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Cigarettes Are Sublime
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Cigarettes Are Sublime

Richard Klein

Cigarettes are bad for you; that is why they are so good. With its origins in the author’s urgent desire to stop smoking, Cigarettes Are Sublime offers a provocative look at the literary, philosophical, and cultural history of smoking. Richard Klein focuses on the dark beauty, negative pleasures, and exacting benefits attached to tobacco use and to cigarettes in particular. His appreciation of paradox and playful use of hyperbole lead the way on this aptly ambivalent romp through the cigarette in war, movies (the "Humphrey Bogart cigarette"), literature, poetry, and the reflections of Sartre to show that cigarettes are a mixed blessing, precisely sublime.

"An elegant display of prose. . . . [Klein’s] polemic is bravely cranky. The book is important for . . . situating the act of smoking in Western culture and telling us addicts, without condescension, what kind of dance we’re doing 10 or 20 times a day."—Laura Mansnerus, New York Times Book Review

"[A] wise and timely book: it is also sly, funny, and peculiarly seductive. . . . [A] remarkable achievement."—John Banville, New York Review of Books

"[A] compact history of compulsion. . . . [Klein’s] book is a farewell to a loyal companion."—Colson Whitehead, Voice Literary Supplement

"[A]n elegant and erudite examination of the question: If cigarettes are so bad, why do so many people insist on smoking them? A breath of fresh air in a debate that has become too stale."—David Streitfeld, Washington Post Book World

"Lively, obsessive."—Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

"Witty and subversive."—John Leonard, The Nation

"Klein has written an exquisite book which takes us beyond a consideration of smoking as rite de passage."—Max Farrar, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A languorous meditation on humanity’s most futile and wasteful habit."—Christopher Hitchens, The Independent on Sunday

"Many people, deciding to quit smoking, go cold turkey; others use nicotine gum or a patch. Klein, however, has taken a unique approach: the writing of this learned, elegant, and fanciful analysis of—and ‘elegy’ for—the cigarette. . . . [It is] full of delightful whirls of logic and puffs of insight."—Kirkus Reviews



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