Extra Credit Assignment
Ms. Marlowe’s writing is very good, fresh, varied and surprising, especially early on and in the sections about New York. “Heroin inflects the East Village,” she tells us; she calls it an “urban drug, an accessory of life lived all night, under artificial light, among indifferent crowds always in a hurry. It belongs with the all-night cafeteria, the after-hours club, the taxi, the tenement, the alley; it answers to the melancholy and feelings of displacement these spaces embody.” She notes: “Cool and dope inform each other; they share an underlying banality of blank affect.” She writes about getting “splendidly high” on “a tender snowy night at the start of winter’s steep slope, the kind of night that makes New York feel cushiony and without corners.” Tripping on LSD, she sees an “unremarkable stretch of Lexington Avenue” transformed “The buildings glistened, they dazzled, they were so high, it made me happy just to watch them being tall.” Marlowe is the other extreme of the junkie stereotype. Throughout her seven-year addiction, she never shot up, never lived on the street, and never resorted to selling drugs or her body to maintain her habit. In short, she never bottomed out. As a result, readers with the bias that all druggies finish up on the dim side might put this book down and ask, "What's engaging about her addiction?" The fact that her own diversion with heroin ends in a pull gives her an out of the ordinary viewpoint on the friends, lovers, and dealers whose fitness ran out and who mislaid everything. Marlowe interprets addiction as a kind of nostalgic mourning, specifically a mourning for the addict's first and only truly glorious heroin high, which in turn comes to symbolize other past glories. Addiction entails pathological introspection, hence the need to "stop time" in order to recapture or re-examine enthralling aspects of the past. As a result, the addict becomes frozen in a...