back to

Writing Under the Influence


Over at the Paris Review website, the staff of the magazine has put together an entertaining and informative compendium of quotes from famous writers about “writing under the influence.” The writers include the usual psychonaut scribes such as William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson, but also the cartoonist Chris Ware and the memoirist Geoff Dyer. You can read a few of the quotes below, or the full list here.

“What I do get is, say if I was in an apartment high on mescaline, I felt as if the apartment and myself were not merely on East Fifth Street but were in the middle of all space-time. If I close my eyes on hallucinogens, I get a vision of great scaly dragons in outer space, they’re winding slowly and eating their own tails. Sometimes my skin and all the room seem sparkling with scales, and it’s all made out of serpent stuff. And as if the whole illusion of life were made of reptile dream.”
—Allen Ginsberg

“Liquor, in my parents’ world, was always your reward at the end of a hard day—or an easy day, for that matter—and I like to observe that old family tradition. But I’ve never drunk for inspiration. Quite the contrary—it’s like the wet sponge on the blackboard. I do now and then take a puff of grass, or a crumb of Alice Toklas fudge, when I’ve reached the last drafts of a poem. That’s when you need X-ray eyes to see what you’ve done, and the grass helps. Some nice touches can fall into place.”
—James Merrill

Image via the Paris Review.