Ian Lendlerís Alcoholica Esoterica purports to be ďA Collection of Useful and Useless Information As It Relates to the History and Consumption of All Manner of Booze.Ē Which is all well and good, as far as titles and subheadings go. Judging from that and Lendlerís introduction, you might think that Alcolholica Esoterica was a clever little trivia book, a collection of tidbits to start conversations at your next cocktail party. And thatís true enough, in its own way.
But neither the title nor the author give advance warning that this book is funny. Not just an occasional giggle funny, but constant, gut-busting, read-out-loud-and-annoy-your-spouse funny. Lendler delivers even dry statistics with the flair of a punch line. He not only finds the humor in every story, he sharpens, polishes, and aims it with unfailing timing. If he wrote this under the influence, it would go a long way towards justifying the belief that alcohol makes people funnier.
Oh, and itís very educational, too. Lendler has a knock for finding tidbits of knowledge that not only illuminate the history of alcohol but of the countries that create it. The history of civilization is not quite the history of fermentation, but theyíre closely intertwined, and Lendlerís light examination of the one leads to surprisingly effective primer on the other.
But no one drinks for the sake of history, or attends a cocktail party for the witty conversation. Alcohol is meant as a joyous distraction, a way of shaking off the dayís cares and making yourself believe youíre a bit smarter and more entertaining than you know to be the case. That makes Alcoholica Esoterica the literary equivalent of three martinis and a margarita, hangover-free.