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Out of It: A Cultural History of Intoxication Hardcover – October 22, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Trying to separate pleasure from pain and law from leisure, British journalist Walton doesn't quite succeed in systematizing a subject that lends itself more readily to laughter and forgetting. He does not lack a solid argument: "Intoxication is a universal human theme. There are no recorded instances of fully formed societies anywhere in history that have lived without the use of psychoactive substances." The missteps begin in early Christianity, when Walton deviates from his ostensible subject, the history of intoxication, and gets onto the more pedestrian issue of policing the use of intoxicants. In the next few chapters, there are hints of how the 18th-century craze for coffee lent itself to revolutionary thinking, why the nip before work went the way of the dodo, or when cigarette smoking became demonized. But though Walton is clearly aware of all of these possible avenues of exploration, the book drones on about units of alcohol and schedules of chemicals and other ways that the governments of the U.S. and Britain have spoiled the fun. Content to simply set up and knock down straw men, Walton fails to ask the more provocative questions of why we have this drive to blottodom and what its social effects actually are. The final chapters on moderation and excess and the association between art and intoxication are a bit livelier, but this fascinating and heady topic awaits definitive treatment.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Intoxication is a constant of the human condition that Walton explores in a wide-ranging, well-referenced history. Presented in lay terms, his study yet includes some fairly involved analysis, which makes indulging in intoxicants while reading it probably self-defeating. Not that it is boring, just that it demands full attention. Neither a lighthearted chronicle of crazy drug experiences nor a tossed-off polemic about the influence of those of the pro-psychoactive persuasion, it considers, in a reasonable manner, why people want to get high and how that desire affects society. In conclusion, Walton says that "to be intoxicated is not the be-all and end-all of life," but "there is no idealised state of non-involvement with which all intoxicated states may be unfavourably compared." Desire for and capacity to use intoxicants "arise early and, other than by major exercise of will, do not die." Heady stuff that belongs in collections serving communities wrestling with the "drug problem"; the book may bring fire, however, for not damning chemical adventuring out of hand. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Beyond your wildest dreams
From DC & Neil Gaiman, The Sandman arises only on Audible. Listen free with trial

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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5
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Reviewed in the United States on July 18, 2003
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
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