My favourite books I read in 2016:
1. The Emigrants, W G Sebald
2. Beauty is a Wound, Eka Kurniawan
3. Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson
4. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Alice Munro
5. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Thinking of Indonesian family and friends today with a pivotal demonstration happening in central Jakarta.
Separately, it is great to have Eka Kurniawan at Singapore Writers Festival this year. I'm really looking forward to listening him speak.
WRITING FROM THE DIASPORA
5 Nov, Sat 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM The Arts House, Screening Room
With Catherine Torres & Robin Hemley & Moderated by Eric Tinsay Valles
SG HORROR: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?
10 Nov, Thu 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM, The Arts House, Blue Room
With Ng Yi-Sheng, Audrey Chin & moderated by Jeffrey Lim
Singapore Love Stories Book launch
12 November 2016 Sat 1pm to 2pm The Arts House, Gallery II
Do come along. It would be great see you there!
"The “Muslim” has come to be a hollowed, emptied term that functions as a trigger for white anxiety. Little surprise then, when you add Muslim next to another anxiety-laden word “immigrant”, the result equates to half the country reaching out for the treadmill’s emergency red stop button.
Modernity’s pace seems too quick for some, but the keen reader would have noted that in my opening agreement I put the Muslim in scare quotes. I do this for a reason. The word “Muslim” belongs to a conversation born out of the “war on terror”. I distinguish it from the quote-less everyday Muslim whose complex life is beyond the headline and Hanson’s narrow parameters.
Any one simplified and generalising statement about Islam betrays the religion and its communities’ diverse contests, betrays Muslims’ internal debates on how to best articulate Islam’s universality. Whereas, the “Muslim” functions in a pure simplicity. It simply means them. It represents an abject figure that has to be excluded from the circle of us so to imagine a supposed pure integrity of our culture."
Poetry Of Departures
Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It's specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said
He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you ****;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I'd go today,
Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo'c'sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren't so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
"So we lunched at Lau Pa Sat and talked through the surface of our lives. I told her my glorious pretensions and she smiled back with a charming reticence. I asked her what she was doing working for Mr Tan? Surely she could find something better? She said it’s just a job and she was biding her time while readying her heart and soul for the Universe. I told her I could relate to that. We talked about the dreariness of everyday life, how most things were old cabbage and wet socks. I told her I was getting out, moving to London where I could lose myself. I lectured her on the courage to move away from one’s comfort zone. She smiled at me and suggested Lombok rather than London."
Excerpt from A Long Bicycle Ride Into the Sea, a story in We Rose Up Slowly
A Long Bicycle Ride into the Sea:
- is about a young lawyer, coasting along in privilege, who is challenged to get wet to prove his love
- examines unconscious assumptions, and how a sense of entitlement and the shallowness of one's gaze obscures self awareness, intimacy and growth
- shows the effect of this on relations with others
- contains passing references to small law firms in shophouses in Tanjong Pagar, Prada suits, Raoul cuff links, Lloyds shoes, Louboutin heels, silver charm bracelets, Benny Hill flirting with Emily Dickinson, Halal eating houses, a HDB flat in Clementi, a Hokkien Sponge Bob Square Pants, Lau Pa Sat, Billy Wilder films, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres, Amitabh Bachchan and Maggie Q, Kong Hee and Lawrence Khong, Ai Weiwei, Miroslav Tichý, Henry Darger and Beatrix Potter, Justin Bieber and Taufik Batisah, the planet Zog, and the song 无条件为你.
- Why so many names dropped? I wanted to show the pretentious superficiality of the narrator and how this obstructs his ability to achieve deeper relations with others.
- He is bewildered by the things life end up throwing at him, and so he should be.