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Under the Influence Reader’s Guide

By Rebecca Shannonhouse

Under the Influence by Rebecca Shannonhouse


Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. How do you define addictions? How does the portrayal of addiction found in "The Pathology of Sex" by Abraham Verghese compare with that presented by Thomas De Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater?

2. Has the definition of addiction changed over time? How does Leo Tolstoy’s understanding of addiction, as presented in his 1891 essay "The Ethics of Wine-Drinking and Tobacco Smoking," compare with Kate Braverman’s contemporary understanding in "They Take a Photograph of You When You First Get Here"?

3. What commonalities and/or differences can be found in the various types of addiction described in this book? Is the "addiction" described in Double Down: Reflections of Gambling and Loss by Frederick and Steven Barthelme comparable to that found in Holy Hunger: A Memoir of Desire by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas?

4. Do you believe that societal attitudes about addiction have changed over time? If so, how? Are the attitudes presented in "How Children Are Made Drunkards" by William Lee Howard accurate today?

5. "The Sorrows of Gin" by John Cheever paints a fictional portrait of the effects of addiction on a family member. Do you think it’s accurate? If so, how? Are there other selections in this book that further illuminate these effects?

6. What constitutes recovery from addiction? Which selections portray this most clearly?

7. Have these writings changed your understanding of addiction? If so, how?

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