Starting Points

Points (n.) 1. marks of punctuation. 2. something that has position but not extension, as the intersection of two lines. 3. salient features of a story, epigram, joke, etc.:  he hit the high points. 4. (slang; U.S.) needles for intravenous drug use.

Points is back!

After a brief hiatus, Points is rolling out a new look. We have new managing editors and have added fresh voices to our roster of contributing editors (for more on that, check out our bios below). But our mission remains the same:

 Points is an academic group blog that brings together scholars with wide-ranging expertise with the goal of producing original and thoughtful reflections on the history of alcohol and drugs, the web of policy surrounding them, and their place in popular culture.  A group blog provides a space for the exchange of new ideas, insights, and speculations about our interdisciplinary and rapidly evolving field.  With a diverse audience in mind, postings to Points will feature short takes (500-1000 words) by contributing editors and guest bloggers on a wide range of topics—ruminations on a new archive, scathing cultural criticism, commentary on current events, etc.  More informed than the mainstream media and less turgid than the average academic journal, Points will exemplify a new kind of scholarly exchange.

Be on the lookout for new content beginning next week. If you’re interested in contributing, send a note to managing editors Claire Clark and Emily Dufton. Points can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Managing Editors:

Claire Clark is a dual-trained historian and behavioral scientist (Ph.D./MPH, Emory University, 2014) and a postdoctoral fellow in medical humanities and ethics. Her work has appeared in history and social science journals, and has been supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Hastings Center. Her current book project, provisionally titled The Recovery Revolution, explores how ex-addict activists shaped the addiction treatment industry since the 1960s.

Emily Dufton received her Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University in May 2014. Her dissertation, “Just Say Know: How the Parent Movement Shaped America’s Modern War on Drugs, 1970-2000,” traced the history of the parent movement, the most successful grassroots anti-drug movement of the late twentieth century. Dufton’s writing has appeared on The Atlantic, History News Network, and in several academic journals, and she has appeared on NPR’s “BackStory with the American History Guys” and the YouTube program Instant Response Team, discussing her work and the current marijuana legalization process in the United States.

Contributing Editors:

Michael Durfee: A Ph.D. candidate in the history department at SUNY Buffalo, Michael Durfee works under the advisement of Points Contributor Dr. David Herzberg.  His prior education includes an M.A. in history from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in education from Lewis and Clark College. He is currently at work researching his dissertation which analyzes the dynamics of Crack Era reform from 1986 to 1992, loosely constructed. In 2012, Michael joined the faculty of Niagara University’s History Department where he presently teaches courses on postwar urban history, the modern War on Drugs, and the rise of Mass Incarceration.

Alexine Fleck: Alexine Fleck teaches English and Women’s Studies at the Community College of Philadelphia. She completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she wrote about the ways drug users and addicts enter into and challenge “expert” discourse on addiction. While completing her degree, she worked as an ethnographer tasked with mapping HIV transmission through drug use and sex work for an HIV-prevention research division at the university. Her work attempts to use the tools of literary analysis to understand and legitimize the lived experiences of drug use and addiction. When she is not teaching or writing, she spends time with her newly adopted horse, Annie.

Nicholas Johnson: Nick Johnson is a graduate student in Public History at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His research interests include Weimar Culture, the First World War, Intellectual History, Urban History, Film, and Modern Literature. He is a huge fan of the Sazerac and everything that Belgian and German brewing traditions have to offer. Find him on Twitter @Tchoupitoulas89

Amy Long (Media Liaison): Amy Long is an MFA candidate in fiction at Virginia Tech. She previously worked for Media Coalition and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression in New York City; the ACLU’s Drug Law Reform Project in Santa Cruz, CA; and Common Sense for Drug Policy in Washington, D.C.  Amy holds a BA in English and Women’s Studies and an MA in Women’s Studies from the University of Florida; her research there focused on the relationships among drug dealing, gender, and capitalism in early, modern, and contemporary narratives.

