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Writers (And Their Books!) For Cigar Lovers

Aug 26, 2008
In his essay "Sifting the Ashes," the writer Jonathan Franzen has the following to say about the smoking habit he struggles to quit: "[W]hen you're smoking, you're acutely present to yourself: you step outside the unconscious forward rush of life."

Beautiful words, with which many cigar smokers would agree. Perhaps that's why so many of history's most famous and best-loved writers are hard to mentally picture without a cigar: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Collette, George Sand, Karl Marx. Not terrible company, and they're not alone. Some major contemporary writers are cigar smokers as well.

Paul Auster

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Paul Auster graduated from Columbia, then moved to Paris, France to eke out a living as a French-literature translator. He's been married to two highly-regarded American writers "Siri Hustvedt (currently) and, before that, Lydia Davis, who is also known for her translation work - and his novels The New York Trilogy and Moon Palace are modern classics. He's known for using the shape of the detective story to entertain larger questions about the meaning of identity, of language, and of existence. But his biggest fame - and his importance to smokers - came when he wrote and co-directed the movie Smoke, a landmark of American indie cinema set in a Brooklyn cigar shop.

Centered on Auggie Wren, owner of the Brooklyn Cigar Company - a sort of existential Dew Drop Inn where large cross-sections of humanity gather - it ponders the random yet seemingly meaningful connections among various people, a major theme in Auster's writing (as well as of several other major American art films from the same period - consider Short Cuts and Magnolia). Auster's selection of a smoke shop as his setting renders the film, which is based on one of his own short stories, especially meaningful for diehard cigar smokers.

Edward Whittemore

Here's an artist with a colorful life indeed - he went from Yale to the Marines to the CIA, wrote for the Japan Times (it was part of his cover), lived in Crete, and wrote the massive, tripped-out series of literary espionage novels known as the Jerusalem Quartet, a work lauded by Tom Robbins as - like a bowl of hashish pudding - and by Jonathon Carroll as a book that
"makes your soul grow." (To give you an idea: one of the books is about a 12-year-long game of poker in which the winner becomes owner of the Holy Land. That's just the plot of one of them.) Yet the Quartet went out of print after only a few years, and Whittemore ended his days in dire poverty and obscurity, working as a photocopier for a law firm.

In 2003, eight years after his death, the Quartet was republished to all-but-universal acclaim; Jim Hougan, writing in Harper's, called it "one of the last, best arguments against television" and Whittemore - an author of extraordinary talents. His friend Thomas C. Wallace remembers his love of cigars: "We walked the woods and fields of southern Vermont by day, sat in front of the house after dinner on solid green Adirondack chairs, drinks in hand and smoking cigars." In a similar spirit, lovers of fine cigars should search out his one-of-a-kind novels - after all, premium cigar smokers already know that the most immediately accessible pleasures aren't always the deepest.

John Grisham

You probably know that John Grisham is an ex-lawyer and the biggest-selling novelist of the 1990s, but you probably don't know about his charity work, his advocacy on behalf of the wrongly imprisoned, his tireless support of less-commercially-successful writers - or the fact that it's been said he smokes four cigars a week. In addition to writing the well-loved legal thrillers The Firm and A Time To Kill, among others (as well as such departures as A Painted House), he has done missionary and relief work in Brazil and service on the board of the Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Perhaps all of this is why he ended up on one of Cigar Aficionado's lists of the top hundred smokers.
About the Author
CigarFox provides you the opportunity to build your own sampler of the finest cigars that include cigar brands like Montecristo, Romeo & Julieta, H Upmann, Macanudo, Cohiba, Gurkha and many more. Choose from more than 1000 different brands! Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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