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Drugs in literature

Parent categories: drugs - literature

Drug books occupy a curious niche in the world of letters. My local bookshop calls their section "Altered States," and its volumes range promiscuously between history, mysticism, natural science, user manuals, social policy and poetry. Drugs may be the ultimate object of interdisciplinary studies. What other field can encompass Alan Watts and Irvine Welsh, Walter Benjamin essays and Advanced Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic & Amphetamine Manufacture? --Erik Davis via http://www.techgnosis.com/druglit.html [feb 2005]

Titles: Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821) - Charles Baudelaire on alcohol and hashish (1850s) - Naked Lunch (1959) - William S. Burroughs

Walter Benjamin

The following essay on Walter Benjamin’s writings and experimental protocols on hashish, opium and mescaline forms a kind of preamble to a series of articles on some of the aesthetic presuppositions of the War on Drugs in the United States and one of its precursors, Hitler’s War on Drugs: Rauschgiftbekämpfung [The Fight Against Drugs] in the Third Reich, itself a long-forgotten importation of American Prohibition wedded to Nazi racial hygiene and a police state apparatus ever-ready to invoke the ‘wholesome popular sentiment’ expressed in the National Socialist-realist aesthetic to legitimize and enforce the performance principle of German fascism. -- Scott J. Thompson http://www.wbenjamin.org/rausch.html

The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs (2002) - Marcus Boon

The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs (2002) - Marcus Boon [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From Library Journal
Instead of providing a chronological history of drugs in literature, Boon (English, York Univ.) offers a sprawling, extensively researched work that explores the "more subtle, micropolitical histories of everyday interactions between human beings and particular psychoactive substances." Each of the book's five chapters focuses on writers (e.g., Baudelaire, Burroughs, Coleridge, Freud, Huxley, Kerouac, and Southey) and works associated with a particular class of drugs: narcotics, anesthetics, cannabis, stimulants, and psychedelics. Boon originally intended to confine himself to writers from the Romantics to the present but expanded his scope when after questioning the apparent lack of drug literature prior to Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1822). This is an ambitious effort, but as Boon himself notes in his chapter on cannabis, readers "will notice a tendency in my writing toward digression." A tighter focus would have helped, especially since many of the anecdotes have been covered elsewhere-most recently in Sadie Plant's Writing on Drugs. Still, this is a solid work of scholarship that should be of interest to most academic libraries.

What casual reader knew Yeats was a hash smoker? Who would have guessed Proust had a penchant for opium? Maybe Sartre's mad, tangential ramblings betray the fact that he was a speed freak; but who knew he indulged, on occasion, in mescaline hallucinations? Marcus Boon's new critical study The Road of Excess documents these trips as well as those of the usual suspects of 'Drug Lit': De Quincey and Coleridge, Baudelaire and Michaux, Burrows [Burrows?] and Kerouac, Phillip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe. -- [Feb 2005]

Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady (1982) - Michael Horowitz & Cynthia Palmer

Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady: Women's Writings on the Drug Experience (1982) - Michael Horowitz & Cynthia Palmer
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Please avoid Sisters of the Extreme, which is a "reissue" of 1982's Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady -- cut, streamlined and reformatted beyond all recognition. Evidently, the authors took the edge off their book for a more "conservative" era

Includes Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, Anais Nin, Maya Angelou, Billie Holiday, Nina Hagen, Carrie Fisher and others.

Cindy Horowitz is also known by the name Cynthia Palmer. Her maiden name is Istas; the father of her first two children was named Palmer. She is an author, wife of Michael Horowitz and mother of Winona Ryder. With her husband she is responsible for the creation of the world's largest library of drug literature, the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Horowitz [Aug 2006]

More books

  1. Artificial Paradises: A Drugs Reader - Mike Jay [Amazon.com]
    Times change--who would have thought that we'd ever see a nonjudgmental mainstream anthology of writings about mind-altering drugs? Editor Mike Jay delivers scores of well-selected hits of wild wisdom from Homer and his cronies to William Burroughs in Artificial Paradises. His mild-mannered but insightful introductions and links between pieces prime the reader for a series of expansive trips through other people's minds as they grapple with medical, moral, artistic, and spiritual puzzlers posed by drugs. Hopped-up coke fiend Sigmund Freud rants about his favorite little helper, while painter Henri Michaux complains that mescaline is a poor muse. The pieces are usually amusing and sometimes penetrating. Jay wisely avoids most of the propaganda we've already been oversubjected to in recent decades, instead focusing on the experience and assessment of drugs and their cultural value. Sections include Researches Chemical and Philosophical: Drugs and Science and The Algebra of Need: Drugs and Addiction, with selections from such disparate writers as Jean Cocteau and Thomas Szasz. Most of the pieces are very short--one or two pages--but highly concentrated, giving an immediate sense of the author's intent and attitudes, often inspiring a trip to the library for another dose. When it's time to turn on, tune in, and drop out, prepare yourself with the guidance of Artificial Paradises. --Rob Lightner for amazon.com