Michelle McClellan: Michelle McClellan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and the Residential College at the University of Michigan.  She received her Ph.D. in American history from Stanford University, and she is very interested in interdisciplinary approaches to studying and teaching about addiction.  Her research has focused largely on alcoholism and women, and she is completing a book that uses the figure of the alcoholic woman as a way to explore the complex intersection of gender and medicalization in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America.   McClellan is also fascinated by issues of secrecy, disclosure, and public memory in the history of addiction, and she is beginning a collective biography of women who revealed their alcoholism during the last third of the twentieth century.

Saeyoung Park:  An Assistant Professor of East Asian History at Davidson College in North Carolina, Park is a historian who works primarily on China and Korea, She received her Ph.D (2011) from the Johns Hopkins University and was the Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania (2011). Her book manuscript on war and memory is titled Politics of the Past: The Imjin War in Korea. Currently, she is working on psychoactive substances, addiction, and the aesthetics of consumption in Korea and China (1600-present).

Adam Rathge is a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at Boston College, working under the advisement of Dr. Martin Summers. His dissertation in-progress examines a century-long road to federal marijuana prohibition in the United States by analyzing the development and transformation of medical discourse, regulatory processes, and social concerns surrounding cannabis between 1840 and 1940. Adam’s research offers a fresh approach to the historiography on marijuana by tracing how and why cities and states across the country regulated cannabis before the federal government and the effect these varied regulations had on each other, on the emergence of marijuana hysteria, and on the impetus for federal regulation. He previously received a B.S. from the University of Dayton and a M.A. from the University of Cincinnati. Find him on Twitter @ARRathge.

Ron Roizen: Ron Roizen writes about the history and sociology of alcohol science; he lives in Wallace, Idaho.

Eoin Cannon (Managing Editor Emeritus): Now speechwriter for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Eoin Cannon spent several years as Lecturer and Assistant Director of Studies in the History & Literature program at Harvard University. His book, The Saloon and the Mission: Addiction, Conversion, and the Politics of Redemption in American Culture (UMass Press, 2013), examines sobriety movements between the Civil War and World War II, and the roles their narratives played in advancing various social and political ideas. A former newspaper reporter based in Dorchester, Mass., he also writes on cities, sports, religion, and literature.

Joe Spillane (Managing Editor Emeritus): Joe Spillane is Associate Professor of History at the University of Florida, where he is also an affiliate of the Department of Sociology, Criminology & Law. He has published Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States (Johns Hopkins Press, 2000) and co-edited Federal Drug Control: The Evolution of Policy and Practice (Haworth Press, 2004).  His current drug-related research agenda includes: the history and development of drug abuse liability assessment; addiction, trauma, and Vietnam veterans; and reflections on the nature of drug epidemics.

Trysh Travis (Managing Editor Emeritus): A 20th-century literary and cultural historian, Trysh Travis teaches in the Center for Women’s Studies & Gender Research at the University of Florida.  She has published on the gender and power of addiction and recovery, spirituality, and bibliotherapy in a variety of scholarly and popular venues.  Her book The Language of the Heart: a Cultural History of the Recovery Movement from Alcoholics Anonymous to Oprah Winfrey appeared in 2009.  With Timothy Aubry, she is the co-editor of the anthology “Re-Thinking Therapeutic Culture” (U. Chicago Press, forthcoming).

Monitoring the Past: Baby Boomers and Substance Use in 2013

2013 is almost history. Last year, we asked the whether the latest results from the nationwide survey of youth substance use, Monitoring the Future, might predict the big drug history stories in the days ahead.

In recent months, mainstream media outlets did look to youth culture for drugs news— but they did not necessarily explore today’s youth culture. Instead, articles from The Los Angeles Times, Time and The New York Times covered the most recent results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which pointed toward a continued upward trend in the percentage of baby boomers who misuse substances. The results of the 2012 survey, which were released this year, note that the 50-64 year old age group is now populated entirely by boomers.  NSDUH reports:

“Among adults aged 50 to 64, the rate of current illicit drug use increased during the past decade. For adults aged 50 to 54, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2012. Among those aged 55 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 6.6 percent in 2012. Among those aged 60 to 64, the rate increased from 1.1 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2012. These trends partially reflect the aging into these age groups of members of the baby boom cohort (i.e., persons born between 1946 and 1964), whose rates of illicit drug use have been higher than those of older cohorts.”

