The scent of newly-bound tomes in an undisclosed bookshop brings about a sense of belonging, yet also compulsive mystery. Bookshops are places you go as dusk descends, when you’ve lost your way in the Roman-made streets, and stumble upon them by coincidence, or fate. Bookshops are places you go to listen to music as it tinkles through the windows, and deftly patters over the spines of novels. Bookshops are places you go to find a physical, true reality, only to be devoured by some other’s world a time later. These are the ones you find:
“ Who are human beings? Because who we are determines the type of governing we need.”
― Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (the prequel to The Hunger Games Series), by Suzanne Collins, is a novel fresh from the printing press. It is engrossing, vibrant, and the sort of tale that keeps you awake until midnight. It relates the history of Coriolanus Snow: of his world from the bird’s-eye-view of a penthouse apartment, of his victories and sorrows, and of his Capitol path to infamy. Collins lays before us the foundation of the Hunger Games, the sculpting of a dictatorial leader, and a number of familiar ballads. The protagonists, and antagonists on the opposite end of the spectrum, seem truly existent and genuine so that one resonates with them and is concerned with their lives (peculiar as this may be, given their ultimate corruption).
This book is best consumed with a beverage, in this case, a chilled rendition of home-brew peppermint tea (Mentha Piperita). Slip on some Converse footwear, ease open the screen door, and select a pristine sprig of peppermint from the spices patch. Steep the mint in a steaming teapot/canopic jar/cauldron of H20 for approximately 4-6 minutes. Cool it with ice — in an assortment of shapes — and serve it Snow-cold, in a science beaker for preferable effects. Now embark on your rampage.
You insert the book into your linen rucksack, and continue to peruse the mahogany (-imitation) bookshelves. A certain younger sibling peers out from behind a DC Comic and inquires something about the rotation of Neptune, but you merely reply ,“Not now” and pick up another — a classic.
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the sort of book that makes you feel as if you’re perched atop a rouge fold-out seat in the London Theatre, waiting for silence to fall and the curtains to rise. It is a tale of vanity, decadence, and art. Dorian Gray’s new acquaintance, Basil Halworth, takes his friend’s likeness and pours it into an astounding portrait. Dorian’s attention is captured by the painting and it arouses a realization of his own physical appeal, but after a while a thought strikes him: he will not always look like this. He will grow wrinkled, weak, and ugly. If only he could remain young and the painting echo his age. When he vows that as his deepest desire, a change comes over Dorian, and with every transgression he commits, the painting becomes more grotesque.
This gothic novel is nicely absorbed with effortless Tazo Passion Tea. Whether at your grandmother’s apartment in Italy, or in a TGV headed towards France, there is sure to be a decent stash of this drink in the cupboard. Merely steep one sachet of tea in a chipped mug of your choice (for about 2-3 minutes) and enjoy it boiling or cold.
You look up from the Gutenberg paper, and are met with an unheeded Korean take-out wok given to you by some tiny hands. But you dismiss any musings of the carton design, and head towards the clerk.
Songbirds. Chaos. School-Mate Friendship. Rebellion. Art. Brokenness. Beauty. Sin. Coriolanus Snow, and Dorian Gray: their characters are flogged by the same flaw: pride. They are broken, like every other living being in the universe, but they turn inward for salvation, which ultimately leads them to their demise. So the question is: where do you look for salvation?
And you go out with the tintinnabulation of the bell.