You know, I remember a time when books were books—when reading a book meant flipping pages, when the phrase “cracking open a book” made sense, and when sniffing the pages of a new book gave you that giddy, lightheaded feeling that only glue can provide. But this is the future. We live in a time when books are blasted through cyberspace at our heads, streams of ones and zeros bouncing through the air like super balls in a cement mixer.
I welcome this new reality with a strange look on my face and hope in my heart, because if there’s anything we’ve learned about the information age, it’s that it makes everything much better. And really, is the past all that different from the future?
This question is at the core of Eric Enno Tamm’s The Horse That Leaps through Clouds. A nonfiction work, the book is part history lesson, part travel narrative, and part analytical essay. The book details the journey made by Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim in 1906 as he traveled the Silk Road in search of a better understanding of China and its surroundings. Mannerheim was working as a spy for the Tsar of Russia, gathering intelligence and assessing the degree to which China could pose an economic and military threat, but his notes later became important from an anthropological perspective.
One-hundred years after Mannerheim’s journey, Tamm sets out to retrace his steps, journeying into the heart of Western China on a mission to mirror that of Mannerheim’s. The book draws parallels and contrasts between China now and the China of the early twentieth century. Like Mannerheim’s, Tamm’s journey is not without its trails; several run ins with the law are just some of the close-calls Tamm experiences along the Silk Road, and it’s clear throughout his work that though this is a very different China from Mannerheim’s, there are some things that never change.
Winner of the Ottawa Book Award, Tamm was the perfect choice for our Paper Kindle Club, a book club that highlights local writing talent. As far as book clubs go, this is one is fairly relaxed: you don’t have to read the book to attend! The concept is open—we’ll be discussing the book in detail and we welcome anyone who has read the book (and even those who haven’t!) to offer up their thoughts on Tamm’s work.
Also, we’ve invited the author, Tamm himself, to attend! He’ll be showing off some pictures from his journey, as well as answering our fascinating questions about the book.
It’s sure to be a bookish afternoon, so join us!
We’ll be discussing The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds, the strengths and weaknesses of travel literature and the rise of modern China at Collected Works on Sunday July 29th 3:00pm to 5:00pm. Join us in person by signing up here. However if you are too busy to come out in person, feel free to join us online on twitter via the #613live tag or right on our site through the live blog.