The Book Worm: Real-life mysteries and eye openers

Photo with no caption

“High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society”

By Dr. Carl Hart

c. 2013, Harper Collins

$26.99/$28.99 Canada

340 pages

Everything you believe is wrong. There are, for instance, no alligators living in the sewers of New York. Elvis is not alive and living near a burger joint in Michigan. Head colds are not caused by walking in the snow, and the Tooth Fairy? Sorry.

So what do you know about drugs, and the causes of addiction? In the new book “High Price” by Dr. Carl Hart, you’ll be surprised at recent revelations.

Growing up on “one of the roughest neighborhoods of Miami,” Carl Hart had all kinds of temptations at his fingertips. Still, he managed to resist many of them. That doesn’t mean, however, that Hart was a complete angel.

Guns were easy to get where he lived, and there was once a time when he wanted one for revenge-making. He and his friends shoplifted, dine-and-dashed, and once held a gun on a white man for fun. And he experimented with drugs marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, and alcohol even though he knew that those substances would poorly affect the basketball career he badly wanted.

When he didn’t get a basketball scholarship, Hart knew that his best option was to join the military, so he entered the Air Force and discovered that basic training was easy for an athlete from Miami who was used to hot-weather activity. He used that ease to challenge his fellow airmen, and he found his leadership abilities.

And because he was trying to stay out of trouble which meant avoiding the brothers who wanted to smoke marijuana he took his first college class.

Today, Hart’s career lies in the study of the effects of drugs on behavior, and because of his research, he has learned some surprising things about addiction; for instance, the vast majority of cocaine use is outside the black community, and 80-90 percent of cocaine users “do not develop problems with the drug.” Furthermore, Hart believes that the solution to the drug problem and, by extension, many of the other societal ills that befall inner cities isn’t through a racially-motivated “war on drugs.” What’s needed, he says, is for people especially young adults to have a “stake in our society.”

Though it tends to take awhile to get to the point, “High Price” isn’t bad.

Author and neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart uses his own life experiences and plenty of up-front truth to show how general perceptions of drug use and abuse is wrong, particularly when it comes to drugs and the Black community. This mixing of personal story and hard research is interesting and appealing, in part because Hart isn’t preachy and partly due to his unique history as someone who actually lived that which he’s trying to help others avoid.

It took some effort for me to stay with this book at first, but I was ultimately glad I stuck around. And if you’re a reader who questions assumptions, is tired of “experts” who don’t walk the walk, and you love a good biography, then “High Price” is a book I believe you’ll like, too.

Photo with no caption

“Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal that Changed Hollywood ”

By Greg Merritt

c. 2013, Chicago Review Press

$29.95/$32.95 Canada

482 pages

You couldn’t stop tossing. You couldn’t really sleep that night, either, so you stumbled to the sofa for some Bad TV and were surprised to find that late-night viewing isn’t so bad after all. You actually, in fact, found an old black-and-white movie that was pretty decent.

But would you be surprised to learn that in the beginning, Hollywood, despite the innocence of the time, could be very indecent? In the new book “Room 1219” by Greg Merritt, you’ll see how.

Roscoe Arbuckle hated the nickname, “Fatty.” His mother’s late-born lastborn, abandoned by his father, Roscoe was always a big boy. Other children teased him about his weight but his mother indulged him unabashedly, so in 1895, when he skipped school in favor of appearing on-stage with a comedy revue, she looked the other way. The “chubby eight-year-old,” as it turned out, could really act!

From there to vaudeville to movies (a new medium that initially embarrassed him), Arbuckle, along with his friends Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, honed his sense of comedic timing to become one of America’s best-loved early stars. By 1921, he was wealthy, popular, and in-demand for parties.

It was at one of his own parties that Arbuckle met Virginia Rappe.

Born in 1891 to an unwed mother, Virginia Rapp added an “e” to make her name “more exotic” when she was just 16. By then, she had her sights set on being a fashion designer (another “infant industry”) and was quite talented. Like so many young women in Hollywood , she also had hopes of being in the movies and had appeared in a few “flickers.”

On Sept. 3, 1921, at the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco, Prohibition liquor flowed and Roscoe Arbuckle the star sat talking to Virginia Rappe, the starlet. Arbuckle, who paid for the party, thought he might’ve seen Rappe before, since they’d worked for the same studio. They had many other things in common, too, and they may’ve flirted though Arbuckle was married.

And then Rappe had to use the bathroom. Minutes later, Arbuckle followed her through the hotel’s bedroom, and locked the door. What happened next ended Viginia Rappe’s life and Roscoe Arbuckle’s career.

But what did happen? Movie fans have been asking that question for nearly a century, and in “Room 1219,” author Greg Merritt looks at the evidence.

Anecdotes and rumors still swirl around Arbuckle’s name, and Merritt disproves lies and debunks myths in this true crime book, but that’s not all. He also gives his readers a sense of what life was like in the 1920s, including the beginning of the movie industry and our infatuation with Hollywood stars. I was very astounded to see what the media was able to get away with, back then. Read this book, and I think you will be, too.

True crime fans may find too much film history in this book, but movie buffs will absolutely love it. If you can’t get enough of the “flickers,” then “Room 1219” is a book to toss in your cart.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features