Confessions of an English Opium-Eater: Being an extract from the life of a scholar

I kept putting off reading this afraid it was going to be dry and dusty but not a bit of it. Thomas De Quincey is a great raconteur, dropping names wherever he can and making full use of his artistic license he makes us feel as if we’re at a very sociable gathering, listening to him holding forth on his favourite subject – himself!

First published in 1821 opium was incredibly cheap and could be bought anywhere. Jane Austen’s mother took it for travel sickness, Robert Southey for hay fever. On a Saturday afternoon small packages would be prepared in all manner of shops for the evening rush because it was cheaper than ale or spirits. Not surprisingly there was considerable debate about the harms versus the good of opium and laudanum addiction and these Confessions were seen as an encouragement to experiment, TDQ responded:

‘Teach opium-eating! -Did I teach wine-drinking? Did I reveal the mystery of sleeping? Did I inaugurate the infirmity of laughter’

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A Film For August: Do The Right Thing

Set on one street in Brooklyn on one boiling hot day, Mookie (Spike Lee) delivers pizza for Sal (Danny Aiello) the owner of ‘Sal’s Pizzeria’, while Mister SeƱor Love Daddy (Samuel L Jackson) is the DJ watching the street and providing the soundtrack.

Smiley (Roger Geunveur Smith) wonders along the street trying to sell pictures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X; a Korean couple have opened a convenience store; Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) blares Fight the Power from his boombox and three men sit like a Greek chorus opposite Sal’s passing comment. As the camera follows them through the day we get to know them all and watch as the temperature rises and hate and bigotry smoulder. It’s hot, bold and provocative from the very beginning when Tina (Rosie Perez) dances to Public Enemy’s Fight the Power, from then on its like a ticking bomb.

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