WHITE LINES by Stephen Hyde


Writers on Cocaine
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English editor Zanetti, who collected celebrations of the ultimate outlaw vehicle in She's a Bad Motorcycle (2002), teams up with his filmmaking partner Hyde to present essays about another accessory of the rebel lifestyle.

Two entries from Richard Rudgely’s Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances set up the reader with some basic facts: “the cultural story of coca,” a plant that has played a respected role in Andean culture for thousands of years, “was radically different from that of the crass glitzy beginnings and subsequently sordid short life of its extract cocaine.” First isolated in 1860, cocaine enjoyed a few decades of positive press. It was imbibed by Queen Victoria, carried by the first man to fly across the English Channel, and used in Coca-Cola. Sigmund Freud’s article “Über Coca” displays the generally favorable attitude typical of those years, relating the doctor's personal experiences and outlining cocaine's uses in treating disorders ranging from digestive problems to alcohol and morphine addiction. From there we move through some less enthusiastic texts, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of Sherlock Holmes craving the drug’s stimulation from “The Sign of the Four” and Aleister Crowley’s story of drug-fueled debauchery in Paris (“Au Pays de Cocaine”). Then the editors let the veil drop completely. William Burroughs gets creepy with “Coke Bugs,” Charles Nicholls recounts a drug deal gone decidedly wrong in “A Night with Captain Cocaine,” and in an excerpt from his autobiography, Miles Davis recalls being so paranoid when coked up that he regularly looked for people hiding under the radiator. Hollywood is also well represented, with desperate accounts by Julia Phillips and Carrie Fisher, among others; bad boys Brett Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney turn up as a matter of course; and Stephen King provides the single breath of air in the oppressive atmosphere with a three-page account of how he kicked his addiction.

Evidence that cocaine has provided a lot of good writers with some very ugly experiences.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-56025-378-9
Page count: 352pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002


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