A retired professor discusses a new “philosophy of living” while drinking wine with friends in this debut self-help guide.
In the mid-1990s, Drinan, now a dean emeritus and professor emeritus at the University of San Diego, was traveling in Europe. There, he noticed that there always seemed to be about 12 drops left every time he and his wife polished off a bottle of wine. His daughter later gave him a book, A History of Wine in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, which led to his discovery of cottabus, an ancient Greek game played at philosophical symposia. Largely a skills contest involving flinging wine dregs at particular targets, Drinan found it “not hard to imagine the zest of conversations as people played the game and speculated about what success or failure might mean in their lives.” Inspired by this idea, he sets forth “a new cottabus” in this book to serve as a “down-to-earth, regular way to tease out one’s philosophy of living.” His game is focused on shaping and sharing one’s “personal terroir,” the set of “practical wisdoms” that guide one’s life. He stresses a philosophy of “living” versus a philosophy of “life,” connecting his concept to Epicurus as well as Thomas Jefferson, an Epicurus-leaning wine lover. Drinan shares his affinity with Jefferson (he and his wife both attended the University of Virginia) and lists his own practical wisdoms, which include Voltaire’s maxim that “The best is the enemy of the good.” He readily admits that his idea for a book is rather playful, yet he rightfully emphasizes the often serious underlying value in frivolity. Certainly, his highly enjoyable exercise has merit, and today’s more thoughtful wine connoisseurs may particularly appreciate it. The author occasionally gets a bit too scholarly in his musings, such as when he imagines a dialogue between Epicurus and Jefferson, and he goes on a bit too long when setting up his initial thesis. Still, this is a charming book for anyone who relishes wine and wants to gain a greater understanding of oneself and others while imbibing it.
A piquant blend of oenophilia and self-study suggestions.