It is no secret that marijuana has long been a literary inspiration. For centuries, writers have looked to the herb for aid in defeating writer’s block. Sadly, in literature, alcohol has gotten far more play than grass. Let’s take a break from all that whiskey, sadness, and regret to celebrate weed’s greatest literary moments.
Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon
Larry “Doc” Sportello is one in a long line of L.A. private eyes, but instead of booze, he takes weed as his vice. The femme fatales, mysterious schemes, and faked crimes are the same you would come to expect of a film noir, but here Pynchon updates these old tropes for the marijuana age. Doc keeps it loose, even by private eye standards, making sure to maintain a light caseload and a constant buzz. This makes Doc the perfect vehicle for Pynchon’s metaphysical brand of literature. For Doc, while cracking a case, it is important to find time to meditate on the nature of existence through vessels as diverse as Charlie the Tuna and The Wizard of Oz.
Budding Prospects, by T.C. Boyle
If you’re looking at going into the weed-growing business, make sure you read Budding Prospects before you take the leap of faith. Our hero, Felix, and his foolish friends teach you what exactly can go wrong if you try to get into that bud game. The comic novel is challenging terrain to mine, but with Budding Prospects, Boyle manages a deft hit at the American sense of industriousness. Bracketed with a quote from Ben Franklin and the line from Death of A Salesman—“Why, boys, when I was 17 I walked into the jungle, and when I was 21 I walked out. And by God I was rich”—the novel takes a shot across the bow of the American Dream.
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
In a well-lit cellar, our protagonist muses on what it would be like to listen to five recordings of “What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue” at once. He goes on to describe the ecstasy of smoking marijuana while listening to music, how reefer allows you to feel the “breaks” in music, the moments between the moments.
The mind-expanding possibilities of drugs are important to Invisible Man, as the story is about a journey toward enlightenment through shifting perceptions. This beginning prepares us for the dreamlike journey of coping with the absurdity of being a black man in pre-civil rights America.
Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
Every creative writing student has dreamt of writing a novel about creative writing class, and every creative writing student has wanted to write in a character who loves weed. Grady Tripp, the flawed professor at the center of Wonder Boys has made his life far too complicated, and smokes weed in an attempt to uncomplicate it. Smoking pot, Grady tells us, “makes me feel like everything already happened five minutes ago.”
Artificial Paradises, by Charles Baudelaire
It won’t surprise you that to hear that you aren’t the first person to consider writing a memoir about how drugs have affected your mind. It may surprise you that people were writing such works in 1860. Baudelaire carefully chronicles the drugs he’s taken, and how they could lead to an “ideal world.” The French writer often experimented with drugs, including hashish, with the luminaries of the day, including Balzac and Dumas. His musings on hashish reveal that some things never change:
“There, then, you are, for some hours yet, incapable of work, of action, and of energy. It is the punishment of an impious prodigality in which you have squandered your nervous force. You have dispersed your personality to the four winds of heaven—and now, what trouble to gather it up again and concentrate it!”