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Ecstasy: Its History and Lore
by Miriam Joseph
Publisher:
Carlton Books 
Year:
2000 
ISBN:
1858688620 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Erowid, 2/27/2001

Today we bought the book Ecstasy: its History and Lore by Miriam Joseph and once my brain got too tired to work, I read it. It’s a short book, similar in size to Ronin Pub’s “Little Books”, but with more density of type and information and on glossy paper. The book runs 95 pages at 7.5” x 5”. Overall the aesthetic of the book is good, the pages nicely layed out, the images good but not plentiful, the fonts clear and readable.

The text of the book varies from very good to spotty. Miriam Joseph is a British author who writes a little about the history of MDMA, but much of the the book is devoted to discussions of the history of ecstasy-associated club/party/rave culture in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Lots of trivia about what dj spun at which club—it brings me back to listening to friends arguing about various versions of the history of raves & rave music.

The target audience of the book is the mainstream audience of folks who are looking for a short overview of information on ecstasy. For that, the tone is level headed and the information clearly stated.

One of my primary criticisms of the book, however, is that she chooses not to footnote any of her facts and only cites a couple references for the facts she gives. The book contains many details, but without references they are nearly valueless to anyone who cares whether she gets it right. Another factor detracting from the overall impact of the book is a peppering of factual errors I detected. The combination of the two (few citations and a few errors) makes it impossible for me to trust the parts of the information that I’m new to.

There are, as there seem to be in all books about psychoactive drugs, out-of-place and factually murky bits that take away from the overall credibility… Why, for instance, did she choose to include the horrid and potentially dangerous ‘fact’ that “A bottle [of GHB] usually contains enough of the drug for three separate hits…” Ugh.

One of the amusing misfires is her repeating a couple times that Alexander Shulgin worked for “Dole” pharmaceuticals, which is the fictitious company Sasha gives for his character ‘Shura’ in PIHKAL. We wondered if this was perhaps intentional; but if it is, its weird. Also mispelled is the name “Leo Zoff” for Zeff 4 or 5 times. Little things like that permeate the book.

Ecstasy is strikingly totally devoid of any mention of the Internet and its influence on ecstasy and ecstasy culture and her short bibliography is all printed books. It is impossible for me to imagine that someone could write a book on ecstasy in 2000 and not have used the web as a primary research tool, but who knows.

She does spend considerable energy discussing therapeutic use and her tone, if somewhat uneven, is generally supportive of the idea of medical and therapeutic use.

Although this book isn’t a useful reference because of its utter lack of citations and it probably holds only passing interest to those who are already familiar with the basics and history of MDMA, it does have some interesting tidbits here and there that will probably be new to most readers. But beware citing her dates and info as a primary source.

For the attention-span deprived—which includes me these days :)—this book offers a quick overview with lots of undocumented details. I think most readers are probably better off with Saunders’s book, Ecstasy Dance Trance & Transformation.

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