Skip to main content

The Smoking Book

The Smoking Book is a dreamlike structure built on the solid foundation of two questions: how does it feel to smoke, and what does smoking mean? Lesley Stern, in an innovative, hybrid form of writing, muses on these questions through intersecting stories and essays that connect, expand, and contract like smoke rings floating through the air.

Stern writes of addictions and passionate attachments, of the body and bodily pleasure, of autobiography and cultural history. Smoking is Stern’s seductive pretext, her way of entering unknown and mysterious regions. The Smoking Book begins with intimate and vivid accounts of growing up on a tobacco farm in colonial Rhodesia, reminiscences that permeate subsequent excursions into precolonial tobacco production and postcolonial life in Zimbabwe, as well as dramatic vignettes set in Australia, the United States, Scotland, Italy, Japan, and South America. Stern has written a book, at once intensely personal and kaleidoscopically international, that weaves the intimate act of a solitary person smoking a cigarette into a broad cultural picture of desire, exchange, fulfillment, and the acts that bind people together, either in lasting ways or through ephemeral encounters.

The Smoking Book is for anyone who has ever smoked or loved a smoker (against their better judgment); it is for those who have never smoked or for those who mourn the loss of cigarettes as they would grieve for a lost friend. But mostly, The Smoking Book is for all those who are smoldering still.

Read an excerpt.

248 pages | 5 x 8 | © 1999

Culture Studies

Film Studies

Table of Contents

Smoke Circles
Suspended Forever
A Fishy Smell
Not Wanting
Like a Precious Gem
The Body Has a Mind of Its Own
White Man
Translation (a gift of opium)
No Substitute
To Bubble and Rumble (like an elephant)
Memory Missiles
A Smoky Edifice (implosion)
Babies or Booze (metonymy)
Bombs or Burns (metaphor)
Traced by (a slight sense of) Bitterness
Instead of a Lobotomy (a cigarette)
To Remember (to find yourself in fragments)
To Forget
Black Hole Spinning (the physics of writing)
Strange Attractors
A Lycanthropic Age (the writing cure)
A Boil About to Burst (the talking cure)
Lions Don’t Smoke
Fog Drinking
Kettle Logic (the art of separation)
I Done a Lotta Bad Things
The Smoking Room
Kindness (or, the werewolf comes home)
Those Places in the Body That Have No Language Either
Anticipation (a crevice opening up)
A Sleeping Problem
Open Arms
Fire Escape
Lighting Up
Smoking Landscape
Life-Giving Mist
In Transit


New South Wales Premier's Lit Awards

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press