North Americans are the world’s most compulsive and prolific users of legal opioids. Carlyn Zwarenstein, diagnosed with an inflammatory spine disease as a young mother, eventually turned to them to manage her pain.
In this lyrical update of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, she recounts her search for relief and release – with its euphoric ups, hallucinatory lows and desperate pharmacy visits. Along the way she traces the long tradition of opium’s influence on culture and imagination, from De Quincey to Frida Kahlo.
Amid headlines of overdoses and galloping addiction rates, Zwarenstein’s darkly comic memoir is an outspoken and provocative dispatch from the New Age of Opium. Part love letter to Romanticism, part critique of modern medicine, Opium Eater offers a distinctly different riff on pain, creativity and mind-altering drugs.
After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.
— Phillip Pullman
What is a Nonvella?
Nonvellas are timely, memorable works of nonfiction—narrative journalism, reportage, adventure writing, memoirs, essays— that run from roughly five to twenty thousand words.
As one writer described their fictional counterparts, nonvellas “combine the dynamic thighs of a sprinter with the long-distance lungs of a mountaineer.” This means tightly-paced reads that stride like books, not news hits. They keep the good parts.
The nonvella tradition in North America reaches back to Thoreau, James Baldwin and E.B. White— and more recently Scott Russell Sanders, Susan Orlean and Jon Krakauer. (Sanders’ classic "Settling Down" appears in our first Nonvella Anthology, "Far From Home.")
We’re excited to celebrate the return of this literary dark horse by featuring some of the best emerging and established nonfiction authors in North America. Thanks for reading.