While boomers age, the media stereotypes about the generational cohort are forever young. The persistence of Sixties iconography is one reason why historians of the period acknowledge the difficulty of separating the image from the era (it’s also one reason we sometimes use the term “Sixties,” rather than the more specific “1960s,” which refers to the events that took place from 1960-1969). “The spirit of the ’60s lives on,” declared Time’s report of the NSDUH results. The rising rates are “to do with people who have dabbled with drugs most of their lives and there will be more of those as the Sixties generation hits old age,” David Raynes of Britain’s National Drug Prevention Alliance told NBC. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Nora Volkow viewed the era as variable— a proxy for “baby boomers’ histories of illicit drug use, and their relatively tolerant attitudes toward it.”

NSDUH's data and Doonesbury's pot farm

NSDUH’s data and Doonesbury character Zonker Harris’s pot farm

It would, I think, make common sense to interpret the increased percentage of substance use—especially prescription pain reliever and marijuana use, which accounted for most of the increase in recent years— as a predictable medical response to the aging process. Yet many reporters still prefer to present boomers’ use as immature and recreational. “I smoked my share,” boomer role model Paul McCartney told Rolling Stone last year. “Your sense of responsibility does kick in, if you’re lucky, at some point.” McCartney, who said he’d finally foresworn marijuana for the sake of his eight-year-old daughter, apparently “matured out” of his pot habit at age 69. McCartney’s confessional gave journalists an irresistible excuse to replay a few classic stories about rock and drugs while mocking a supposedly boomer tendency to delay “responsibility” indefinitely.

McCartney "matures out"

McCartney “matures out”

Unlike Sir Paul, the NSDUH data can’t tell us whether changes in substance use among boomers are due to a re-emergence of prior habits, a continuation of lifelong behavioral patterns, or a response to new life circumstances. The NSDUH was a federal reaction to middle-class youths’ drug experimentation in the early 1970s, but changes in data collection make it unwise to compare the statistics released before 2002 with more recent data. It’s also worth noting that the survey itself is cross-sectional, not longitudinal. Each year, NSDUH researchers sample a new pool of research participants; they don’t return to the same group of interviewees initially surveyed in 1971. The NSDUH results are a snapshot of population substance use; the findings should be triangulated with other research on boomers’ lifelong substance use patterns. The scientific literature on this topic is less substantial than you might suspect.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that past behaviors have no future health consequences. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a campaign recommending hepatitis C screening for all boomers; people born between 1945 and 1965 are about five times more likely to be infected with the virus than members of other age cohorts. Today, boomers account for 3 out of every 4 adults with hepatitis C, a virus commonly associated with life events like injection drug use and blood transfusions. To emphasize generational rather than behavioral risk, the hepatitis campaign posters targeted the demographic with a collage of Sixties icons: Martin Luther King, Jr. The Beatles. The Brady Bunch.

The CDC's hepatitis C poster

The CDC’s hepatitis C poster

These generational campaigns help grab attention for important public health messages. But I’m concerned that their pseudo-historical hook minimizes the contemporary circumstances unique to aging boomers. The risks associated with substance use change as we age: an alcohol-related fall can be debilitating; a growing list of prescription drugs offers additional opportunities for adverse reactions. The proliferation of prescription drugs in the midst of drug war America may—as some scholars have argued—be an under-appreciated inheritance of the Sixties. Even if you buy the thesis that yesterday’s poly-drug-using youths are today’s over-prescribed AARP members, the users’ sets and settings are entirely different. Some of the drugs are too.

Saturday Evening Post and CDC report "Health, United States 2012"

Saturday Evening Post and CDC report “Health, United States 2012″

It might be time to retire simplistic messages about sensation-seeking boomers. When assessing substance misuse among generational cohorts, let’s concentrate on monitoring the present.

