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MONDAY

Writers find muses in the strangest places. Dante found his in the 8-year-old Beatrice Portinari; William Burroughs didn’t find his until after he shot his wife in the head in Mexico during a game of William Tell gone awry. In Blinding Light—which takes its inspiration from The Yage Letters, Burroughs’ book on his quest for the South American drug ayahuasca—Paul Theroux posits a long-blocked writer who finds his muse in blindness. But not your run-of-the-mill, can’t-see-shit blindness. No, Slade Steadman, author of one fabulously successful travel book who has spent decades mulling over his next move, finds his way back to writing through drug-induced blindness. The drug is datura, specifically brugmansia, a relative of jimson weed that Steadman samples during an Ecuadorian “drug tour.” The drug—at least in Steadman’s case—causes temporary blindness but also gives him the ability to “see” things the rest of us cannot. With its far-from-likeable protagonist and obvious symbolism, Blinding Light has to work hard to find ways to keep you reading, but it succeeds because you’ll want to know whether the arrogant prick finds his way to true wisdom and because Theroux pumps the book with so much sex and drugs that you don’t even miss the rock ’n’ roll. Still, even with all Steadman’s highfalutin hoodoo about psychedelic satori, he seems to have missed what Burroughs’ pal Jack Kerouac (whose muse came in a bottle) had to say about chemically induced karma: “Walking on water wasn’t built in a day.” Theroux reads at 7 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Michael Little)