Saturday, January 28, 2006

LIST: Favourite Things That Aren't Books

Came across this, and started thinking of my own list.

Favourite Things That Aren't Books

  1. Yoga
    - To think I almost skipped my first yoga class because my ex was in the studio
  2. Hamsters + Puppies + Kittens
    - Small, furry four-legged things. I never understand fish as pets. Fish has no fur and you can't pet them very much.
  3. Heavy silver rings and pendants of Egyptian designs
    - I take to silver. But for some reason I hate gold.
  4. Fountain Pens
    - I spend too much time staring at them. The nice lady at Elephant and Coral recognises me because I go there too often. And she still remembers the Pelikan I bought from her 4 years ago.
  5. Pretty notebooks and journals
    - er - not really, books?
  6. Lapis Lazuli
    - The brilliant blue captivates me.
  7. Sculptures in wood, stone and clay
    - I like the idea of bringing form to raw material.
  8. The Sound of Fountain Pen Writing On Good Paper
    - Listen closely. It's beautiful.
  9. Silence
    - Not enough of it.

TIBET: Tentative 8th February

Daddy informed me the trip is tentatively scheduled for 8th February 2006.

My HR colleague informed me I will have 15 days of leave by April 2006.

The organiser is hoping to get a group of 10 people so that he can bargain for cheaper airfares. Right now there's only about 5 on the trip.

Anyone interested?

Friday, January 27, 2006

BOOKS: Arturo Pérez-Reverte and ME!

New York Times review
Times Online review

Yay! The second installment in Arturo Perez-Reverte's Captain Alastriste series is out in the bookstores. Go get it! ;)

Why is it there's always someone who will stare in disbelief (and an occasion bit of scorn) when I make it known I have a penchant for swashbuckling "pulp-fiction" like these? The last time I picked up Isabel Allende's Zorro, Ms F's response was an incredulous "Why?".

Why cannot? And why is reading George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords unbecoming for me? An ex-classmate actually asked if I bought the book for someone else.

"Wah, read modern high fantasy meh? So low-class," says he.

Get a clue, lah. I read whatever I want to. Don't tell me it's "so not you!" I AM reading it, and it's me. What it is not - your erroneous assumption of my taste.

But why Arturo Perez-Reverte? I like his characters, where the men are masculine and heroic in a world-wearied way. They stand like forgotten knights on a high plateau, standing on a line, between two lights. (I am para-quoting Perez-Reverte here.)

And his women. They are dark, beautiful and inscrutable. They lead men to bad ends. In The Seville Communion, one such dark lady lights her cigarette, waits for the lighter to cool a little before tucking it under her bra-strap. A simple chain of small gestures, but charged with a noirish eroticism.

I like. ;p

Word of the Day: Malediction

mal·e·dic·tion (noun)
  • The calling down of a curse.

  • A curse.

  • 2. Slander.

    n : the act of calling down a curse that invokes evil (and usually serves as an insult); "he suffered the imprecations of the mob" [syn: imprecation]

    Yes, I am thinking maledictory thoughts. ;p

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    Poetry: Tonight I Can Write

    Tonight I Can Write
    By Pablo Neruda

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

    Write, for example, 'The night is starry
    and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

    The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

    Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
    I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

    She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
    How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

    To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
    And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

    What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
    The night is starry and she is not with me.

    This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
    My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

    My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
    My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

    The same night whitening the same trees.
    We, of that time, are no longer the same.

    I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
    My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

    Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
    Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

    I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
    Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

    Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
    my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

    Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
    and these the last verses that I write for her.

    translated by W.S. Merwin

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    Gong Li's Blog

    Thanks to WW for the link to Gong Li's blog Not updated by her, but by Gong Li's spokesperson. Still, many pretty pictures.

    Tibet: April Plans

    Have sounded My Old Man about Tibet. He's allowing his ex-student/now colleague to do most of the planning, and this time he's just going to do the honour of just showing up at the airport.

    It's currently planned for a 16 days tour in April, but I only have 6 days leave after Phuket.


    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Books: Giving Away "Tess of the D'Urbervilles"

    Was thinking about the significance of giving books. I am reminded of this little anecdote:

    Back when she was in Katong Convent (a breeding ground if there ever was one), Purple Cow was given a copy of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. A saintly priest gave it to her. He tells Purple Cow that Tess reminds him of her.