  2. The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell (1954) - Aldous Huxley [Amazon.com]
    Sometimes a writer has to revisit the classics, and here we find that "gonzo journalism"--gutsy first-person accounts wherein the author is part of the story--didn't originate with Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe. Aldous Huxley took some mescaline and wrote about it some 10 or 12 years earlier than those others. The book he came up with is part bemused essay and part mystical treatise--"suchness" is everywhere to be found while under the influence. This is a good example of essay writing, journal keeping, and the value of controversy--always--in one's work. --amazon editorial

  3. Waiting for the Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music - Harry Shapiro [Amazon.com]
    A central axiom of rock criticism is that when the drugs change, so does the music. Each musical revolution has been characterised by the use of particular drugs: Rock'n'Roll ignited by the post-War abundance of amphetamines; the languorous Summer of Love hallucinated by LSD; Punk Rockers' nihilism expressed by Sniffin' Glue; the Eighties' Acid House upheaval loved up on MDMA, a.k.a. Ecstasy. In conjunction with their drug of choice, however, each successive generation has also consumed cannabis. As Harry Shapiro tells, in his seminal Story of Drugs and Popular Music, Waiting For The Man, 'The drug (cannabis) features throughout the history of popular music, experienced differently by divergent sub-cultural groups: jazz age swingers, cool beboppers, cosmic hippies and Trench Town roots rockers from Jamaica.' -- Russell Cronin [...]

  4. Writings on Drugs [Amazon.com]
    In this exhilarating literary exploration, Sadie Plant traces the history of drugs and drug use through the work of some of our most revered, and infamous, writers. Rather than exploring drug use as an avenue to spiritual transcendence, Plant focuses on the way that drugs themselves make precise, recognizable interventions in consciousness, in cultural life, in politics. She argues that the use, production, and trafficking of drugs--narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens--have shaped some of the era's most fundamental philosophies and provided much of its economic wealth. "The reasons for the laws and the motives for the wars, the nature of the pleasures and the trouble drugs can cause, the tangled webs of chemicals, the plants, the brains, machines: ambiguity surrounds them all. Drugs shape the laws and write the very rules they break, they scramble all the codes and raise the stakes of desire and necessity, euphoria and pain, normality, perversion, truth, and artifice again."

Pioneer of Inner Space: The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Hasheesh Eater (1998) - Donald P. Dulcinos

Pioneer of Inner Space: The Life of Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Hasheesh Eater (1998) - Donald P. Dulcinos [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Hasheesh Eater is an autobiographical book by Fitz Hugh Ludlow, first published in 1857.

The Hasheesh Eater describes Ludlow's altered states of consciousness and philosophical flights of fancy while he was using a cannabis extract. It is Ludlow's best-known book (only one other, The Heart of the Continent, has seen a new edition since the 19th Century).

The Hasheesh Eater is an uncomfortable book for many readers. People who have a knee-jerk reaction toward marijuana and are comfortable stereotyping its users as burnt-out hedonists will not enjoy Ludlow's description of the cannabis user as one who is reaching for "the soul's capacity for a broader being, deeper insight, grander views of Beauty, Truth and Good than she now gains through the chinks of her cell." Similarly, today's drug enthusiasts will be put off by Ludlow's final warning: "Ho there! pass by; I have tried this way; it leads at last into poisonous wildernesses."

The Hasheesh Eater went through four editions in the late 1850s and early 1860s, each put out by Harper & Brothers. In 1903, another publishing house put a reprint of the original edition — and the last complete edition until 1970. Currently, one edition is in print, an annotated hypertext CD-ROM version published in 2003. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hasheesh_Eater [Jan 2006]

See also: hasheesh - American literature - drugs in literature - 1857

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