A LIFE IN SMOKE by Julia Hansen


A Memoir
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A distressed writer for a health magazine describes the nutty stratagem she devised to break herself of the curse of tobacco.

The author’s attempt goes well beyond nicotine gum or the patch. She locked herself in at home for a week, out of the reach of cigarettes, with 72 feet of steel chain. It’s a bizarre tale of passion and lust for a malign love—the love of nicotine (preferably in the form of mentholated cigarettes with a filter tip). Hansen narrates her history of panic attacks and cuttings and alcoholism and a stay in a psych ward, but her chief demon, as she reports, is smoke. The brume of Newports, the fog of Marlboros, was attractive in high school, cool when she was a Playgirl editor, the rule when she composed pornography and a concealed pleasure when she wrote for health publisher Rodale. The obsession for another and yet another ciggie attended her difficult dealings with various good guys and diverse bad men. Then she married big, sweet John, who agreed, for her sake and the sake of her young son, to lock her in chains each hellish day. The reader is enlisted as confessor to an extravagant chronicle of being fettered to a radiator, cranked up on dopamine. With minor forays into the history of smoking and the technology associated with it, this is largely highly wrought introspection. Included, like a visit from the Ghost of Smoking Past, is a dialogue with her younger self. In her bravura text, Hansen stretches with similes like “our styles of worship clashed like an old man’s golf attire” and “trailing loneliness like toilet paper on the heel of a shoe.”

Harrowing discourse on chain-smoking, despite the lack of a real narrative chain.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-8958-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2006