Dusty's Reviews > Baudelaire in Chains: A Portrait of the Artist as a Drug Addict

Baudelaire in Chains by Frank Hilton
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's review
Nov 02, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2009

More a slanted biography than a piece of literary criticism, Baudelaire in Chains is the sort of book that inspires reductionist biographical movies that boil artists down to their vices. Sylvia Plath is depressed. Iris Murdoch suffers from Alzheimer's. And Charles Baudelaire, author of a couple volumes of flamboyantly filthy-gorgeous 19th Century French poetry, is a drug addict.

There are merits to this book. Hilton is a good writer, and when he's excerpting Baudelaire's letters or recounting anecdotes, his book is extremely readable. I'd even call it enjoyable. Problem is, he is so intent upon attributing all Baudelaire's mysteries and idiosyncrasies to his purported "enslavement" to opium that, well, after a while he begins to shrill. Baudelaire had trouble keeping track of his money? Obviously he spent it all on laudanum. Baudelaire couldn't maintain a pleasant relationship with anyone in his family? Obviously his addiction to opium prevented him from discerning the consequences of his vitriolic outbursts. Baudelaire suffered from stomach cramps and sometimes overslept? Obviously his body suffered from long-term opium abuse.

Don't get me wrong: Hilton probably has a point -- that Baudelaire's mostly 19th-Century biographers don't give full consideration to the effects of his use of opium. But Hilton takes that point to the ends of the earth in this book. Okay, I wanted to say, after two hundred and twenty pages, I've got it. THE MAN WAS ADDICTED TO OPIUM. Now, what?
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Reading Progress

November 2, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
August 1, 2009 – Finished Reading
August 7, 2009 –
page 19
August 17, 2009 –
page 41
August 18, 2009 –
page 84
August 19, 2009 –
page 125
August 21, 2009 –
page 149
August 22, 2009 – Shelved as: read-in-2009

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Carly (new)

Carly oh. this looks fun!

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