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Ann Marlowe   How to Stop Time  
Ann Marlowe    
read an excerpt from How to Stop Time

essay by ann marlowe

  The most surprising and interesting thing about Ann Marlowe's How to Stop Time: Heroin from A-Z is how many different kinds of books it wants and manages to be: a memoir unusual for its attitude, not its subject; a narrative experiment marked by its actual success rather than its theoretical achievements; a piece of cultural criticism guided more by a sense of place and time than any especially tendentious thesis. And yet, for all this, it boils down to being a heroin book.

Towards the end of How to Stop Time, Ann Marlowe writes this:
    thread
    There's something arbitrary about looking at my life and our times through the lens of heroin. I might have picked tennis, or shoes or cooking, all of which have been important to me for years and have their own cultural resonances. From this angle, dope is just the lever I've chosen to move what I can. But no. Every thread would not be equal. Our culture has leant dark powers to narratives use, more than to drug use itself, and I am taking advantage of them, like a painter using the severity of northern light.
It's a passage that's indicative of the book itself, steeped in this play of multiple levels of self-consciousness and yet confident enough, smart enough and graceful enough, gripping enough to actually work. And, of course, just right: perceptive, concise, and on-target.

It is also indicative of the rest of How to Stop Time for the way it illustrates the form of the book, which is presented in the guise of a dictionary, as a series of brief essays about alphabetically-organized words.

In this Bold Type feature, Ann Marlowe writes about this structure, its relationship to digital media and what this all might mean to her influences and intentions as a writer. And, of course, where heroin fits into all of this. This essay is woven into excerpts from the book that have been selected for their specific relevance and their structural ability to be rigged (but not changed at all) to take advantage of Bold Type's digital medium.
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  Photo credit: Jerry Bauer

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