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An enlightening and and entertaining tour of world attitudes to alcohol

Booze is mankind's premier drug of choice, the most used mind-altering substance that has ever been devised, and it plays a furtive, celebrated and subversive role in nearly every culture on earth. For thousands of years it has defined the Mediterranean cultures through its dark symbolism and orgiastic promise, and now in the 21st century it has become the dominant global recreation, either indulged shamelessly or repressed hysterically.

In THE WET AND THE DRY, Lawrence explores the culture of permission, particularly in the West and the opposing culture of prohibition, notably in the Islamic East, seeing how this strange duality has come to form not just whole civilizations but the intricate mechanisms of the private self as well. Does each person, like each culture, tilt between state of 'wet' and 'dry' - between indulgence and austerity, between pleasure and repression? Delving inward, Lawrence looks at alcohol not only in a sociological context, but in a deeply personal one as he traverses and unravels the stories of alcoholism in his own family.

Whether it be alcoholism among the Irish or American Indians, binge-drinking among Koreans, Scotch-collecting in the Saudi upper class or the persistence of 'dry' towns in the United States and the odd 'permit rooms' of urban Pakistan, the struggle between these warring states is insightfully explored in this globe-trotting odyssey in which Osborne's own Irish family history of terrifying alcoholism fails to deter him from staying as inebriated as he can.


Mr Osborne is a superb travel writer, one who, like Evelyn Waugh, can size up a locale at almost a glance. This intoxicating book has political as well as sensual overtones

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Anyone interested in the global culture of drink will be captivated by Lawrence Osborne's travel narrative... Mr Osborne is a perspicacious, knowing guide, and a maker of arrestingly beautiful sentences

Rosie Schaap, New York Times

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    February 15, 2013

    Harvill Secker

    256 pages

    RRP $32.99

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  • EBook


    February 7, 2013

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

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