    Purple Cow was pleased to be so honoured by the priest.

    Then the day came when she finally read Tess of the D'Urbervilles - and realised what the priest truly meant to tell her: she reminded him of a spirited fallen woman who will come to a bad end.

    It was a gift of caution.

    Books: Favourite Books

    Still on Winterson's article:
    I always ask people about their favourite books, and I don’t care if it’s Noddy in Toyland, as long as there is something to say about it. In fact, Orlando the Marmalade Cat is certainly a book I would take with me in the life-and-death struggle. What about you?

    A friend told me once she had no favourite book. No favourite movie. No favourite. It seems to be something that vexed her a little.

    I wondered about that. She is passionate, definitely, and she has many books that she loves. Yet still I wonder why she has no favourite books.

    Perhaps she loved them all generously. And there was never a need to love any less.

    Books: Books That You Love Most

    About five years ago, while preparing for the anniversary of the store, CC asked for three books that I loved the most.

    I considered the question. I chose:
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Villette By Charlotte Bronte
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Dostoevsky haunts me still, but Crime and Punishment, by virtue of being my first Dostoevsky, stands in an esteemed position above the rest of his works.

    To Kill a Mockingbird? Villette? At that time, they were the only books that made me cry. A few more came after that day.

    Later that same evening, I had dinner with BMH and DA. I told them CC asked for my favourite books - and before I could reveal the titles I had chosen, BMH said she would pick Villette.

    "Most people will pick Jane Eyre but I think Villette is better," she said matter-of-factly. BMH loved Charlotte Bronte. The only person I know who have read all the Brontes, and all the Bronte biographies available.

    Then, in a soft voice, DA told us about her love of Harper Lee's little novel.

    I was stunned. And in the discussion that ensued on the books we love, I never got around to revealing my 3 choices.

    I regret having lost BMH and DA as my friends.
  • Books: The Books We Choose to Keep And Share

    'The quickest way to intimacy is not to share a bed, but a book’
    By Jeanette Winterson
    January 21, 2006
    From The Times

    The private life of books is what happens when ordinary readerly enthusiasm gives way to silence; to talk about such books at all would involve confession. When we give such a book to a new friend or a new lover, or a child who is growing up, we are giving away part of ourselves. Books are good at keeping our secrets. Sharing certain books is like telling a secret. Often it is like telling a secret in code.

    This can be obvious — E. M. Forster’s Maurice, for instance, was given to me as a teenager in dreadful, dreary Accrington, by someone who wanted me to know that they were on my side.

    I gave Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince to someone I loved because I wanted them to understand that "you are responsible for ever for that which you tame".

    Less obviously, I recently gave the Chronicles of Narnia to my godchild, not to save her from the awfulness of the movie, but because she needs to know that Aslan is not a tame lion. Make of that what you will.
    If I ever fall in love again, there will be a copy of Le Petit Prince . And an Aries lover should never be tame. ;)

    Read the complete article

    Books: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volohonsky

    Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are best known for their translation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - which was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her Book Club. They are my default translators for Russian literature. You could say they were the ones who introduced me to Dostoevsky, through their translation of Crime and Punishment.

    Apparently one fine day many years ago, Volokhonsky happened to scan through a translation of The Brothers Karamazov that Pevear had been reading. She was dismayed at the unworthy effort. Later the husband and wife team decided to try a little translation of their own. Small beginnings, as they say.

    I dug up this article on them. A little on their relationship and how they go about their work. I like the idea of them coming together because of a shared love of Russian literature, and coming together to share this love in their translations. Their translations feel intimate because of this.
    ... it was a love of Russian literature that brought Pevear and Volokhonsky together. Volokhonsky, who was born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), first visited the United States in the early 1970s and happened across Pevear's Hudson Review article about the Soviet dissident author Andrei Sinyavsky. (A part-time academic, Pevear teaches courses in Dostoevsky and 19th and 20th century Russian writers at the American University of Paris.)

    "Larissa had just helped Sinyavsky leave Russia," Pevear recalls. "And she let me know that, while I'd said he was still in prison, he was actually in Paris. I was glad to know it." Married 22 years ago, Pevear and Volokhonsky have raised two trilingual children and now live across the street from Samuel Beckett's old apartment. But if the couple's personal and private lives have always been intertwined, the thing they seem to have in common with the writers they've translated is a long-standing love affair with the Russian language itself.

