The cocktail menu at a bar I visited last night included something called a Malcolm Lowery. It started with tequila and included triple sec and lemon juice. So I was pretty sure I knew what the drink’s name was supposed to mean. I asked a co-owner of the bar if they had created the cocktail in honor of Under the Volcano, a novel about drinking oneself to death on mezcal and tequila in Mexico. They had. And until I mentioned it they had not realized that Malcolm Lowry’s name was spelled wrong.
It takes a dark sense of humor to name a tequila drink after Malcolm Lowry. Very dark. So dark that I wonder if there’s any humor in it at all. It’s like naming a set of kitchen knives after Elliott Smith, who stabbed himself to death. Or a shotgun after Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Cobain. It’s a powerful association, but not something you want to advertise. There used to be a tequila bar in Midtown called Under the Volcano, and I wondered about their intentions. But at least they kept framed photographs and Malcolm Lowry memorabilia on the walls. At least they knew who the fuck they were talking about.
Those of us who care about stories and language and communication and books are constantly fretting that we’ll be marginalized by society, by the marketplace, by the cruel march of history. And on the other front, the authority and prestige of the written arts are being co-opted and dumbed down by commercial interests. As evidenced by the fact that cocktails are being sold under the names of famous authors by people (in Brooklyn, no less) who don’t even know the author’s name.
So this is my New Year’s wish for you, dear readers. Because I love you, and because by caring deeply about language and storytelling you have recognized what truly matters. May you always know what the fuck you’re talking about. May you only associate with people who know what the fuck they’re talking about. May you throw all your Malcolm Lowerys back in the bartender’s face.
– Brian Hurley