The latest in the popular thread:
Perhaps Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis, which starts with the hero waking up to find he has turned into a man-sized cockroach, is the best literary treatment of all. The central image could hardly be better chosen, and there is a telling touch in the nasty way everybody goes on at the chap.
For my own part, I’d like to nominate the following passage from P.G. Wodehouse’s famous short story “Jeeves Takes Charge,” in which Bertie meets — and hires — Jeeves for the first time:
I shall always remember the morning he came.
It so happened that the night before I had been present at a rather cheery little supper, and I was feeling pretty rocky. On top of this I was trying to read a book Florence Craye had given me. She had been one of the house-party at Easeby, and two or three days before I left we had got engaged. I was due back at the end of the week, and I knew she would expect me to have finished the book by then. You see, she was particularly keen on boosting me up a bit nearer her own plane of intellect. She was a girl with a wonderful profile, but steeped to the gills in serious purpose. I can’t give you a better idea of the way things stood than by telling you that the book she’d given me to read was called “Types of Ethical Theory,” and that when I opened it at random I struck a page beginning:
— The postulate or common understanding involved in speech is certainly co-extensive, in the obligation it carries, with the social organism of which language is the instrument, and the ends of which it is an effort to subserve.
All perfectly true, no doubt; but not the sort of thing to spring on a lad with a morning head.
I was doing my best to skim through this bright little volume when the bell rang. I crawled off the sofa and opened the door. A kind of darkish sort of respectful Johnnie stood without.
“I was sent by the agency, sir,” he said. “I was given to understand that you required a valet.”
I’d have preferred an undertaker; but I told him to stagger in, and he floated noiselessly through the doorway like a healing zephyr. That impressed me from the start. Meadowes had had flat feet and used to clump. This fellow didn’t seem to have any feet at all. He just streamed in. He had a grave, sympathetic face, as if he, too, knew what it was to sup with the lads.
“Excuse me, sir,” he said gently.
Then he seemed to flicker, and wasn’t there any longer.
I heard him moving about in the kitchen, and presently he came back with a glass on a tray.
“If you would drink this, sir,” he said, with a kind of bedside manner, rather like the royal doctor shooting the bracer into the sick prince. “It is a little preparation of my own invention. It is the Worcester Sauce that gives it its color. The raw egg makes it nutritious. The red pepper gives it its bite. Gentlemen have told me they have found it extremely invigorating after a late evening.”
I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life-line that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the tree-tops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.
“You’re engaged!” I said, as soon as I could say anything.
As for the reader who suggested discussing “the best word for hangover in any language,” I submit for your consideration the New Year’s essay “How to Say ‘Hangover’ in French, German, Finnish, and Many Other Languages,” written by Sam Dean for Bon Appétit magazine, in its entirety. His “world tour of misery” is hard to beat, and a treat for any logophile. There’s just one word that Dean misses: if you wake up drunk among the Tsonga people in South Africa, you might realize you’ve been rhwe: sleeping, drunk and naked, on the floor without a mat.
Several Douglas Adams fans are also weighing in. One writes, “There’s always the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, described as ‘like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped ’round a large gold brick’ and ‘the alcoholic equivalent to a mugging: expensive and bad for the head.'” Another:
I’m surprised no one has offered the opening to the great Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Here you go:
At eight o’clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn’t feel very good. He woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the bathroom to wash.
Toothpaste on the brush – so. Scrub.
Shaving mirror – pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a moment it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window. Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent’s bristles. He shaved them off, washed, dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put in his mouth.
Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn.
The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with.
The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one.
He stared at it.
“Yellow,” he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed.
Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung over? Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must have been. He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. “Yellow,” he thought and stomped on to the bedroom.
He stood and thought. The pub, he thought. Oh dear, the pub. He vaguely remembered being angry, angry about something that seemed important. He’d been telling people about it, telling people about it at great length, he rather suspected: his clearest visual recollection was of glazed looks on other people’s faces.
Something about a new bypass he had just found out about. It had been in the pipeline for months only no one seemed to have known about it. Ridiculous. He took a swig of water. It would sort itself out, he’d decided, no one wanted a bypass, the council didn’t have a leg to stand on. It would sort itself out. God what a terrible hangover it had earned him though. He looked at himself in the wardrobe mirror.
He stuck out his tongue. “Yellow,” he thought. The word yellow wandered through his mind in search of something to connect with.
Fifteen seconds later he was out of the house and lying in front of a big yellow bulldozer that was advancing up his garden path.
Meanwhile, a naughty-minded reader can’t help himself:
If you’re going to have a thread on hangovers, I’d think it’s only natural to extend the idea to another thread: the best orgasm in fiction. (Sorry, I don’t have my own selection to recommend, but I do look forward to what your other readers, er, come up with.)