Fiction Points: Adam Wilson

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Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson founded and edits the online newspaper The Faster Times and is a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily. His fiction and nonfiction have found publication in numerous journals and magazines from The Paris Review and Meridian to the New York Times. Wilson contributed to the anthologies Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex (2008); A Friday Night Lights Companion: Love, Loss, and Football in Dillon, Texas (2011); and Promised Lands: New Jewish-American Fiction on Longing and Belonging (2010). His first novel, the comic and bittersweet Flatscreen (2012), follows its young male protagonist through stoner slacking and drug-fueled antics as he fumbles toward establishing a post-high school identity. The National Jewish Book Council chose Flatscreen as a finalist for the 2013 Goldberg Prize for Outstanding Debut Fiction. Wilson also received the Paris Review‘s 2012 Terry Southern Prize for Humor for his contributions to the publication, including the marijuana-laced “What’s Important is Feeling,” which was selected for publication in Best American Short Stories 2012. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s creative writing MFA program and currently teaches at New York University and the Sackett Street Writers Workshop.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you to describe Flatscreen, how do you answer?

It’s about an unlikely friendship between a young, spiritually tested nun and a wheelchair-bound penguin who is addicted to Oxycontin and loves hookers.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about Flatscreen?

Well, there’s certainly a lot of drugs and alcohol in the book! There are a lot of great novels about marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, and LSD (among others), but I don’t know of any others where the primary drug of choice is Oxycontin. I’m not sure my book sheds too much light on the drug itself–it’s mostly about other things–but if you’re looking for OxyFiction, I’m not sure where else you’d go. Continue reading

Fiction Points: Jason Brown

Jason Brown

Jason Brown

Jason Brown is an associate professor in the University of Oregon’s creative writing MFA program and earned his own MFA at Cornell University. The title story from his first collection, Driving the Heart & Other Stories (1999), appeared in Best American Short Stories 1996, and three later works were named among the series’ “100 Other Distinguished Stories” in 1997, 2005, and 2010. His most recent release is the linked story collection Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work (2007). Two stories from that book – “Life During Peacetime” and “Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work” – earned Special Mention in, respectively, the 2008 and 2009 Pushcart anthologies. Brown is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Fiction at Stanford University (1996-1998), a MacDowell Colony Fellowship (2002), and a Yaddo Fellowship (2002). His work has appeared in magazines and journals including The Atlantic and Harper’s, among others.  

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answers?

I would say that my writing, and any art worth paying attention to, is about searching for meaning in a post-religious world. That doesn’t mean no one in our world is religious. Religion provides answers. Art is about the search for answers and about the search for a connection to something larger than ourselves. Some might equate the urge to create art with the urge to seek a spiritual life. For me, they are the same instinct.

drivingtheheartPoints is primarily a blog for alcohol and drug historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

My work might offer insights on how addiction functions in people’s lives. Society has many different ways of looking at addiction. The lens at the moment involves seeing addiction as a “disease.” I think the nature of addictions is far more complicated. Continue reading

Silk Road, Part Two: Ross Ulbricht vs. The World

Editor’s Note: Today guest blogger Depaulo Vincent Bariuan completes his two-part series on Silk Road, the online drug emporium just recently taken down by federal authorities. Part One focused on the website’s relationship to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and its users’ efforts to evade government oversight. Today’s entry looks at the online life of Silk Road’s alleged founder, Ross Ulbricht, and asks how a young Ron Paulian might have conceived of online drug sales as an experiment in free-market utopianism.

Despite not knowing much about the anonymous online drug-trafficking website Silk Road beyond what news agencies and blogs have been reporting, the public has quite a bit of knowledge on its owner/orchestrator, 29-year-old entrepreneur Ross William Ulbricht. Operating his website out of what NPR called a “modest” $1,000/month room in San Fransisco, not even those close to him knew what he was doing. He lived with two roommates who only knew him as “Josh,” and reported that Ulbricht mostly kept to his room. His parents claimed ignorance of his online empire, but also remarked that he was “stellar, good person” and “very idealistic.”

