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Pappyland: Fathers and Bourbon 1 min read
Pappy Van Winkle

Pappyland: Fathers and Bourbon

A book seemingly about the most sought-after bourbon in the world is actually about so much more. For me, it contains lessons about fathers and sons.

By Cary Littlejohn

I recently listened to Brian Koppelman's latest podcast episode where he interviewed Wright Thompson before the release of the paperback version of his book, Pappyland.

It's a wide-ranging discussion: writing and the power of words, the lure of nostalgia, whiskey, horses, the South, and family, specifically fathers.

Wright and his father. Julian Van Winkle III, the third-generation namesake of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, and his father, Julian Jr. Wright as he became a father.

I looked to those pages of Pappyland not to find my father, but rather how to think about my relationship to my father, who died six weeks ago, and how I might one day figure out how to write about him.

Whether through fiction or essays, I have no doubt I'll put him on the page at some point. Here are some of the lines that made me feel less alone at the prospect of sitting down one day with just a blank page and the ghost of my dad.

"Julian and his dad were men of different times. That's how it is with fathers and sons. The act of spanning a generational divide is the single most important thing either person will do in their lifetime; the relationship depends on making that leap successfully."
"Most every man competes with his father and imitates his father, lives in fear of disappointing , and craves approval, and on the extreme ends of a potentially fraught relationship, a man often spends his entire adult life trying to be exactly like his father or nothing like him."
"I'd heard a lot of stories about Mr. Julian [Van Winkle Jr.], read a lot about him, too, and it seemed pretty clear that Sally [Van Winkle Campbell (his daughter)] made a conscious decision in her book [But Always Fine Bourbon] to write about the best side of a complicated man. I understood completely. I've written about my father a lot, too, and while I am not ashamed of his flaws, I did think it was my right to focus on the parts that rang most true to me. It was my job as a firstborn son to protect him in death as I had been unable to do in life."