Bangkok is infamously mired in lurid contradiction, but it's also a city of subtle and distorted moods that journalism and film have hitherto mostly failed to capture.
I'll wager there isn't a human being on earth who doesn't believe in luck, however rational they pretend to be in public life. In reality, most of human life is luck - and, of course, its darker, more prevalent opposite. One only has to live long enough to experience both.
Many travelers get into trouble in places like Dubai by assuming that it is sufficiently Western for them to drink as they do back home. But elsewhere in the Muslim world, it is quite controlled, and the non-Muslim will be steered down a fairly narrow path.
Military history is essential to understanding any history and, moreover, is a terrifying and sobering study in the realities of human nature - for yes, to me, such a thing exists, and history indeed proves it.
I read Gide's 'The Immoralist' over and over as a teenager. I was obsessed with it. It's written with such simplicity and dread, and the desert, the shabby colonial world, is brought right into your consciousness without being over-explained.
To me, the contemporary novel suffers from a lack of sense of place - or spirit of place, if you will. It's not important to most writers, I must assume, or they try to research a given background on sabbatical. Not for me. I write about places I've lived long before I ever set pen to paper.