktail, and promptly developed an acute case of peritonitis.

Dorothy Parker

The Woman: The bitter belle of the Algonquin Round Table, Parker set the pace for a truly world-class assemblage of drunks, who whiled away each afternoon getting pickled at Manhattan's Algonquin Hotel and making savage remarks about anyone unfortunate enough not to have been invited. Inordinately fond of highly dysfunctional love affairs, Parker coined the immortal, often alcohol-related phrase "one-night stand."

Her Work: Darkly humorous poems, witty stories and occasional vicious literary reviews, including a memorable attack on Winnie-the-Pooh.

Her Drink: Martini, but make hers with a twist. And she'll have four of them, as per her famous line "Three and I'm under the table, four and I'm under the host."

Her Death: Despite her unhealthy habits, which included four suicide attempts, she died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 73. Since she had no next of kin, her ashes wound up spending 15 years in her lawyer's filing cabinet.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Man: Along with fellow lush Ernest Hemingway, he was literary co-champion of the American Lost Generation. Unlike Hemingway, he had low tolerance and got drunk quickly. He married Zelda, a free-spirited schizophrenic who probably would have driven him to drink even if he hadn't already been hooked.

His Work: The Great Gatsby, several other novels, loads of short stories and some embarrassing Hollywood hackwork.

His Drink: Champagne cocktail

His Death: Of a heart attack, while eating a Hershey bar and listening to Beethoven. His funeral was sparsely attended, but Dorothy Parker reputedly showed up in inebriate solidarity and cried, quoting the touching Gatsby line, "The poor son of a bitch."

Adapted from Scatterbrained (HarperCollins), which is available at leading bookstores. For a daily dose of quirky fun, visit MentalFloss.com and check out mental_floss magazine at your local newsstand.