My grandparents were partiers. There are countless pictures and stories of late-night partying in the sixties, my grandmother with her hair perfectly coiffed and my grandfather with scotch in hand. Like everyone during that Mad Men-era, afternoon cocktails were the norm and smoking was always a given. My grandmother and I would sit with the photo album between us and occasionally she would look down at me and say, “we just didn’t know any better.” Anne Roiphe gives us the ultimate peep-hole into 50’s and 60’s culture, bad behavior, and collective conscious. Her new book, Art and Madness has been my perfect lunch break read. Laid out in little vignettes with only the year as a heading each story is brutal and beautiful in its truth and uneasiness of that time. From 1963 Roiphe has this to say about artists and alcohol,
Artists were drinkers. Everyone knew that. Alcohol flooded through their veins the way salt from the sea coated the lungs of fisherman out in a storm. I believed in the drunkenness of artists the way I believed in elephants’ fondness for peanuts or the lust of cats for mice, the joy of earth for worms. The men needed to drink, needed to lift the heavy shadows that followed them about. Editors and writers went out to three-martini lunches and fell asleep at their desks in the late afternoon. Bars and clubs, ladies’ luncheon spots all served drinks with olives and cherries and colored pink or green. But nevertheless in the afternoon the women sometimes threw up in the ladies’ room and tipped the maid to clean away the evidence. I believed that there would be no blue sky without the sun and there would be no books without scotch, no poems without rye.