On Drugs (Chris Fleming, Giramondo)
Philosopher Chris Fleming’s memoir is a searching, considered account of drug and alcohol use and the mechanisms of addiction. Fleming traces his history of marijuana, codeine-based painkillers and alcohol consumption, as his fluctuating control over his drug use ultimately deteriorates. Unlike other memoirs on similar subjects, Fleming’s book is less about how his drug use and drinking affects his work, family and personal life—although this is covered in the narrative—and more a detailed account of the patterns of thought and behaviour that accompany his addiction. In his search for insight, Fleming takes the reader back to his childhood, where his obsessive behaviours and fixations mirror his systematic approach to drug use and acquisition as an adult. In particular, the book’s coda returns to a heartbreaking and overlooked event in his childhood—one that recasts a lot of what’s been read in the preceding pages. As well as being an engaging writer, Fleming is skilled at pulling a diverse array of academic theory and ideas into his memoir, and making them relevant to his project of understanding addiction. While the book will appeal to any reader interested in the topic of drugs and addiction, it will also find an audience with fans of contemporary nonfiction writers like Fiona Wright.
Brad Jefferies is digital editor at Books+Publishing