A reader, defining “fiction” liberally, nominates Johnny Cash’s version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” as the best depiction of the morning after:
Another suggests a musical one-liner:
A character who awakens after a long night of drinking says, “All my teeth have little sweaters on.” That’s always been my favorite literary description of a hangover. It’s from the 1943 Broadway musical One Touch of Venus – book by S. J. Perelman, lyrics by Ogden Nash, music by Kurt Weill, so the line almost certainly belongs to Perlman. It’s perfect.
Another points to a novel:
I feel compelled to mention the hangover of Peter Fallow, the expatriate British journalist (supposedly based on Hitch) in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities:
The telephone blasted Peter Fallow awake inside an egg with the shell peeled away and only the membranous sac holding it intact. Ah! The membranous sac was his head, and the right side of his head was on the pillow, and the yolk was as heavy as mercury, and it rolled like mercury, and it was pressing down on his right temple… If he tried to get up to answer the telephone, the yolk, the mercury, the poisoned mass, would shift and roll and rupture the sac, and his brains would fall out.
Neil Gaiman, in his Anansi Boys, does a decent job. Must be an English thing:
Fat Charlie was thirsty and his head hurt and his mouth tasted evil and his eyes were too tight in his head and all his teeth twinged and his stomach burned and his back was aching in a way that started around his knees and went up to his forehead and his brains had been removed and replaced with cotton balls and needles and pins which was why it hurt to try and think, and his eyes were not just too tight in his head but they must have rolled out in the night and been reattached with roofing nails; and now he noticed that anything louder than the gentle Brownian motion of air molecules drifting softly past each other was above his pain threshold. Also, he wished he were dead.
Surely Malcolm Lowry of Under the Volcano fame deserves a mention in this context. There are so many passages both in his masterpiece and in his other works (all more or less autobiographical) that explore the experience of waking up with a hangover that it’s difficult to point to a representative instance. They are also so tightly entangled with the particular concerns of the book in which they appear that quoting them would not evoke the kind of visceral response Dixon’s experience provides the reader, an experience by the way that seems to me rather shallow, focused as it is more on the physical consequences of drinking a lot (and finding the right metaphors to convey it) than on the psychological consequences an alcoholic like Lowry might experience.
As delightful to read as Amis’ bravura passage may be (despite Dixon’s acute discomfort), Lowry registers the deeper truth of hangovers: that they can be occasions for acute mental anguish. But that’s as it should be. Lucky Jim is a comic novel. Under the Volcano is not.