Cover Image: Deep Sniff

Deep Sniff

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thanks to Repeater Books + NetGalley for the e-ARC.

This book combines medical history, social and cultural history and a vision of the future, to help us understand what poppers can teach us. It’s an interesting subject, and one I’m not particularly well versed in, but I loved the first half of this book - the medical and cultural history of how poppers came to be. The chapters on poppers emerging at a similar time to outspoken queerness, changing masculinity, marketing to gay men and poppers during the early HIV/AIDS crisis were all fantastic. 

The second half of the book looks more at queer life now and Zmith’s vision of how the future could be, studied alongside cultural references to Star Trek and Iain Bank’s Culture novels (bit weird to read about my dads favourite books alongside a lot of sexually explicit analysis). Not being super familiar with either, this didn’t interest me as much as the earlier chapters but I liked and agreed with a lot of Zmith’s musings on identity and utopias. 

Also included in this book: Jane Fonda, Poirot, Housmans bookshop, the Combahee River Collective and many other fun shout outs! Pick it up if it sounds like your very niche kind of thing.
Was this review helpful?
Deep Sniff is an exploration of the history of poppers through the lens of the reality of identity and freedom and possible queer futures, starting with their Victorian discovery and moving into gay culture both face to face and online. The book moves between history, a bit of science, some science fiction, and a manifesto for the future, blending topics to show how intertwined the body, identity, pleasure, sex, politics, and history really are.

This is a multi-faceted book, telling what starts as a history of science and rapidly moves into a history of culture, politics, and sex, whilst also looking at some of the pop culture mentions and depictions of poppers. I found a lot of the history very interesting, told in an engaging way with anecdotes, and I felt like I learned a lot from it. The later part of the book focuses more on the idea of queer futures and imagining futures, looking to sci-fi and previous writing on various utopian dreams, and it had more of a call to imagine new futures than I expected, emphasising the importance of looking forward rather than back (which is quite funny for a book with 'history' in the subtitle). The queer utopia stuff was particularly interesting, though there was a lot about Star Trek and as someone who knows nothing about it, I did get a bit lost at times.

A short and readable exploration of poppers and pleasure, Deep Sniff is a deep dive into not just a particular substance and its cultural impact, but also wider implications and futures. Also, it ends with a playlist of tracks that I'm listening to whilst I'm writing this review, which is fun too, and underscores the way in which histories and futures are all tied to so many things, and looking at the future through the lens of a cultural item (e.g. poppers) can bring with it a lot of different ideas, connotations, and (in this case) music.
Was this review helpful?
I’ve heard about poppers that I’ve never actually heard the story or information about them.  I found this history to be completely fascinating.  It’s full of interesting antidotes.  I really enjoyed it
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley, Repeater Books, and Adam Zmith for the ARC of Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Wow, this book was so well researched and so well done. The archival work and storytelling intertwined into this book to illustrate queer past, present, and future through the object of something as simple as poppers was really fascinating and easy to read.

It should also be noted how short this book is, being under 200 pages and yet how the other still packs such a punch in this text, never mincing or wasting a single word. 

I can’t wait to purchase this book when it comes out next month and add it as a necessary text in my queer nonfiction collection. Also look forward to being on the lookout to read more from Zmith’s works as well!
Was this review helpful?