A well-drawn, comprehensive account of a troubling subject.

THE PURSUIT OF OBLIVION

A GLOBAL HISTORY OF NARCOTICS

A British historian trains an eye on the vast history of human experience with illicit drugs.

Beginning roughly in the 18th century, the author relates how opium, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and many other substances that have bedeviled modern society began their once-innocuous trajectories. Most were first used for healing purposes (“Heroin” was the brand name used by Bayer to market a cure to calm respiratory ailments) or as a means of sedation. Marijuana had medical applications; cocaine was distributed to miners and plantation workers in hot climates to maintain their productivity. As the title implies, what all these substances have in common is their ability to transport the user to a more pleasant state of mind. The author views this human desire for peace, serenity, and “paradise” as a natural impulse and rues the fact that since the early 20th century it has instead been defined as criminal. He points out that prohibition of narcotics arose not from concern for drug use but as a means of criminalizing or marginalizing such specific minorities as youths, blacks, and Asians. Punitive treatment of drug users has not been especially effective, he avers, even though prison sentences for using or supplying drugs remain draconian. Because tough punishments and crackdowns drive up risk and therefore price, they actually end up serving as business incentives for drug suppliers. Davenport-Hines (Gothic, 2000, etc.) offers few specific remedies, although he discusses the example of the Netherlands, where legal, affordable marijuana has reduced dependence on harsher narcotics and addiction-related crime. Making narcotics similar to alcohol in availability by restricting children’s access and closely regulating purchases will ultimately be most helpful to individuals and to society as a whole, he argues. But this is not so much a polemic as a compelling sourcebook whose sheer heft of information, supported by the author’s intelligent take on drug history, grants it the power to persuade.

A well-drawn, comprehensive account of a troubling subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-393-05189-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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