In an interview on December 6 of last year, StoryCorp correspondent — and Ulbricht’s best friend — Rene Pinnell asked him about where he wished to be in 20 years. He responded: “I want to have had a substantial positive impact on the future of humanity by that time.”

What we know about Ross Ulbricht is due to the fact that he, much like any other person of his generation, had a substantial digital footprint. His name appears in many places all over social media, and with it many tidbits of the idealism his mother described.

Continue reading

Fiction Points: Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil

Jeet Thayil is a poet, novelist, musician, and editor who currently resides in New Delhi. His debut novel Narcopolis (2011) depicts the lives opium users in 1970s Bombay. The book was awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2013 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012 and the 2013 Hindu Literary Prize. Thayil has also published four collections of poetry - Gemini (1992), Apocalypso (1997), English (2004), and These Errors are Correct (2008), winner of the 2012 Sahitya Akademi Award for English. He wrote the libretto for the opera Babur in London and comprises half of the musical duo Sridhar/Thayil. Thayil holds a Masters of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College.   

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

“God,” I say to the penguin; to the nuns I say, “Boo!”

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

The language.

What led you to write about alcohol and drugs in the first place?

I thought it was a useful way to think about more important things. Continue reading

Silk Road, Part 1: The United States vs. the Internet

Editor’s Note: Points readers have no doubt followed the story of Silk Road with some interest, given its role in establishing a new paradigm in drug distribution. Today guest blogger Depaulo Vincent Bariuan begins a two-part series on Silk Road by explaining the now-defunct website’s relationship to the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, suggesting that we look at Silk Road’s fate not only in terms of drug law but also as a key site in the government’s efforts to exert more control over life online. Vincent has a B.A. in Asian Studies from Florida State and an M.A. in Film Studies from Columbia, where his scholarship focused on new media. Since graduating, he’s worked in the video game industry.

On July 12, 2012, the Australian Federal Police raided the home of Melbourne resident Paul Leslie Howard. Tipped off by the 46.9 grams of MDMA and 14.5 grams of cocaine mailed to his residence over the course of 2 months, the police also recovered the following in the bust: marijuana, digital scales, clip seal bags, $2300 in cash, a money counter, and 35 stun guns disguised as mobile phones. But this wasn’t an ordinary drug bust – Howard wasn’t connected to any widespread drug syndicate. Most of his product was sent not from any nefarious location but from various households in the Netherlands. In fact, all of his drugs were acquired on the internet through a website called Silk Road. Taken down by the federal authorities this past October, Silk Road had become known as the internet’s one stop shop for any imaginable recreational drug.

Giving the people what they want.

Giving the people what they want.

Much of what people have learned about Silk Road since its takedown comes from the accounts journalists and bloggers have written about the website.

Continue reading

Fiction Points: Michael Parker

michaelparker

Michael Parker

Michael Parker‘s published works include the novels Hello Down There (1993), Towns Without Rivers (2001), Virginia Lovers (2004), If You Want Me to Stay (2005), and The Watery Part of the World (2011) and the short-story collections The Geographical Cure (1994) and Don’t Make Me Stop Now (2007). His sixth novel, Sweet Ridewill hit bookshelves in 2014. Parker teaches in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s MFA Writing Program and the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. He earned his MFA from the University of Virginia. Parker’s writing has been featured in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, The Oxford American, Runner’s World, and The Washington Post. His debut novel was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize, and The Geographical Cure won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction. In 2004, he received fellowships from the NEA and the North Carolina Arts Council; in 2006, he was the recipient of a Hobson Award in Art and Letters and the North Carolina Award for Literature Parker’s fiction has also been collected in the Pushcart Prize (2002), New Stories from the South (2003), and O. Henry Prize Stories (2005) anthologies.   

