On Drugs by Chris Fleming

Reviewed by
November 2019, no. 416
James Antoniou reviews 'On Drugs' by Chris Fleming

On Drugs

by Chris Fleming

Giramondo, $29.95 pb, 222 pp, 9781925818048

On Drugs by Chris Fleming

Reviewed by
November 2019, no. 416

Literature inspired by drugs tends to swing between extremes. On the one hand, drugs are the very doors of perception, gateways to Xanadu; on the other they are a source of grim addictions, lotus plants that tempt one into indefinite living sleep. In recent decades there have been the highs of William S. Burroughs, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson and Irvine Welsh, but rarer are those memoirists with experiences of addiction and philosophy who can reflect on the subject in the tradition of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821). Well, cue Chris Fleming’s On Drugs.

Fleming is a philosopher at Western Sydney University who developed a serious and life-threatening addiction to drugs during his twenties. As his options in life narrowed, drug addiction ‘became the last bulwark against nihilism.’ ‘As agonising as unmet needs can feel,’ he writes with a painful clarity, ‘there is still something life-affirming in wanting something, anything at all.’ Drugs could both addle and stimulate his mind; he wrote most of his honours thesis ‘while stoned’ and obtained a score of ninety-five per cent, which led him to the unfortunate surmise that ‘pot might offer an almost unethical advantage in intellectual creation, an analogue to steroids in sport’.

James Antoniou reviews 'On Drugs' by Chris Fleming

On Drugs

by Chris Fleming

Giramondo, $29.95 pb, 222 pp, 9781925818048

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Comments (2)

  • I enjoyed Chris Flemings book enormously. He writes intelligently - sometimes outrageously so - as an academic - and as a drug addict - which is far from being intelligent - rather perverse - yet extremely moving and sad - because somehow or other his search for knowledge included the use of artificial substances to induce novel mental experiences - or create new realities - which turned out to be sterile mood enhancement - without any cognitive rewards. It appears his addictions were inherited from both his parents.
    Posted by Ken W Simpson
    Tuesday, 15 October 2019 11:25
  • I agree. This book contained many powerful insights for me. It felt raw and honest and painfully true. It provoked both reflection and laughter. It’s very impressive.
    Posted by CT
    Tuesday, 01 October 2019 10:53

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