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Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction Hardcover – June 26, 2012


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Frequently Bought Together

Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction + Opium Culture: The Art and Ritual of the Chinese Tradition + The Art of Opium Antiques
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345517830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345517838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #403,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Look Inside Opium Fiend

Opium smokers in an opulent private smoking room in San Francisco’s Chinatown, photographed by I. W. Taber in 1886. These men are reclining on a “bed” especially made for the purpose of opium smoking. Complete layout of paraphernalia for opium smoking from the author’s collection. The components date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and were crafted in China. (Photograph by Paul Lakatos) The author smoking opium at his Bangkok apartment in 2007. During this time he was nursing a twenty-pipe-per-day opium habit. (Photograph by Jack Barton)

Review

Advance praise for Opium Fiend
 
“Steven Martin’s fascinating memoir runs so much deeper than the standard literature about drugs. Whereas most writers never move beyond obsessive descriptions of physical effects, Martin’s true interests are cultural and intellectual: He connects the urge of the drug addict with the compulsion of the art collector. By the end of this book you’ll have a new sympathy for both kinds of fiend.”—Peter Hessler, author of River Town and Country Driving
 
“Steven Martin writes with a wit and style every bit as intoxicating as his subject.  Entwining endlessly fascinating exotic detail with soul-searing personal revelation, this remarkable author has produced a driving, powerful autobiography unlike any of the countless narco-memoirs cluttering the shelves today. One warning to potential readers: Opium Fiend is the kind of book that makes the rest of the world disappear. It draws you in from the very first page, until you stagger out, blinking at the sun, not sure you ever wanted it to end. Dim the lights, lock the doors, and prepare to be addicted. The kick’s a bitch, but the high is like nothing else in the world.”—Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
 
Opium Fiend is the most engaging memoir of the year. What begins as Steven Martin's search into the lost history of opium—whose trade was once as consequential to empires as oil is today—becomes a harrowing exploration of the liberating, enlightening, and enslaving ecstasies of a forbidden pipe. It’s a tale not so much of addiction but of self-immolating obsession. While crafting a spellbinding literary read, Martin never loses focus on his original aim. Opium Fiend stands as a fascinating, never-before-told social history of the poppy blossom’s central place in the rise and fall of nations. As addictive as its subject matter, Opium Fiend should come with a warning that it may lead to lost nights and weekends of intensely pleasurable reading.”—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill and Hella Nation
 
“This is a beautiful book. Opium Fiend is clear and honest. I don’t know that I have ever been invested in anything with the intellectual and emotional intensity that Martin has for his subject, and there is great romance and literary truth in how the object of his desire is also his undoing.”—Karl Taro Greenfeld, author of Speed Tribes, Boy Alone, and Triburbia

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Customer Reviews

This book is fascinating, very well written.
Ann Carolina
What starts out as an innocent collector of Opium paraphernalia becomes a deeper story about obsession with Smoking Opium.
Amber FLYNN
Steven Martin is a skilled writer and an excellent story teller.
Mike Wallace

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amber FLYNN VINE VOICE on June 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a memoir. But it is also a book about collecting, finding, and becoming obsessed with Opium. It is also about living abroad, mainly in Thailand and Bangkok. The author starts out collecting all kinds of Opium Paraphernalia to become an expert in this very tiny forgotten field and ends up addicted to Opium. Its a brilliant story written extremely well.

What I would have wanted to know before reading it, is that there is a LOT of focus on his obsession with Opium paraphernalia and the long forgotten history of Opium. It borders on a bit obsessive, but that is why it is also brilliant. (And actually aren't obsessive types of people prone to addiction.....that is what is brilliant here.)

This is also a "must read" for anyone who has dealt with another persons addiction. Addiction is hard to watch, and if you are not an addicted type, this book will really help you understand the psychology of some of it. What starts out as an innocent collector of Opium paraphernalia becomes a deeper story about obsession with Smoking Opium. I learned a lot and am no longer in the clouds as to what being addicted to any opiate is all about. Its harsh. Its tough. Its dark.

Opium has always had an air of mystique about it. This book brings ALL of it out to light. There is no stone unturned here. Did I need to know ALL about Opium? No. But I am glad I do now. Also, this is a big book. It has 396 pages, so reader be prepared to be immersed into a collectors obsession. I think you will enjoy it, if you want more than just a personal memoir. This is ALL about Opium. Every part of it.

The writing is very well done. It reads very easily and you can tell that the author is a true writer. I enjoyed this book and it read very fast for me because it was written well.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jojoleb VINE VOICE on May 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Opium Fiend, by Steven Martin, is a memoir of the author's dual addictions: his preoccupation of collecting opium artifacts and his eventual enslavement to the drug. It is a riveting and intriguing chronicle of Martin's fall into the depths of narcotic addiction. It was virtually impossible to put down and I read its nearly 400 pages within two days.

Martin came to his opium addiction quite slowly. As a child he had an obsession with all things in the Far East, after being fascinated by a small, Chinese shoe at his grandparents house. After a semester at community college, Martin traveled to the Philippines and eventually toured South East Asia. He initially visited the Phillipines, settled in Laos for a while, but ended up living in Bangkok, Thailand. Fluent in Thai, he made ends meet by writing segments for travel guides and as a travel journalist for magazines.

Martin is also an avid collector and for some reason he was intrigued by opium paraphernalia. Over time, he amassed a major collection of 19th century opium related artifacts and in doing so became a major expert in authenticating them. Along the way, he started casually smoking opium. At first it was just experimentation, but eventually things got well out of control.

The story shares some qualities with other books about addiction. On the negative side, the author--even in the end--seems to romanticize his opium addiction, viewing it as a kind of wistful dependence of a bygone age. At times, he also uses a journalistic tone to keep some distance from his reader. He seems unwilling to share a fully rounded story of his life. We are only privy to the aspects of his life that surround his collecting and opium habits.

On the bright side, Martin writes in clear and honest prose.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By haskpts VINE VOICE on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
From smoking 30 pipes of opium a day with flu-like sneezing, watery eyes and a dripping wet, runny nose - welcome to the lovely land of opioid addiction. Steven Martin tried hard to knock this monkey off his back; to no avail.

From his Bangkok ninth floor apartment, the lull of the sounds of the Chao Phraya river and Thailand's Chinatown where the back drop were Steven picked up his rather odd new hobby ... opium smoking paraphernalia. Now maybe due to the fact this was started around 1989/1990 - pre-internet ... the attempt to find unusual pieces for his collection took more effort than simply going on e-Bay and buy such things (of course not opium pipes ...drug "paraphernalia" is prohibited), but anyway, Steven points out how many people get a little "high" when they get some fancy new car or antique for their collection, How fitting for Steven to start a hobby of the tools of REALLY getting high!

Maybe the spice of danger leads many to illicit affairs such as seeking out an underground opium den. Like us Americans who seldom can even touch let alone smoke a Cuban cigar, the thrill of finally actually getting a Cuban Romeo y Julieta Bully would be comparable.

Steven's collection became a mini museum of pipes, antique lamps and other opium smoking tidbits ... however having all this stuff around ultimately lead to Mr. Martin becoming an opium junkie.

Before the advent of the hypodermic needle (and even now at many remote places), opium was smoked. Smoking opium was called chandu or maddak and was prepared in a peculiar way in many villages. The raw or gum opium is placed in a pot and sufficient water added to cover it. This is boiled until the raw opium is dissolved into a liquid.
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