August 5, 2012

Literature and Doping

In the spirit of the Olympics ...

In 2018, following the National Commission on Literary Doping’s decision to impose standards retroactively, the literary canon shifted dramatically. Naturally, works such as Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and Naked Lunch, which, by the authors’ own confession, had been written under the influence of drugs, were dropped from curricula and library shelves. That much had been foreseen. However, the NCLD’s discovery that increased levels of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine in the bloodstream could enhance creative output and, as they noted in their report, “allow for the free association of images, thus providing users with a distinct creative advantage” jeopardized the legacy of a number of authors who had been viewed as relatively “clean.”

Though it was difficult, in the absence of blood tests and urine samples, to ascertain the precise levels of proscribed substances in historical subjects, diaries and contemporary reportage provided damning evidence in many cases. Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Lowry, and Graham Greene were among the first to lose their credibility. Hemingway’s Nobel Prize was retroactively rescinded and bestowed on a Norwegian farmer named Oddmund. Martin Amis and Beryl Bainbridge, whose usage of performance-enhancing nicotine greatly exceeded the pack-a-day limit, were also swiftly excoriated, and laudatory reviews of works such as Money and Every Man for Himself were excised from websites.

Perhaps most controversial was the caffeine limit stipulated by the Commission. Keith Miller, whose novels were undergoing a critical reappraisal, was discovered to have exceeded the three-cups-of-java-a-day limit on multiple occasions, and it was determined that the excess caffeine had directly influenced the celebrated purpleosity of his prose.

The new NCLD-certified canon is topped by Catherine Marshall’s Christy, followed by the complete works of Patricia St. John.


  1. Awesome! My parents made me read Christy AND all of Patricia St. John's books when I was young... LOL!

  2. Treasures of the Snow was one of my favorite books! I should get it for my daughter.