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July 25, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

CRACKHOUSE: Notes From the End of the Line by Terry Williams (Penguin: $10; 158 pp.). The author of "The Cocaine Kids" presents a compelling study of a broken-down Manhattan apartment where people go to get high. Working from observation and interviews, he details the rituals and slang of the crack subculture. The regular smokers who frequent the site live for the drug: The men work to obtain money for it--legally or illegally; the women trade sex for it. Whether or not the reader accepts Williams' contention that this underworld constitutes a "culture of refusal" by people unwilling to accept subordinate status, it is difficult to remain unmoved by these wasted lives. One of the regulars concludes, "I hate this drug but I love it. I've been on this pipe for seven long years and nothing is worse or better than my hit."

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