I was but a child when I had read Tintin’s adventures in The Blue Lotus, where the spunky reporter unearthed opium smuggling racket between China and Japan. It was my first encounter with the word ‘opium’ and I still clearly remember the dark, gloomy panels that depicted the opium dens. Surly faced men lying on their sides smoking a pipe. And though I may not have known about the cultivation of opium in India, I had an inkling of what a drug was.
So back in 2016, when I came across The Opium War by Julia Lovell at the World Book Fair, I snapped it right up. The tagline runs as ‘Drugs, dreams and the making of China’. Didn’t think twice beyond that. China, it’s history and culture has always fascinated me, and I try to read as much as I can about it.
“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you.”
They say one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I am guilty as charged when it comes Elif Shafak’s The Forty Rules of Love. Being a cynical pessimist, I always look at the word ‘love’ with a wary eye, and despite being told by many that ‘love’ here wasn’t the typical romantic love, I still kept my distance.
Till three months ago on a trip to my favourite bookstore with an erstwhile friend P who casually remarked that the book was a must read. Huh. I quite didn’t expect my equally cynical friend to have even read the book. So, there must be something here. After much hemming and hawing, and still finding people around me going gaga over it, I finally borrowed it from my good friend M, who was only too happy to see me give this a shot.
Ever had a character in a book guilt you into doing something? And it’s not even like the character is some genius or a sharp-tongued feminist, but a certain nobody who is living the life of a bohemian, among squalor and dirty rooms, between filthy linen with a perpetual hunger clawing at him. But he is a struggling writer, a writer who persists in his art form and pushes himself to his very limits.
Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is a seminal work by the American writer, and his sense of narrative and topic is quite the disruption in my reading pattern. I have been in awe of him for quite a few years, but only recently did I spread the pages between my fingers. And he’s like a jolt from the blue.