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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Using classical references and up-to-the-minute cultural asides, British historian and wine writer Stuart Walton presents an engaging history of humankind under alcoholic influence. Whatever one's attitude toward inebriation -- lifetime teetotaler, moderate Merlot sipper, or recovering addict -- this book makes it clear that humanity has had a very hard time resisting the lure of the mind-altering experience, whether be it with ancient Greek wheat fungus, hearty medieval mead, pharmaceutical opiates, or postindustrial household solvents.
Like the cool professor who mixes his hard data with everyday anecdotes, Walton is easy to warm to. He's done his homework "in the stacks," and, as he indicates, in pubs, raves, and Amsterdam coffeehouses. And he makes some persuasive points, especially his contention that even the most rarified of oenophilic palettes first acquire a taste for wine because of its feel-good effects. His view on interdiction is more revolutionary; laws restricting substances have little to do with the costs of use or addiction, he says. Rather, governments control mind-altering matter because they make us giddy, sluggish, hepped up, or questioning -- in short, less eager to punch our timecards. There are a few sour notes to Walton's brew, however. Its allusions be unfamiliar to the American reader (when was the last time you passed an addict on the street who was soused on hard cider?), and it's easy to imagine young experimenters skimming these pages for justifications to toke. But for those who savor reading about drinks in addition to sipping them, this compendium contains some heady stuff. Katherine Hottinger