Saturday, August 15, 2015

Smoking May Increase a Writer's Concentration

Paul Bowles, Oscar Wilde and Patricia Highsmith


A number of famous writers smoked while they wrote. For example, Moliere said, “Whoever lives without tobacco doesn’t deserve to live.” And Oscar Wilde related, “A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?”

And a study conducted by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the writers may smoke because smoking may have the ability to "boost concentration and imagination". However, the researchers also found that "heavy smoking damages the brain overall". 

Like Mark Twain and Freud, to possibly have the best of both worlds, you may want to consider giving up cigarettes like Andrey Vinelander, Ada's husband, who "had for years a two-pack smoker's fruity cough, but [...] when he spat a scarlet gob into his washbasin, he resolved to cut down on cigarettes and limit himself to tsigarki (cigarillos)." 

Brad Rodu posted on Tabacco Truth:

...the Kaiser Medical Care Program, one of the nation's largest health care maintenance organizations, provided the answer in 1999 by publishing an excellent study on cigar smoking in the New England Journal of Medicine. They followed 16,228 never smokers and 1,546 cigar smokers - all men - for 25 years, and compared rates of several diseases among them.  Cigar smokers were divided into those smoking less than 5 cigars a day (let's call them moderate), and 5 or more (heavy).

Compared with never smokers, heavy cigar smokers were shown to have increased risks for several smoking related diseases.  They had higher risks for heart disease (Relative Risk, RR = 1.6, 95% confidence interval, CI = 1.2 – 2.0), emphysema (RR = 2.3, CI = 1.4 – 3.7), oral and pharynx cancer (RR = 7.2, CI = 2.4 – 21.2), and lung cancer (RR = 3.2, CI = 1.01 – 10.4).

The good news: Moderate cigar smokers had only a slightly higher risk for heart disease (RR = 1.2, CI = 1.03 – 1.4).  Those smoking fewer than 5 cigars daily had no significantly increased risks for stroke, emphysema, oral/pharynx cancer or lung cancer.

The comparable health risks of smokeless tobacco (ST), cigars and cigarettes are shown below. 



Thus, just like with most things, moderation appears to be the key. It's advisable to smoke less than or equal to five cigars per day and not 22 like Twain



If you decide to smoke cigars while you write, I would additionally advise you to follow Mr. Bill's advice:


  • Beverages (e.g., espresso) are good accompaniment for a cigar
  • If you find yourself salivating...spit most of it out as opposed to swallowing it
  • Do not smoke a cigar as you would a cigarette. (i.e., Like Clinton, do not inhale.)
  • Take a puff every 30-90 seconds
  • Lastly, and arguable most importantly, never smoke on an empty stomach or you'll end up like the Berlin clerks in Nabokov's "Beneficence":


...Berlin clerks were leaving their offices...in his eyes, the turbid nausea that comes when you smoke a bad cigar on an empty stomach...

If you're concerned about the effects of smoking cigars on your stamina, Micheal Jordan shared the following in the July/August 2005 issue of Cigar Aficionado, "Not many people know about it. When they read this, they'll know that each and every day for a home game, I smoked a cigar. I wanted that feeling of success, and relaxation. It's the most relaxing thing." That's correct, the greatest basketball player to, thus far, ever play the game smoked a cigar before every home game. And he mentioned that before the interview he worked out after he had a cigar. 


Edward Hopper's Nighthawks (1942) Featuring Phillies Cigars


If you're a starving artist, like Bukowski, you may want to begin with inexpensive convenience store cigars like
Garcia y Vega English Coronas over the popular Phillies brand. While both cigars are machine-made, the Vega's have a dark natural leaf wrapper while the Phillies have a lighter processed wrapper which according to Famous Smoke "are made from so-called sheet binder, a homogenized tobacco product in which large quantities of tobacco are broken down and reconstructed into a sheet of “tobacco paper,” as opposed to an actual tobacco leaf, which has been cured, fermented, and aged." Consequently, the Phillies "leafs" leaves an extremely strong tobacco smell on the hand(s), and they may contribute the strong nicotine "buzz" that is not typically experienced from smoking Garcia y Vegas. 

