Skip to main content

Opium Eater: The New Confessions

By Carlyn Zwarenstein, Nonvella, 110 pages, $13.95

Earlier this year, Prince died of accidental overdose on fentanyl, a prescription opioid pain reliever. His death was only the latest high-profile case in the far-reaching issue – some have called it a crisis – of opioid use and abuse in North America. Canadians and Americans are the greatest consumers of legal opioid painkillers. Like Thomas De Quincey before her, Carlyn Zwarenstein didn't start taking opioids for their recreational side effects. She took what her doctor prescribed to treat her severe, chronic, debilitating pain from spinal arthritis. In her Confessions – a 21st-century update on De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) – Zwarenstein achieves that rare thing: a dispassionate account informed by deeply personal experience. Readers will benefit from this measured look at the causes of our increased dependence, which doubles as a critical memoir on the relationship between opioids, creativity, and pain. This is the sixth book from Vancouver-based Nonvella, which publishes novella-length works of non-fiction readable in one sitting.

Story continues below advertisement

Her Paraphernalia: On Motherlines, Sex/Blood/Loss & Selfies

By Margaret Christakos, BookThug, 200 pages, $20

paraphernalia: arrived into use in the mid-17th century, denoting property owned by a married woman apart from her dowry; for example, her own things. This is a memoir about Margaret Christakos's paraphernalia – or is it her daughter's? Her mother's? Her grandmother's? Great-grandmother's? In 2012, Christakos turned 50; her daughter, 15; her mother, 80, had a stroke. Three years later, the author's 23-year-long partnership ended. In the confluence of these life events, she embarks on a journey to explore her motherlines, which in physical travel will take her to Britain, Greece, and Sudbury, Ont.,where she was raised. In artistic wandering it takes this wide-ranging, intergenre memoir that gallivants through selfies, prose poems, concrete poems, and Facebook photo album captions. It's visceral in both senses: radically grounded in the female body (at 50) and intensely emotional, often erotic. Her Paraphernalia is the first in BookThug's new Essais series, intended to "challenge traditional forms and styles of cultural enquiry."

Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions

Edited by Shelley Ruth Butler and Erica Lehrer, McGill-Queen's University Press, 400 pages, $39.95

Sometimes a book has such an original premise, you can't help but be intrigued. Such is the case in Curatorial Dreams, a collection of 14 imagined exhibitions by researchers in wide-ranging fields. Echoing through these dreams are the verbs: question, critique, reframe, intervene, resurrect – these are critical exhibits in subject matter and presentation. The editors pushed contributors to imagine their exhibitions as concretely as possible. Effects range from sobering (Lissette Olivares and Lucian Gomoll look at Pinochet's dictatorship through Chilean folk dance) to cheeky (Matti Bunzl's But Is It Art?: Not Really), to playful (Janice Baker shows films set in museums … in a museum) to curative (Shelley Ruth Butler redressing the Royal Ontario Museum's infamous 1990 show Into the Heart of Africa is just one example). Opening up to the realm of possibility can make for abstract reading at times. That said, this is a highly inventive and intellectually rewarding approach to thinking about the world.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter