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Hideous Absinthe: A History of the Devil in a Bottle (Tauris Parke Paperbacks) [Paperback]

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Item Number 333158  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   294
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.76 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 27, 2008
Publisher   Tauris Parke Paperbacks
ISBN  1845116844  
EAN  9781845116842  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...

Mysteriously sophisticated, darkly alluring, almost Satanic: absinthe was the drink of choice for Baudelaire, Verlaine and Wilde. It inspired paintings by Degas and Manet, van Gogh and Picasso. It was blamed for conditions ranging from sterility to madness, to French defeats in World War I. The campaign against "the devil in a bottle" resulted in its ban throughout most of Europe. Its reputation for toxicity eventually extinguished the fin-de-siècle's infatuation with absinthe, but not before it had influenced generations of artists on both sides of the channel. This book is a biography of "the green fairy": from its place in the lives of writers and artists who were inspired--and ruined--by it, to its more recent rediscovery by Ernest Hemingway and today's would-be sophisticates.

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More About Jad Adams

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jad Adams is a historian and television producer. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and is currently a visiting research fellow of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London.

Jad Adams currently resides in London. Jad Adams has an academic affiliation as follows - University of London School of Advanced Study, University of London Sc.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Fun, but Not Great  Feb 8, 2008
The information in this book is excellent, but the author is a little too focused on the more sordid rumors surrounding those who drank absinthe. The pacing of the book is choppy and at points reads more like a dissertation than a polished books. More visuals would also help, especially since so many of the people discussed are visual artists. That being said, however, it was a fun and informative book, perfect for someone looking to understand the influence of absinthe on the arts in the 19th century.
Overrated and Pretentious  Sep 13, 2006
Adams covers the same info that Conrad and Baker discuss but with a tone of condescension and puritanism that blankets the text like a fine scum of oil over water. Halfway though the book I wanted to curse him; after listening to his boorish and uninspired NPR interview I wanted to punch his lights out. If you like feeling superior, this book is for you. Otherwise stick with Conrad.
Interesting but glossy  Jan 10, 2006
After hearing the author on npr I was eager to purchase and read this book. The book is well researched and it is overflowing with gossip about those artists with whom absinthe has been so intertwined--Proust, Gaugin, et al. The author contends that the drink had little or no real impact on the creative abilities of the writers and painters of the 19th century who claimed that the Green Fairy was their great muse. The argument falls flat, however. Whether the drink spurred the creativity or not is not as clear as the belief of the artists that it did have a very powerful and empowering influence. It is all very "chicken or the egg" speculation but in the end, this book is a fun read if you want a little dish on the life and times of these absinthe influenced artists.
The Green Fairy Exposed  Mar 26, 2004
Different alcoholic drinks have reputations for appealing to different descriptions of people. The crowd of beer drinkers is different from those who favor cognac, as are those who like sherry different from those who drink single malts. There is no drink with so strong a reputation for a particular set of drinkers than absinthe. A cult drink in nineteenth century France, it has strong associations with poets and painters; the claims made for it have been extravagantly laudatory and condemnatory. It figures largely in literature and paintings of that time and place, which has only increased its reputation, good and bad. And it is still under prohibition in many countries, including the United States, which makes it forbidden fruit. Thus there is a good story, lots of good stories, to tell in _Hideous Absinthe: A History of the Devil in a Bottle_ (University of Wisconsin Press) by Jad Adams. It isn't too surprising that a main lesson of the book is that extravagant claims, positive and negative, for "the green fairy" are simply exaggerations.

Absinthe is a high-proof alcohol drink to which has been added essential oils of wormwood, plus aniseed or fennel, which taste like liquorice and gave the famous clear green color. It became particularly a drink for French Bohemian writers and artists. Adams shows, however, that the poets and painters who concentrated on absinthe as a subject were minor artists busy cultivating a bohemian atmosphere around themselves; the greater artists might have included it as part of their world, but had no particular fascination for it. Wormwood has a chemical called thujone within it, which might be a mild hallucinogen, but there is question that it would have had any significant effect at the dose provided in absinthe. What certainly would have had effect is the high amount of alcohol in the drink. Absinthe's widespread adoption scared the French government, which listened to the experts blaming it for everything from anarchy to population decline to the rise of Jews. A national ban was eventually enforced in 1915. In England, absinthe never had much of a hold, as it was seen as representing everything corrupt about France. In the US, those who provided alcohol during prohibition had little interest in this particular aperitif, and when prohibition was lifted, absinthe remained on the list of banned drugs. It was still available to American expatriates in different countries in Europe, and when the Cold War ended, tourism to such places as Prague brought a new boom in absinthe-drinking.

Except that there was little to match the extravagant reports of a century before. Absinthe became trendy with some rock stars (one ad campaign said, "Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1899"), and it isn't surprising that their experiences of it did not meet those of the introverted Parisian artists that had gone before. Part of the problem is that they are not drinking the same thing. Absinthe from eastern Europe did not smell of aniseed, did not have oils so that it did not turn cloudy during the preparation ceremony, and did not have nearly enough wormwood to cause mental effects above those from the alcohol. Any chemical artistic inspiration just wasn't there. In a fascinating work of history with short biographies of famous drinkers of the time, Adams shows that the problem wasn't chemical. Absinthe met the expectations of a particular crowd of artists who gave it a particular reputation at a particular time. Even if the absintheur rock band Sugar Cubes (lead by the famous Björk) had the absinthe that Van Gogh drank, it would be a bit much to expect equivalent masterpieces.


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