Shaken and Stirredrnby J.O.TaternMartini, Straight Up:rnThe Classic American Cocktailrnby Lowell EdmundsrnBaltimore: The Johns HopkinsrnUniversity Press; 153 pp., $24.95rnProfessor Edmunds’ study is welcomernfor several reasons, not the least ofrnwhich is that it is the revised edition of hisrnThe Silver Bullet: The Martini in AmericanrnCivilization (1981). That noble andrninstructive volume was much too good torndisappear into oblivion. The centrality ofrnits topic and the originality of his treatmentrnhave more than justified this publication,rnwhich we may perhaps call the revisedrnstandard version.rnLowell Edmunds’ remarkable book isrnnot quite what it seems to be, however. Itrnis not a bartender’s guide or a recipernbook, nor is it, in spite of certain celebratoryrnqualities, a guide for snobs. Furthermore,rnthis revised edition transcends itsrnoccasion, which is the retro revival of thernpast decade (and then some) and the imagernof the Martini as a staple of yuppiernsteak houses, cigar bars, and so on. ThernMartini is more important than that, asrnEdmunds has himself shown.rnHe certainly more than touches onrnMartini lore: the provenance of the cocktail,rnthe squabbles about standards, andrnso on. But 1 think it is fair to say that, forrnhim, a Martini (as the subject of this disquisitionrnat least) is more than a drink: Itrnis a symbol, and an American one. Edmundsrnhas used various techniques forrnunfolding the meanings of the Martini,rnsuch as examining the history of advertising,rnanalyzing the background of gin andrnvermouth, and tracking the Martini’srnpresence in popular culture, for instancernin film.rnThe most immediately gratifying suchrnwork is his tracing of the Martini in literatiire,rnand I must say that I enjoyed readingrnthe quotations from Jack London, W.rnSomerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald,rnErnest Hemingway, Evelyn Waugh,rnDorothy Parker, J.D. Salinger, JohnrnCheever, John Updike, and others; evenrnmore, I relished Edmunds’ commentsrnabout them. He has shown that the Martinirnin literature is not a mere referencernbut a functioning emblem, a generator ofrndistinctions. For all his erudition, however,rn1 think that Edmunds missed thernmost poetic and impassioned lines everrninscribed about the Martini, which arernfrom the lips of the alcoholic gunman,rnHarvey Lovell, in Chapter 18 oi MidnightrnPlus One by Gavin Lyall (1965), atrnleast some of which must be quoted forrnthe record:rnJust cold enough to make the glassrnmist)’. . . . Not freezing; you canrnmake anything taste as if it mightrnbe good by making it freezing.rnThat’s the secret of how to runrnAmerica, if you want to know it. . ..rnAnd no damn olives or onions in it,rneither. Just a kind of smell likernsummer.rnBut even this effusion does not quiternspeak to the heart of Martini, StraightrnUp. The book is about more than a mererncocktail —it is about a symbol, as I said.rnAnd Edmunds has insisted that the Mardni-rnas-symbol is the Martini we know.rnTo him, the simple messages of the symbolrnare these: The Martini is American,rnnot European or other; it is urban and urbane,rnnot rural or rustic; it is a high-statusrndrink, not low; it is a man’s drink, not arnwoman’s; it is optimistic, not pessimistic;rnit is adult, not juvenile; it is of the past,rnnot the present. The ambiguities of thernMartini are more challenging and suggestivernof the core of his vision: The Martinirnis civilized and uncivilized; it unitesrnand separates; it is classic and individual;rnit is sensitive and tough. Perhaps wernwould not agree with ever)’ one of his theses,rnbut he has nailed them to the door ofrnthe clean, well-lighted place of our imagination,rnand adduced convincing evidencernof the paradoxes he has identified.rnEdmunds has acknowledged that hisrnmental starting point was in RolandrnBarthes’ “Wine and Milk” (Mythologies,rn1972) and Levi-Strauss’s The Raw and thernCooked [1970). But his work has leftrnstructuralism and semiotics behind, inrnpart because of his sense of humor butrnmostly because of his awareness that thernMartini-as-symbol cannot be altogetherrnreduced to formulae. He claims that thernMartini embraces the fundamental contradictionsrnof American life, to which wernmust add that enough Martinis also resolvern(or dissolve) those contradictions,rnor at least let you forget them for a while.rnWe can only wish that Edmunds’ bookrnwere more —even much more —extensive,rnas it leaves many points to be developed.rnI do not see, for example, the Martini-rnas-symbol (and all Martinis are that)rnas past-oriented. It seems to me a totemrnof the present, an emblem of the modern.rn”The Silver Bullet” packs a punchrnbecause, after a day at the modern officernor in the city, that is what ou need. Inrnthat sense, the Martini is the civilized antidoternto modern experience, one thatrnunleashes uncivilized impulses in a paradoxicallyrnhieratic rite that can hardly failrnto remind us of ancient religion.rnI would have liked to read more, too,rnabout the Martini as a secular Protestantrnpotation, opposed to the wine culture ofrnthe Mediterranean/Catholic worlds ofrnItaly, France, and Spain. Within ourrnown nation, the cult of the Martini replacedrnthe great drink of the antebellumrnSouth, the Mint Julep, which is arguablyrnboth a superior drink and a more Americanrnone, and certainlv a symbol of otherrnvalues. To his credit, Edmunds has notrnassumed that the oxymoronic cocktail liernstudies is innocent, anv more than a bulletrnis. He has acknowledged the poisonousrnpossibilities of the Martini andrnthe dead end of alcoholism.rnMartini, Straight Up is a stimulatingrnwork of cultural criticism and analysis forrnwhich the author will be thanked bvrngrateful readers —though one of thosernreaders, at least, has been disappointed bvrnhis latitudinarian treatment of that usurper,rnvodka.rn/.O. Tate is a professor of English atrnDowling College on Long Island.rnr – RECEIVED WISDOM—irnLorenzo da Ponte in AmericanrnPerspective by Olga Ragusa; S.F.rnVanni Publishers and Booksellers.rnBOW. 12th Street, New York.rnOlga Ragusa, Da Ponte Professor ofrnItalian Emerita at ColumbiarnUniversit, has published two informativernand highly readable lectures onrnthe founder of Italian studies inrnAmerica: poet, Mozart’s librettist,rnLatin lover, and con-artist, and writerrnof one of the liveliest memoirs of thern19th century. “His publications werernnumerous,” she drylv observes, “butrnwould no doubt create problems for arnpresent day committee charged withrnthe evaluation of his credentials.”rnJULY 1999/35rnrnrn