It's important that one "toast" his cigar before (fully) lighting it with a wooden match, which in many cases is very difficult to do especially with the winds coming off of the Hudson and East rivers. A butane wind resistant cigar lighter is a more realistic lighter for use outdoors. (Cigar aficionados swear by butane lighters, which don't harm the taste of the cigar.) And a benefit of purchasing machine rolled cigars is that they're "pre-cut"; thus, one doesn't have to "peel the cap" or use a cigar cutter.





Ranald Macdonald of Boisdale London: 
How to Light a Cigar via The Wall Street Journal




Lastly, Kipling's "The Betrothed" is a poem about a poet who decides to cancel his marriage ceremony after his fiancĂ©e forces him to choose between tying the knot and cigars. 



You must choose between me and your cigar.” 
— Breach of Promise Case, circa 1885. 

OPEN the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,
For things are running crossways, and Maggie and I are out. 

We quarrelled about Havanas—we fought o’er a good cheroot,
And I knew she is exacting, and she says I am a brute. 

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a space;
In the soft blue veil of the vapour musing on Maggie’s face. 

Maggie is pretty to look at—Maggie’s a loving lass,
But the prettiest cheeks must wrinkle, the truest of loves must pass. 

There’s peace in a Larranaga, there’s calm in a Henry Clay;
But the best cigar in an hour is finished and thrown away— 

Thrown away for another as perfect and ripe and brown—
But I could not throw away Maggie for fear o’ the talk o’ the town! 

Maggie, my wife at fifty—grey and dour and old—
With never another Maggie to purchase for love or gold! 

And the light of Days that have Been the dark of the Days that Are,
And Love’s torch stinking and stale, like the butt of a dead cigar— 

The butt of a dead cigar you are bound to keep in your pocket—
With never a new one to light tho’ it’s charred and black to the socket! 

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider a while.
Here is a mild Manila—there is a wifely smile. 

Which is the better portion—bondage bought with a ring,
Or a harem of dusky beauties, fifty tied in a string? 

Counsellors cunning and silent—comforters true and tried,
And never a one of the fifty to sneer at a rival bride? 

Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes,
Peace in the hush of the twilight, balm ere my eyelids close, 

This will the fifty give me, asking nought in return,
With only a Suttee’s passion—to do their duty and burn. 

This will the fifty give me. When they are spent and dead,
Five times other fifties shall be my servants instead. 

The furrows of far-off Java, the isles of the Spanish Main,
When they hear my harem is empty will send me my brides again. 

I will take no heed to their raiment, nor food for their mouths withal,
So long as the gulls are nesting, so long as the showers fall. 

I will scent ’em with best vanilla, with tea will I temper their hides,
And the Moor and the Mormon shall envy who read of the tale of my brides. 

For Maggie has written a letter to give me my choice between
The wee little whimpering Love and the great god Nick o’ Teen. 

And I have been servant of Love for barely a twelvemonth clear,
But I have been Priest of Cabanas a matter of seven year; 

And the gloom of my bachelor days is flecked with the cheery light
Of stumps that I burned to Friendship and Pleasure and Work and Fight. 

And I turn my eyes to the future that Maggie and I must prove,
But the only light on the marshes is the Will-o’-the-Wisp of Love. 

Will it see me safe through my journey or leave me bogged in the mire?
Since a puff of tobacco can cloud it, shall I follow the fitful fire? 

Open the old cigar-box—let me consider anew—
Old friends, and who is Maggie that I should abandon you? 

A million surplus Maggies are willing to bear the yoke;
And a woman is only a woman, but a good Cigar is a Smoke. 

Light me another Cuba—I hold to my first-sworn vows.
If Maggie will have no rival, I’ll have no Maggie for Spouse! 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Are You a Lonely Writer?




Joyce Carol Oates said, "Writing is a solitary occupation, and one of its hazards is loneliness. But an advantage of loneliness is privacy, autonomy and freedom."

Richard Ford said, "Writing is indeed often dark and lonely...."

But Hilma Wolitzer said, "Writing fiction is a solitary occupation but not really a lonely one. The writer's head is mobbed with characters, images and language, making the creative process something like eavesdropping at a party for which you've had the fun of drawing up the guest list. Loneliness usually doesn't set in until the work is finished, and all the partygoers and their imagined universe have disappeared."


And in terms of having friends, Proust scorned friendships and according to Szeftel in Pniniad, other than attending a few soirees with other Cornell professors, Vera was enough of a friend for Nabokov. 

(Quotes source: www.AdvicetoWriters.com)