Yi Jean Chow
Antiquarian book dealers are a strange, eclectic group of people. Some are dour and serious and have the air of a Victorian schoolmaster or governess; others combine business and pleasure, spending book-fair weekends in hazes of inebriation and fine dining—either in celebration of a lucrative sale or purchase or as distraction and consolation for slow business.
I don’t speak, read, or write Chinese very well; I never have. It was only in my mid-teens that I learned the difference between 读 and 看, when I had previously always used 读 (reading aloud) to signify “read.” I suppose my relatives must have thought I spent a lot of time reciting poetry and prose to myself.
But the utility of letters is not limited to cowardly break-ups. It seems to me an art that is slowly fading, and I lament its demise not because I’m a sentimental and nostalgic Luddite (though I am), but because there are real and pragmatic reasons for holding onto an anachronistic tradition.
In relating the shady world of human trafficking and slavery, Corban Addison shows how quickly life can descend from the commonplace into complete helplessness and hopelessness.