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I don’t usually hang out in bars where they let in penquins, though I often drink with nuns. I have, over the 20 years during which I have been publishing novels and stories, developed many different answers to this question, none of which are satisfying to me or to the people asking the question. It sounds smug when you say, “Deeply flawed people trying to do the right thing,” but that is mostly what my work is about on the surface. However, if there is a common and less superficial thematic thread, it’s this:  the discrepancy between our inner lives and outer reality and the conflicts that arise when we try to reconcile the two.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

Parker's first novel Hello Down There

My first novel was about a morphine addict in the early part of the 20th century. He gets shipped off to the federal hospital in Lexington, Kentucky (now a white collar prison) where, for years, addicts went to “get cured.” I did some research on this, and on the rather widespread use of morphine pre and post WWII, and some of what I learned was based on my father’s experience working for a drug store in a small southern town, where he delivered to the town’s addicts. Everyone knew they were addicts, but drugs were not yet such a vital part of the culture, and it was seen more as a weakness than a sickness.  So I suppose that might be of interest to anyone studying the shifting attitudes toward drug usage in this country. Continue reading

Fiction Points: Anna Loan-Wilsey

Anna Loan-Wilsey

Anna Loan-Wilsey

Anna Loan-Wilsey is currently at work on the third book in her Hattie Davish Mysteries historical fiction series, set in the midst of the 1890s women’s temperance movement with a female detective at its center. The first installment, A Lack of Temperance, was published last fall to positive reviews in Library Journal, Mystery Scene, and Publisher’s Weekly. The series’ second book, Anything But Civil, releases in October 2013. The in-progress third Hattie Davish novel is A Sense of Entitlement. Loan-Wilsey holds a Master’s in Library and Information Science from  McGill University in Montreal and works as a librarian and information specialist in rural IowaHer blog features research and ephemera that may interest Points readers and proves Loan-Wilsey an accomplished historical detective in her own right.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

I would tell them I’m a writer of historical cozy mystery novels set in late 19th century America, where the violence is off-stage, there is little gore, no pets or penguins get hurt, and my main character is Catholic. I think they would like it.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your Hattie Davish Mysteries series, and specifically A Lack of Temperance?

 There is a reason my novels are set in the late 19th century (or Victorian era). I love history myself and consider researching and writing about the era the closest I’ll ever come to inventing a time machine. I would hope then that my stories and settings, real, historically intact towns across America, would appeal to anyone who enjoys history. Specifically, however, I believe the Points audience would appreciate my using the temperance movement as the background setting for the mystery. In fact, I’ve had many reviews that mention the fact that they knew next to nothing about the temperance movement before reading A Lack of Temperance. I’m glad my book has served a purpose beyond mere entertainment. Continue reading

Fiction Points: Joshua Mohr

mohrJoshua Mohr lives and writes in San Francisco, where he teaches fiction at The Writing Salon and the University of San Francisco, from which he also received his MFA. He is the author of four novels - Some Things that Meant the World to Me (2009), Termite Parade (2010), Damascus (2011), and Fight Song (2013) - and is already at work on a fifth. O, The Oprah Magazine named Mohr’s debut among its Ten Terrific Reads of 2009, and The New York Times Book Review listed Termite Parade as an Editor’s Choice in 2010. His reviews and writing have been featured in publications including The New York Times and The San Francisco Bay Chronicle.

Two nuns and a penguin approach you at a bar, and you tell them you’re a writer. When they ask you what you write about, how do you answer?

This has actually already happened to me, and it’s one of the reasons I got sober. The bottom is never far away when a penguin tugs on your jeans and says, “Hey, mister, are you holding?” Thank god there were no nuns around.

Points is a blog primarily for drug and alcohol historians. What do you think this audience would find most interesting about your work?

As a recovering addict/alcoholic, all my books turn over some concentric preoccupations.  Namely, I’m really curious about self destruction. Why do some of us love to hurt ourselves? I’ve been sober four years and I’m fascinated with what led me to treat myself in all those miserable ways. Authors have the capacity to sculpt psychology, really plumb someone’s psyche, and for me, it’s been a cathartic process, forcing myself to analyze toxic rationalizations. Continue reading