Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze

What happens when you gather a mixed crowd of locals, bookworms, and writers all under one roof and serve up sugary baked goods and booze on the side?

The Pie and Whiskey event, run by writers Kate Lebo and Samuel Ligon, does just that and the result is the book Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze. The event has writers submit their works based on prompts of pie or whiskey or both and read it out to a room full of people hopped on servings of pie and whiskey. The past six years of this festival held in Spokane, WA and Missoula, MT, have been witness to some fairly good literary pieces. These have now been compiled into a book by Kate and Samuel for a rather relatable reading experience.

Right of the bat, Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze will leave you with a craving for a slice of good ol’ homemade pie and a sip of heartwarming whiskey. That is the soul behind this collection of stories, essays, poetry, and some amazing pie and cocktail recipes. This anthology brings forth the spirit of pie, whiskey, and the two put together.

While the book is a collection of standalone pieces, their arrangement and the way whiskey affects people (readers and authors alike) somehow bring these stories together, making it a continuous thread. The pieces revolve around the tiny moments of interpersonal experiences that create memories and bonds among people and tend to strike a chord. Certain stories almost give the feeling of actually being there: eating pie and sipping whisky in a room full of people while authors read out their work.

The writers responded to the prompts with a mixed bag of surprising, funny, and heartbreaking literary works, written vividly. The writers tend to go into a transgressive and playfully dark place. While most of the pieces in the anthology are sure to leave you with a sense of connection, there are a few of them stand out from the rest. For example, Beautiful Ruins by author Jess Walter is story about grown children seated around a Thanksgiving table reminiscing  their parent’s divorce. The story is riddled with the turmoil that underlies the apparent neat and orderly suburban life. Whiskey is cast as a silent player in the story. The author manages to convey the emotions and conflicts without straying from the theme. The essence of the storytelling is capable of making the reader feel part of the setting.

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau explores the contrasts of her Indian heritage with her husband’s midwestern heritage based on the types of flour and preparation of pastry in her piece And Then There Was Rum Cake.

Another noteworthy piece is by editor Kate Lebo on the house featured in the classic masterpiece play ‘American Gothic’: a short essay which comes out from the pairing of pie and whisky.

Other authors that have contributed brilliant stories, poems and essays are Anthony Doerr, Steve Almond, Elissa Washuta, and Gary Lilley.

The recipes included in this combination of culinary and literary collection do not let you down. Each of the recipes are inspired from stories and poems published in the book, like Beautiful Ruins.

Even if you are not a big fan of neither pie nor whisky (as unlikely as it is), Pie & Whisky: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze is worth a read just to get a glimpse into a world of emotions and human behaviour. All of that topped off with influence and cultural significance that has accompanied the buttery sweet treat and a dram of liquid sunshine is sure make for a great reading experience.

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