White Out (Paperback)
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The tenth-anniversary edition of Michael Clune’s classic memoir of addiction and recovery: “Dreamily exact . . . sensual and hilarious . . . One of the year's best books” (The New Yorker).
How do you describe an addiction in which your drug of choice creates a hole in your memory, a “white out,” so that every time you use it is the first time—new, fascinating, vivid? Michael W. Clune’s story takes us straight inside such an addiction—what he calls “the memory disease.”
With dark humor, and in crystalline prose, Clune’s account of life inside the heroin underground reads like no other. Whisking us between the halves of his precarious double life—between the streets of Baltimore and the college classroom, where Clune is a graduate student teaching literature—we spiral along with him as he approaches rock bottom: from nodding off in a row house with a one-armed junkie and a murderous religious freak to having his life threatened in a Chicago jail while facing a felony possession charge.
After his descent into addiction, we follow Clune through detox, treatment, and finally into recovery as he returns to his childhood home, where the memory disease and his heroin-induced white out begin to fade. White Out is more than a memoir. It is a rigorous investigation that offers clarity, hope, and even beauty to anyone who wants to understand the disease or its cure. This tenth anniversary edition includes a new preface by the author.
About the Author
Michael W. Clune is Samuel B. and Virginia C. Knight Professor of Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. He is the author of Gamelife, Writing Against Time, American Literature and the Free Market, and A Defense of Judgment.
“If you’ve ever wanted to know what an exceptional critical mind looks like on drugs, read White Out. This book is full of enduring insights about time, literature, and memory; it is also a hilarious and scandalous and frightening chronicle of full-blown heroin addiction (and graduate school!). This might be the best book about drugs since [Baudelaire’s] Les Paradis Artificiels."
— Ben Lerner
“Clune’s razor-sharp description of the magical first time he got high exemplifies why this stands out among dime-a-dozen addiction memoirs . . . At its best, this chronicle keenly touches on the devastations of heroin with disciplined literary flair.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A] decade hasn’t dulled its brilliance: White Out describes addiction’s mortifications with a precision and intensity that shames the prose of not just the average addiction memoir but of contemporary literary nonfiction as a whole. It is 'about' addiction in the same sense that Lolita—a key Clune text—is 'about' pedophilia: overwhelmingly so, but also incidentally, with the ostensible subject serving as pretext for the play of language and the careful chiselling of a bruised, ironic, complexly self-despising sensibility . . . At once deeply compelling and deeply strange."
— Daniel Kolitz
“One of the best dope memoirs I’ve read.”
— Maggie Nelson
"This might be the best prose by a contemporary I've ever read."
— Valerie Stivers
"The unusual risk taken by Clune's unusually good addiction memoir is its enduring lyrical reverence for heroin. The heroin is so close you can see the white. It hasn't been relegated to the past. It has an honest and dangerous smile. It's right here, whitely licking its chops."
— Gideon Lewis-Kraus
"A deeply thought-through, reasonable, unified, maybe teachable understanding of memory and self and habit."
— Tao Lin
"His style is direct and confessional, and draws attention to the humour in addiction. He also writes about his theory of addiction . . . The novelty doesn’t come from the feeling of doing the drug, which Clune says ‘starts to suck pretty quickly.' Instead it’s the image, and the persistent newness of the image, that keeps him coming back."
— Miranda Critchley
“White Out is an excellent book—abject, beautiful, funny, profane, truly, truly terrifying—and it made me read Clune’s criticism and essays in a very different light.”
— Merve Emre
“A memoir that reads like a lost modernist novel—James Joyce as a junkie in modern day Baltimore. James Frey eat your heart out.”
— Adam Wilson