Breaking All the Rules (Again)

T.S. Eliot penned April the cruelest month, but for many, Prohibition represented hard times.

W. C. Fields recalled it as a period in his life, “when I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.”  (This line was discovered in an op-ed essay mentioned below…)

The years between 1919 and 1933 also represent an extraordinary time in the United States, because despite our so-called dry status, we managed to usher in Jazz, and publish a number of extraordinary novels that remain some of the best of the 20th Century.

Friends of the Library invites you to revisit the era on Friday April 27, when it hosts its latest IMBIBE event at the Western Addition Branch Library.

Some 5,000 speakeasies operated in San Francisco during prohibition. What’s more, it was also home to a number of breweries, including Albion Castle, a European Gothic masterpiece located in the Bayview. We’ve included a link to a guide about the breweries, and a little bit of history on the castle, which boasted its own natural springs to make its beer.

And to help get you in the mood for a night of food and drink at the Library, here is a handful of classic novels published during those turbulent years; you may want to check out one, or two, before you arrive to hear the Broun Fellinis perform on Friday.

  • Babbitt. Written by Sinclar Lewis and first published in 1922, Babbitt is a classic satire of American culture, society, and behavior.
  • The Great Gatsby.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel published in 1925, hardly needs describing. Set against the backdrop of Prohibition and bootlegging, the novel highlights the rapid changes in wealth and status in the United States. The Great Gatsby is considered by some be the Great American Novel.
  • The Sun Also Rises. Ernest Hemingway’s window on the life of a group of expatriates has been continuously in print since its publication in 1926.

Finally, Timothy Egan wrote a smashing opinion piece in the New York Times over the weekend on whether the Unites States does better when our Presidents hit the bottle. See for yourself, if only to catch the photo of FDR with his cigarette holder.

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