The Atlantic

On Writing, Smoking, and the Habit of Transcendence

Gregor Hens’s Nicotine describes a life spent chasing moments of heightened power.
Source: Kenishirotie / photomelon / Fotolia / Paul Spella / The Atlantic

Writers have long found rich fodder for their work in their leisure pursuits. John Updike, writing about golf in The New York Times in 1973, described the pastime as “a non-chemical hallucinogen” that “breaks the human body into components so strangely elongated and so tenuously linked, yet with anxious little bunches of hyper-consciousness and undue effort bulging here and there, along with rotating blind patches and a sort of cartilaginous euphoria.” Sketching out a particularly lucid paragraph about the act of preparing for a stroke, he confessed, “got me so excited I had to rush out into the yard and hit a few shots, even though it was pitch dark, and only the daffodils showed.”

Updike’s experience of transcendence while playing golf—his sense of tapping in to a kind

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Iran Regime-Change Crew Is Back
Among the most strident critics of the nuclear deal with Iran are those who believe it furthers the survival of its leadership. By throwing Iran’s rulers an economic lifeline, they believe, the deal is an abject failure. America’s goal, they say, sho
The Atlantic5 min read
The Handmaid's Tale And The Suffering Of Women
The most chilling scene in the early new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale comes when a 15-year-old Econowife, Eden (Sydney Sweeney), shyly tells June (Elisabeth Moss) that her new husband refuses to lie with her. June gently explains that she should b
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Negligent Nomination of Ronny Jackson
The president’s pick to be secretary of veterans affairs stands accused of misconduct, but with a proper vetting process he would never have been in this position anyway.