Sunday, October 25, 2009

We were never warned about heartbreak

This is a line from Julian Barnes' brilliant new short story -- Complicity-- published in the October 19th issue of the New Yorker. My favourite bit is below but the whole story is here.
"I used the word “complicity” a bit ago. I like the word. To me, it indicates an unspoken understanding between two people, a kind of pre-sense, if you like. The first hint that you may be suited, before the nervous trudgery of finding out whether you “share the same interests,” or have the same metabolism, or are sexually compatible, or both want children, or however it is that we argue consciously about our unconscious decisions. Later, looking back, we will fetishize and celebrate the first date, the first kiss, the first holiday together, but what really counts is what happened before this public story: that moment, more of pulse than of thought, which goes, Yes, perhaps her, and Yes, perhaps him."

The politics of Singlish

Given that this week is dedicated to the Singapore Writers Festival, I read some poetry by Arthur Yap-- one of Singapore's foremost poets. I first encountered his work at the National Library when I moved to Singapore five years ago. I was looking for local poetry and literature, and his collection of poems -- The Space of City Trees-- struck a chord.

I'm happy to post one of his poem here. It deals with the dilemmas inherent in the forging of postcolonial identities. There is also a great essay that analyses this poem and others like it in QRLS -- the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore.

The Correctness of Flavour -- By Arthur Yap

waiting for the lime sherbert to arrive,
mother turned around to her vacuous child:
boy, you heard what i said earlier?
nowadays, they emphasise english.

boy rolled his squinty eyes to the ceiling.
waitress returned, flustered, and started
on her own emphases:
lime sherbert today don't have.
mango got. strawberry also don't have.

mother, upset and acutely strident:
today DOESN'T have.
today DOES NOT have

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Singapore Writers Festival

The Singapore Writers Festival started yesterday and is on till November 1. Workshops and conversations are happening all week at The Arts House -- one of my favourite buildings in Singapore. This is a multidisciplinary literary festival, featuring some 120 writers from 22 countries and over 170 programmes.

Today I saw O Thiam Chin, a young Singaporean author, talk about his book of short stories, 'Never Been Better' -- published by MPH.

"I don't always go for the big dramatic moments. I'm much more interested in the small and subtle moments of realisation that people have," he said.

When asked why he had not thought of looking for international publishers for his book, Thiam Chin said that he had chosen to be a small fish swimming in a small pond. "I'm not sure I was up to international standards. I wanted to look for local publishers first as my stories also had a local flavour," he said. He spoke of his dreams of getting published in The New Yorker some day.

It was a nice little session -- and I was glad to have attended it. I plan to walk around and attend free sessions over the next few days. And of course, I'll record impressions and conversations that stay with me and post them here.

Here's a picture I like -- of Thiam Chin autographing his book.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Our band gets a review

It's always fun to perform. It's even better to get a review !