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Susan Cheever quotes (showing 1-30 of 60)

“Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.”
Susan Cheever
“Psychological studies have recently shown that adversity can be a more powerful motivator than support. Successful people often remember being told that they could not do what they have, in fact, done brilliantly. Stubbornness drove them. Their parents or teachers have told them they will never make any money, or that they will never get a college degree, or that they will never marry and have children. The urge to prove authority wrong has often spurred human beings to unusual success.”
Susan Cheever, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography
“Writers often write their best when they are feeling their worst”
Susan Cheever, Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography
“The Pilgrims landed the Mayflower at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on a cold November day in 1620 because they were running out of beer.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“The Pilgrims believed beer was an unalloyed good, a 'good creature of God.' People who did not drink were suspect and 'crank-brained.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“There wasn’t much good to say about the voyage. Five weeks in, with no land in sight, the scanty provisions began to run out. This was a concern for passengers, and also for sailors who were traditionally promised a gallon of beer a day as part of their sailing wages. They could do without food; they could not do without drink.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“By the 1820s American drinking was out of control. Children drank before school, during school at recess, and after school. Farmers had jugs stashed at the end of every row in their fields. Factories featured frequent drinking breaks. Meals were washed down with applejack. Workers invariably headed for the bar on payday long before they thought of going home to spend the money on their families’ needs. The whole country was more or less living under the influence, farming under the influence, and even studying under the influence. In 1820, the average amount an individual drank in one day was more than three times the average today.119”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“On the voyage from England, beer was their everything. Beer was their fruit and their vegetables in a diet that otherwise consisted of bread, cheese, and meat. Beer was their yogurt with its healing enzymes, and beer was their medicinal spirit. Beer was their water, and beer was their, well, beer.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Desperate for beer, they ignored the abundant freshwater. Even the Bible advised against drinking water in Saint Paul’s epistle to Timothy: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and for thine own infirmities.”27”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“At times, we don't seem to be able to moderate are drinking. At other times we blame it for everything. We love it or we hate it. It is our big solution and it is our big problem.”
Susan Cheever
“Twenty-first-century American writers do not drink much.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Drinking, as Eric Burns writes, was our first national pastime—long before baseball was invented.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Seven thousand arrests for alcohol possession in New York City between 1921 and 1923 (when enforcement was more or less openly abandoned) resulted in only seventeen convictions.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Liquor was inexpensive, but the average colonist spent a quarter of his household income on alcohol.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“This tension between the colonists’ unabashed enjoyment of drink and their contempt for drunkenness was soon expressed in a series of laws, which are still part of the split American character.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“John Berryman, put it, “Something has been said for sobriety, but very little.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Upon all the new settlements the Spaniards make, the first thing they do is build a church,” wrote the British captain Thomas Walduck in 1708. “The first thing the Dutch do upon a new colony is to build them a fort, but the first thing the English do, be it in the most remote part of the world, or amongst the most barbarous Indians, is to set up a tavern or drinking house.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“There was a feeling that voters should be repaid in booze for the effort of voting.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“When they established a college—Harvard, in 1636—they equipped it with its own brewery.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“At times, we don't seem to be able to moderate our drinking. At other times we blame it for everything. We love it or we hate it. It is our big solution and it is our big problem.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Not drunk is he who from the floor, / Can rise again and still drink more, / But drunk is he who prostrate lies, / Without the power to drink or rise.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“early colonist columnist wrote, “If ever a nation was debauched by a man,”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“the American nation has been debauched by [George] Washington.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Gazette described his competitor,”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“as a “crafty and lecherous old hypocrite.”45”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“got a return on his investment of almost two votes per gallon.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“... [A]lcoholic families are nightmarish places, heartbreak machines in which the innocent fare worse than the guilty.”
Susan Cheever
“The people should never rise, without doing something to be remembered—something notable and striking.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Taylor Barnum. After he died, it was said that he was more alive than anyone still living.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History
“Since Alexander Hamilton, an increasing percentage of the federal budget had been provided by taxing alcohol. In the early 1900s taxes on liquor made up almost 30 percent of the federal budget—a seemingly implacable obstacle to Prohibition. Now, with the passage of an amendment that allowed a broader tax, the government could give up the alcohol taxes for income taxes.”
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History

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