read: 29 July 2012
Enjoyed this. Got it from a friend who knows the author so I read it before I’d read much about it. I enjoy reading about drugs and expat stories are often interesting and this book was a good combination of the two. This is Martin’s own story basically about how he became an opium addict, went through detox and .... maybe still smokes a little now and then, hard to say. The book is more about his fascination with being a collector of things, in this case both opium paraphernalia and lore, and how that frenzy toward collecting drove the rest of his decision-making.
It’s tough to tell by reading just this one account if Martin’s claims about himself are true. He’s very insistent that he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the history of opium and particularly the tools of opium smoking in the entire world and maybe that’s true. He has a high opinion of himself and his observations which makes this book an interesting read but also makes me want to read more about the topic generally to get other opinions. As he slides into opium dependence, he writes well about what it’s like to not really notice that you are getting trapped by a thing until you’re already too far gone. There is also a lot of space in the middle of the book where, describing his opium smoking with other people, he reaches a level of detail that is probably fascinating if you are high, and less so if you are not. This is a familiar thing to people who are recreational drug users. The sheer amount of factual detail (plus a great bibliography) makes this book really worth a looksee. For someone who talks so much about himself, Martin does not have much of a presence online besides what can be found via his Opium Museum website.
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