    In Russia, literary translation is viewed as an art unto itself. In English-speaking countries, it tends to be seen as a specialized, second-order occupation -as a result, good translations into English can be hard to come by and tough for even the best translators to sell. But Pevear and Volokhonsky put more care into their translations than many authors put into their own work.

    First, Volokhonsky produces a rough, literal translation. Then Pevear - a Boston native who admits that his "Russian is not great" - produces a more idiomatic draft. Next, he says, "Larissa goes over it, raising questions. And then we go over it again. I produce another version, which she reads against the original. We go over it one more time, and then we read it twice more in proof."

    With Anna Karenina, the process took about a year and a half. In the case of Tolstoy's War and Peace, which Knopf is due to publish in the fall of 2007, it will take much longer -"it's four novels in one," Pevear explains. Other upcoming projects include translations of Bulgakov's White Guard, Alexander Pushkin's collected prose, and, Pevear and Volkhonsky hope, a book or two by Chekhov's mentor, Nikolai Leskov - "A great writer," they say, "who keeps going out of print."

    List of Their Translations:
    Anton Chekhov
  • The Complete Short Novels
  • Stories

    Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Master and Margarita

    Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Eternal Husband and Other Stories
  • Crime and Punishment
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • The Idiot
  • Demons
  • Notes from Underground
  • The Adolescent
  • The Double and The Gambler

    Nikolai Gogol
  • Dead Souls
  • The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol

    Leo Tolstoy
  • What Is Art?
  • Anna Karenina
  • Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Russian: Turgenev’s Obituary to Gogol

    In 1852, between Turgenev's Sketches from a Hunter's Album and his first important novels, he wrote his now notorious obtiuary to his idol Gogol in the St. Petersburg Gazette. The key passage reads:
    "Gogol is dead!...what Russian heart is not shaken by those three words?...He is gone, that man whom we now have the right, the bitter right given to us by death, to call great."

    The censor of St. Petersburg did not approve of this idolatry and banned its publication, but Turgenev managed to fool the Moscow censor into printing it. These underhanded tactics landed the young writer in prison for a month, and he was forced into exile at his estate for nearly two years.

    Where Did I Read It?

    Recently, I read something online that I like. The problem is, I can't recall where I found it.

    It goes something like this:
    The two saddest words in the English Language are these: Too Late.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Books: Short Stories

    The Guardian has an article on the "lost" art of short stories that advocates are trying to revive. I wonder how successful they will be.

    Excerpt from The Guardian article:
    Good short fiction requires the reader's time and attention. It relies not on explanation but asks for interpretation. It conveys the narrative qualities of our existence by embracing the past, present and future. You can't leave and come back to a short story the way you can an episodic, multi-narrative novel, or episode of Eastenders. The short story demands commitment.

    I was talking to a friend last year about my growing interest in exploring the short story form; I was looking at the weakness of my writing style: I write too much but say so little. I was impressed by how the great short story writers can compact such intensity and complexity in words, and I aspire to it.

    The friend later remarked to me she had problems getting into poetry and short stories. As a genre, they don't seem to grip her. I wondered if she just never found the author or poet that spoke to her - or was it an issue of attention span. After careful consideration, I decided it's a bit of both. ;p

    We don't appreciate the short story form enough. But then, we don't appreciate poetry enough either. It's a pity that as our attention span slowly diminish, our ability to recognise beauty is also slowly weathered away.

    I suddenly recall what R once said about Raymond Carver's writing. She calls it "the phantom limb syndrome." I like this expression. I know how a Raymond Carver story can make you feel.

    Have you ever felt so dulled, that you don't even feel it when your body's screaming at you? Then one day, like a kind of miracle, under the most mundane circumstances - you feel something.

    A really good short story or poem can make you feel this way.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Duffy Wins TS Eliot Poetry Prize

    From The Guardian, Tuesday January 17, 2006

    Carol Ann Duffy, whose new collection Rapture is one of the top-selling poetry collections in the UK, last night won the £10,000 TS Eliot poetry prize.

    The Poetry Book Society, which awards the prize, said: "This year's TS Eliot prize highlights a (some would say) rare moment of agreement between the critics and the booksellers as to what constitutes great poetry." The judges' chairman, David Constantine, called Rapture "a coherent and passionate collection".

