Artificial Paradises (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

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9780141181158: Artificial Paradises (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

This sensational anthology features a rich tapestry of voices exploring the powerful role that mind-altering drugs have played throughout history. It brings together a multiplicity of voices to explore the presence -- both secret and public -- of drugs in the overlapping dialogues of science and religion, pleasure and madness, individualism and social control. Featuring writings by William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Aldous Huxley, Alice B. Toklas, Charles Baudelaire, Sigmund Freud, and an array of other seekers, Artificial Paradises locates the origins, busts the myths, examines the scientific studies, and embraces the controversy surrounding drugs, offering an honest, if not psychedelic, portrait of the lives and minds of those who have used them.

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Review:

Times change--who would have thought that we'd ever see a non-judgemental 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 various medical, moral, artistic and spiritual puzzlers posed by drugs. Hopped-up coke fiend Sigmund Freud rants about his favourite 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 been over-subjected 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

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