Magazine article The New Yorker

Men of Substance

Magazine article The New Yorker

Men of Substance

Article excerpt

"This is the doctrine of the true church on the subject of opium," Thomas De Quincey wrote, "of which church I acknowledge myself to be the only member." Many lonely worshippers congregate in UNDER THE INFLUENCE: THE LITERATURE OF ADDICTION, an anthology from Modern Library edited by Rebecca Shannonhouse that collects examples of almost two centuries of drug literature--from De Quincey's early-eighteenth-century memoir, "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater," to the anonymous 2001 Granta essay "Confessions of a Middle-Aged Ecstasy Eater." Drugs may lie at the book's heart, but compulsions related to gambling, food, and sex are also represented.

Missing from the collection is one of De Quincey's most devoted readers and a fellow opium fiend, Charles Baudelaire, who counselled readers to be drunk continually, "on wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish. …

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