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Cigarettes Are Sublime Perfect Paperback – May 25, 1994


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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (May 25, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822316412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822316411
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Klein's survey of the history of cigarettes and their gestalt of ritual, seduction, contemplation, and danger is fruitful and often surprising. For Native Americans, tobacco was a minor divinity, and smoke a prayer. For writers and artists, smoking has often been part of the creative process. The sharing of cigarettes has long been a gesture of courtship and sensuality, an expression of rebelliousness and bravado, and a balm for the terrors and tragedy of war and other intolerable circumstances. As Klein discusses the representation of cigarettes in literature and film, he also tracks various attitudes toward smoking. He believes the current zealous condemnation goes far beyond matters of health and drifts into issues of personal freedom. But he never denies the fact that smoking cigarettes is bad for you. Of course they're hazardous, that's why they're sublime: they combine pleasure with an "intimation of mortality." Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Many people, deciding to quit smoking, go cold turkey; others use nicotine gum or a patch. Klein (French/Cornell), however, has taken a unique approach: the writing of this learned, elegant, and fanciful analysis of--and ``elegy'' for--the cigarette. Smokers smoke not just for the nicotine, contends Klein, but also--perhaps primarily--because cigarettes offer ``a darkly beautiful, inevitably painful pleasure that arises from some intimation of eternity.'' By granting access to this sublimity- -which the author says can transform even one's relationship to time (``cigarettes are fiery batons with which you can summon the future and conduct it'')--smoking becomes a symbolic act, a ``dance'' performed between the smoker, the cigarette, and the world; furthermore, it's only by knowing this dance in all its allure that a smoker can then forsake it. Klein examines smoking's symbolic powers through a wide range of cultural references, from Sartre to Mallarm‚, Bizet's Carmen, and Casablanca. Crucial to his argument is his analysis of the first chapter of Italo Svevo's 1923 novel, The Confessions of Zeno, in which the narrator recalls his life as a series of health-oriented resolutions to quit smoking- -each resolution followed always by another cigarette. It's only when, as an old man, he realizes that he's already healthy--i.e., alive--and that smoking is just one way of life, that he quits. In fact, holds Klein, it's not the dream of health that primarily drives America's current antismoking campaigns; rather, it's moralists' censorship of cigarettes' ``discursive performance,'' which hitherto has ``regularly been linked to strong currents of sexual and political freedom.'' Some might find all this just a smoke screen hiding addiction's raw grip--but, even so, it's a lovely one, full of delightful whirls of logic and puffs of insight; moreover, Klein claims that the writing of it has allowed him to quit, ``definitively.'' (Photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Perfect Paperback
I can not remember the last time I read such a well written book. Klein is an amazing wordsmith & this book is a treasure in understanding the lure, beauty, and sublime charms which keep 1.4 billion people in the world smoking every day.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sophia Bezirganian on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this iconoclastic gem of a book, Klein manages to provide a wonderful tool to those of us readers who resonate with his wonderful voicing of one giant "in your face" to the new and stultifying "Nanny State". This statement summarizes the message of "Cigarettes are Sublime" !
Usually we who chafe at "Big Brother" telling us how to treat our bodies, resort to arguments like: "Well, I want to have the right to smoke on my balcony at work 'dammit'!" Such protest can sound a bit like an adolescent stamping one's foot. Klein however, in this so well-spun book, with its rich historical analysis spanning many cultures, gives us a unique and powerful tool to use, in voicing our protest.
"Cigarettes are Sublime" manages to capture what is the CULTURALLY EMBEDDED power, and perhaps (if you agree with Klein) what is in fact the VALUE, as means of self-expression, of smoking, as a social symbol and act. As the Editorial reviews note, "vices" in general (drinking, playing poker, smoking, eating gloriously at sumptuous tables with friends) are all very powerful "games" or "props" in that very underappreciated arena of how we humans "play" with each other in private life--what mischief we toy with, what message we project to others about our "attitude"; to death, to sex, to an embrace vs rejection of the message (broadcast daily in ominous bulletins from our media),that our bodies are entities vulnerable and besieged by a barrage of "risks" that we must always vigilantly guard against, at any cost, including sacrifice of our bodies as instruments of pleasure and work.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Perfect Paperback
The only review was a downer. Whoever "reader" was, didn't really know anything about literature and philosophy. Some basic philosophy knowledge is needed to read this book. Kant (with the sublime theory), Nietzsche and quoted throughtout the book. Great reading. Specially if you smoke.
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