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    News: Arundhati Roy Rejects Literary Award

    Arundhati Roy stands up against Indian oligarchs and special interests - turn down this year's top literary award
    Media Release
    Jan. 15, 2006

    Excerpt from India Daily:

    Booker prize winner and environment activist Arundhati Roy, is unlikely to reconsider her decision to turn down this year's Sahitya Akademi award

    "There is no possibility of Roy reconsidering. Once she has declined the honour, she cannot change her mind despite the Akademi asking her to reverse her decision," sources close to the author said.

    Roy had declined the award, saying she cannot accept the honour from an institution linked to a government whose policies she opposes, they told media reporters.

    You know what, she's quite plucky.

    Full coverage at India Daily

    Books: Too Much Intense Reading

    Too much intense reading over the past few months. I'm going to put the 100 Books on hiatus and go back to some lighter entertainment.

    If you have time, feel free to pick up George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin was a writer for the TV series Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. Besides that he's been a long-time contributor to the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre.

    A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic in the sword-and-sorcery genre. Personally I think it's greater in scope and imagination than Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.


    George R. R. Martin's superb fantasy epic continues in consummate style as bloodshed and alchemy lay waste the Seven Kingdoms in the second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. The Iron Throne once united the Sunset Lands, but King Robert is dead, his widow is a traitor to his memory, and his surviving brothers are set on a path of war amongst themselves. At King's Landing, the head of Lord Eddard Stark rots on a spike for all to see. His daughter Sansa is betrothed still to his killer's son Joffrey -- Queen Cersei's son, though not the son of her late husband Robert. Even so, Joffrey is now a boy-king, Cersei is his regent, and war is inevitable. In Dragonstone, Robert's brother Stannis has declared himself king, while his other brother Renly proclaims himself king at Storm's End - and Eddard Stark's fifteen year old son Robb wears the crown of the north at Winterfell. A comet in the night sky, red and malevolent, the colour of blood and flame, can only be an omen of murder and war. Stannis's child Princess Shireen dreams of dragons waking from stone. And a white raven has brought word from the Citadel itself, foretelling summer's end. It has been the longest summer in living memory, lasting ten years, and the smallfolk say it means an even longer winter to come...The first rule of war is never give the enemy his wish. But winter will be the biggest enemy. From beyond the Wall the undead and Others clamour for freedom, and from beyond the sea the long-dead Dragon King's daughter hatches her revenge.

    I've stopped reading the sword-and-sorcery genre for a while now. I've abandoned Robert Jordan and I have yet to pick up my Robin Hobb in spite of all the good things I've heard about her. But I'm still waiting for every book in the Song of Fire and Ice series.

    Currently in the series:
    Book I: A Game of Thrones
    Book II: A Clash of Kings
    Book III: A Storm of Swords
    Book IV: A Feast for Crows

    Link to Official Website of George R. R. Martin

    Notebooks: 12 July 2005

    Random entry from my black notebook. Destination is the Phu Chai Sai Mountain Resort and Spa in Chang Rai, Thailand. I was there last year with a friend for a break.

    5:00 pm 12 July, 2005
    At the balcony:

    I'm writing in the journal. There is a rainbow far ahead, from the mountains. WW is still at the spa. I wonder if it'll still be around when she returns from her massage. I've killed three mosquitoes so far. These are small, and not as fast as the mosquitoes in my room.

    From the balcony I can look down at the entrance of the spa.

    WW is walking up to the room.

    4th mosquito murdered. Oh well.

    Looked up, and the rainbow is gone now. WW is glad she got to see it.

    WW did take a picture of the rainbow that day. Unfortunately her digital camera was later found to be missing - from our room. The effort made by the service staff in recovering the missing camera was weak. So if you are interested to go there, be warned.

    So we never got to take the rainbow home with us.

    Film: Memoirs of a Geisha

    Gong Li as Hatsumoto
    Watched Memoirs of a Geisha over the weekend like I promised, and lessons to be learned here: Do not order the LARGE Coke - my bladder is strictly a SMALL.

    Gong Li was lovely. She looks best when her hair is all dishevelled and she has that out-of-bed look. Looks much better than she did in 2046 or The Hand, both of which over-coiffured her characters. She looks best when the director allows her natural allure to breathe.

    Michelle Yeoh did better than the abysmal Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe because she speaks better English than Chinese.

