Top positive review
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not what it says on the cover
on 2 January 2002
Howard Marks' Book of Dope Stories is firstly, not about cannabis, the automatic first association with Marks, and secondly is not a book by Howard Marks.
Rather than a wide boy's bible, guaranteed to sell on the authors notoriety, this is an anthology of writings losely themed on the ideas of intoxication and drugs, of all sorts. The sources range from Thompson to Baudelaire and Marks is largely a silent partner. He has contributed a few pieces, mostly warmed over versions of earlier writings, and offers no commentary or notes on the pieces which make up the bulk of the work; something which would have enhanced the book as a whole.
That criticism withstanding, the book as a whole is a strong collection of well-chosen pieces. It is well-structured, though in places it becomes repetitive and dull. It is not a book to read from start to finish in a single sitting; like any anthology, each individual piece deserves to be read properly, and not just in the context of the book.
My main reservation with this otherwise very readable and useful anthology is in its misleading branding. It is not a book of dope stories by Howard Marks. The bulk of the material is philosophical or intellectual in tone, and comes from a huge range of writers.
If Marks is playing the game of luring people to this valuable material using his name and notoriety i have no problem. Introducing the uninitiated to Sabbag et al can only be good.
If, on the other hand, he is just cashing in on his name to sell books, without even bothering to write a book....
I think, given his background and intelligence, there's a bit of both in the truth.
I read someone else's copy, then bought my own anyway. it's worth having.