Published in Canada in 1997, I picked up a copy of Double Drink Story: My Life with Dylan Thomas (Penguin, Canada) during a holiday visit to see friends. (I’d lived and worked in and out of Toronto during 1992 & 1993). It made fascinating reading, although it was also hardgoing on times, because of the material. I read the book such a long time ago but I still remember its impact. It is a book I have kept and intend to re-read at some point in the future.
Today sees an email from Virago in the UK advertising My Life with Dylan Thomas: Double Drink Story, which they appear to have published previously, back in 1998. Now, we have a new edition and from their email, this one boasts an “afterword to this memoir” from Caitlin’s son. This is Caitlin’s son from her years in Italy, after Dylan’s death.
This is what Amazon has to say by way of synopsis:
“From the moment they met at a pub in London, drink was the most conspicuous part of the lives of Caitlin and her ‘genius poet’, Dylan Thomas. It fuelled their sexual adventures, lessened their shyness and enriched their social life. This searing book is Caitlin’s story of the passions, the rage and the tragic humour of those years of drink and the toll it took on the lives of two talented people, leaving one of them dead at the age of thirty-nine, and the other alone, penniless and an alcoholic. It is also the memoir of a woman not always likeable, but consistently energetic and honest and possessing an indomitable spirit.”
Virago have done well to bring a new edition to the market. The life and works of the Thomases will long be a fascination to Welsh readers and many more elsewhere. Within a 12 month period, it’s also not the first time that we’ve seen a memoir from a woman in the public eye – I hasten not to use the word celebrity, which was deliberate on my part – that concerns alcoholism. Last year, Clarissa Dickson Wright spilled the beans in Spilling the Beans and this year, former wine-writer Alice King recounted her journey into alcoholism and eventual sobriety in High Sobriety: Confessions of a Drinker.
Dylan Thomas remains a genius to some and his words will always be there for many, example: “…Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”, which often comes up in funerals but more expresses the feelings of those who grieve than those who die, perhaps.
But I digress. If the Virago publication is the same as the one I read from Penguin Canada, then I strongly recommend it. My Life with Dylan Thomas: Double Drink Story is an honest account and makes for a sad but worthy read. Not to be missed, if you wish to understand how the lives of your literary elite managed to ascend the pragmatic basics and become a force in history.
My one abiding memory of this text is that Thomas survived due to benefactors. Today, we might call it “scrounging” or “living off”. But this is our “now” and that was then; we have to remember the different cultures of the years. His words live on, hitting a target and defying any cultural developments.