Paul Kirchner’s Dope Rider: A Fistful of Delirium (Book acquired, 7 April 2021)

I am a huge fan of Paul Kirchner’s bold and witty comix. I fell in love with his cult strip The Bus some years back, and was thrilled when he revised the series with The Bus 2. Both volumes were published in handsome editions by the fine folks at Tanibis. The French publisher also released a retrospective collection of Kirchner’s work to date, the essential compendium Awaiting the Collapse. Tanibis also published the collected Hieronymus & Bosch, strip, another entry in the cartoonists explosive output in the twentyteens.

Now, Tanibis has published A Fistful of Delirium, the recent adventures of the resurrected hero Dope Rider. Kirchner’s Dope Rider is a mystical skeleton weedslinger, a philosophical wanderer prone to surreal transformation. Our cowboy rides again here via the full-page full-color strips Kirchner ran in High Times from 2015-2020. Here’s Tanibis’s blurb:

Dope Rider is back in town! After a 30-year hiatus, Paul Kirchner brought back to life the iconic bony stoner whose first adventures were a staple of the psychedelic counter-culture magazine High Times in the 1970s.

The stories collected in this book appeared in High Times between January 2015 and May 2020. Despite the years, Dope Rider has stayed essentially the same, still smoking his ever-present joint, getting high and chasing metaphysical dragons through whimsical realities in meticulously illustrated and colorful one-page adventures. Fans of the original Dope Rider comics will still find the bold graphical innovations, dubious puns and wild dreamscapes inspired by classical painting and western movies that were some of Dope Rider’s trademark.

This time though, Kirchner draws from a much larger panel of influences, including modern pop – and pot – culture (lines and characters from Star Wars as well as references to Denver as the US weed capital can be found here and there) and a wider range of artistic references, from Alice in Wonderland to 2001, A Space Odyssey to Ed Roth’s Kustom Kulture. Native American culture and mythology, only hinted at in the classic adventures, is also much more present in the form of Chief, one of Dope Rider’s new sidekicks. Kirchner’s playful, tongue-in-cheek humor binds together all these influences into stories that mock both the mundane and the nonsensical alike.

You can get a signed edition from Kirchner’s website. Full review down the line.

Six (More) Stoner Novels (And a Bonus Short Story)

One year ago, to celebrate 4/20, Sam Munson at the Daily Beast wrote an article praising “The Best Stoner Novels.” Not a bad list—Wonder Boys, sure, Invisible Man, a bit of a stretch, The Savage Detectives, a very big stretch, but sure, why not. Anyway, six more stoner novels (not that we advocate the smoking of the weed)—

Junkie, William Burroughs

Burroughs’s (surprisingly lucid) early novel Junkie may take its name from heroin, but it’s full of weed smoking. Lesson: weed smoking leads to heroin. And the inevitable search for yage.

Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon

Doc Sportello, the wonky PI at the off-center of Pynchon’s California noir, is always in the process of lighting another joint, if not burning his fingers on the edges of a roach. A fuzzy mystery with smoky corners.

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

Hal Incandenza, protagonist of Wallace’s opus, spends much of his time hiding in the tunnels of Enfield Tennis Academy, feeding his bizarre marijuana addiction, which is, in many ways, more of an addiction to a secret ritual than to a substance. Hal’s hardly the only character in IJ who likes his Mary Jane; there’s a difficult section near the novel’s beginning that features a minor character preparing to go on a major weed binge. His pre-smoking anxiety works as a challenge to any reader seeking to enter the world of Infinite Jest.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m pretty sure “pipe-weed” isn’t tobacco.

Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem

I kind of hated Chronic City, a novel where characters seem to light up joints on every other page. It seems to have been written in an ambling, rambling fog, absent of any sense of immediacy, urgency, or, uh, plot. Bloodless stuff, but, again, very smoky.

Stoner, John Williams

Okay. Stoner has nothing to do with marijuana. But, hey, it’s called Stoner, right?

Bonus short story: Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”

Carver’s classic story features a myopic narrator who comes up against his own shortcomings when he meets an old friend of his wife, a blind man who ironically sees deeper than he does. After drinking too much booze, they spark up, share a doob, and take in a documentary about European cathedrals. Great stuff.


“Stupid” — Raymond Carver

“Stupid,” a poem by Raymond Carver—

It’s what the kids nowadays call weed. And it drifts
like clouds from his lips. He hopes no one
comes along tonight, or calls to ask for help.
Help is what he’s most short on tonight.
A storm thrashes outside. Heavy seas
with gale winds from the west. The table he sits at
is, say, two cubits long and one wide.
The darkness in the room teems with insight.
Could be he’ll write an adventure novel. Or else
a children’s story. A play for two female characters,
one of whom is blind. Cutthroat should be coming
into the river. One thing he’ll do is learn
to tie his own flies. Maybe he should give
more money to each of his surviving
family members. The ones who already expect a little
something in the mail first of each month.
Every time they write they tell him
they’re coming up short. He counts heads on his fingers
and finds they’re all survivng. So what
if he’d rather be remembered in the dreams of strangers?
He raises his eyes to the skylights where rain
hammers on. After a while —
who knows how long? — his eyes ask
that they be closed. And he closes them.
But the rain keeps hammering. Is this a cloudburst?
Should he do something? Secure the house
in some way? Uncle Bo stayed married to Aunt Ruby for 47 years. Then hanged himself.
He opens his eyes again. Nothing adds up.
It all adds up. How long will this storm go on?

“My Kushy New Job” — Wells Tower Slings Hash(ish) in Amsterdam

Biblioklept fave Wells Tower details his temp job working in an Amsterdam weed bar in his new GQ article, “My Kushy New Job.” A few quotes from the essay–

At quarter of nine on a Wednesday morning, I report for my first shift. I’ll be working at de Dampkring on the Handboogstraat, a cheery alley just off the Damstraat, a heavily touristed promenade connecting the Flower Market to Dam Square. The Handboogstraat shop, a cozy enclave that can comfortably seat thirty or so, is a study in Art Nouveau psychedelia. Lava-lamp swirls predominate. The coffee bar is nearly overwhelmed by a biomorphic plaster mass aglow with party bulbs. The shop is pleasant and trippy in a somehow classic fashion. It’s like being inside the lovely bowels of Toulouse-Lautrec.

And later–

By midafternoon, my hands are sufficiently caramelized with THC resin to merit ejection from a major league pitcher’s mound. Rubbing my thumb against my forefingers rouses little rat turds of hashish. There’s probably enough intoxicating filth that gnawing my fingertips would affect my mood, but I don’t nibble them, taking seriously the house prohibition against dealers getting high on the job. Though other employees gripe about the policy, I hardly need a hit of anything. Simply working here makes me feel, in the worst possible way, as if I’m stoned to the limits of my capacity. The mere act of weighing the product, which must be done with ticklish exactitude, to the hundredth of a gram, while the customer rails at you—”Big buds! What’s with all the shake? I’m not paying for that stem!”—is an occasion for nervousness and paranoia of the first order. A third or so of the customers buy hash, most of it cheap stuff, which is hard as a boot sole and requires a kitchen knife to apportion. If you don’t nail a perfect gram on the first chop, you have to make the weight by laboriously shaving brown flour into the scale pan while the customer volubly wonders who let this fumbling idiot behind the bar.