    Zhang Ziyi? Sorry, did not notice.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Stuff: What's Your Project

    I found this online today. It offers the alternative to memories of your vacations.

    Project 103

    The next time you go on vacation, don't bring a camera. This sounds counterintuitive but think about all the memories you have of places, times, events that actually come from photos and not actual memories. Rather than taking photos to remember your holiday, collect tidbits from your days and nights out: the coaster that sat under your beer while you watched people hurry down a Parisian street, a wooden bookmark bought from a girl hawking her wares at a Mexican market, the beautifully printed ticket stub from the Uffizi. Put these items in a box when you get home. They will help you remember your vacation in a different light than through photographs in an album.

    Ada Chu
    Brooklyn, NY

    Taken from What's Your Project

    I don't bring cameras on my vacations. I hate taking pictures on normal days, and on vacation, the easiest way to piss me off is to insist on taking my picture.

    Don't tell me it's strange, it's anti-social or it's "not sporting".

    And don't tell me I have no right to impose this rule on others. I don't impose this on anyone else. I'm just fine if you want to take your own picture. Go ahead. Just don't expect me to like it when you insist on me smiling and posing for your sake.

    Why? When I am on holiday, I actually prefer to spend the time BEING on holiday, not trying to accumulate memories of the trip. I just find that people are often too busy posing for the pictures to actually enjoy the scenery.

    In defense of photo-taking, someone once explained, "But I want to remember my holiday with you!"

    My reply? "You mean you're going to forget this trip if you don't?"

    But don't I want souvenir of my trips? Yes, I do keep souvenirs. But not the kind people expect. From my trip in Melbourne, I have a single white feather from the Grampians. From Hanoi, when we visited a new restaurant for almost every meal, I keep the business card for all the establishments. For Rome, a rosary from the Vatican, and a postcard sent from the Vatican postage service to myself.

    These souvenirs mean more to me than any photos. Do not mistake the photos as memories. And I hate to take pictures on holidays. Please take note.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Books: Sarah Waters' Night Watch

    Yea! Just received the book proof for Sarah Water's Night Watch!

    Books: Onwards Deptford Trilogy

    I am glad to have finished the first book of The Deptford Trilogy - Fifth Business. The denouement was nicely staged, and it was worth the effort. So, thanks to WW for the not-so-subtle recommendation.

    So here I am, working my way to the finale of the second book, The Manticore, which certainly took its time with a lot of Jungian blah blah blah. Compared to Fifth Business, The Manticore felt light-weight. In fact, The Manticore feels like a bun sandwiched between two beef patties (of course I'm assuming World of Wonders is beef patty, and not more bun...)

    The next Robertson Davies I am considering is The Cornish Trilogy - but I shall attempt restraint at this point in time. Roberston Davies was a Romantic, and quite a cheeky bugger.

    Quotes: Chekhov

    After all, in real life, people don't spend every moment in shooting one another, hanging themselves, or making declarations of love. They do not spend all their time saying clever things. They are more occupied with eating, drinking, flirting, and saying stupidities. These are the things which ought to be shown on the stage. A play should be written in which people arrive, depart have dinner, talk about the weather, and play cards. Life must be exactly as it is and people as they are...Let everything on the stage be just as complicated, and at the same time just as simple, as in life. People eat their dinner, just eat their dinner, and all the time their happiness is taking form, or their lives are being destroyed.

    ~ Anton Chekhov

    Something to remember.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Books: The Night Watch

    Smoother than velvet

    Sarah Waters leaves behind the intimate tricks and turns of Victorian life for a simply truthful study of wartime alienation, The Night Watch, says Philip Hensher

    Sunday January 8, 2006
    The Observer

    When a novelist with a passionate following and, up until now, a special niche, changes tack, she is taking quite a risk. It might prove that her appeal really lies in the setting, in the gorgeously appointed scenery, rather than anything distinctly hers. On the other hand, a novelist who removes herself from the scene of her familiar triumphs may become more distinct in our minds. We might start to see her particular preoccupations: images that make themselves clear whatever the setting; preferred rhythms of plot; unchanging corners of society. The Night Watch, with its austerity-period and wartime setting, is certainly quite a risk; but Waters emerges from it as a still-more-characterful and boldly flavoured novelist. I felt afterwards I knew better what sort of writer she really is.

    Read the complete review .

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Books: Sharing the Love

    I was stuck between 2 really dull books. Mainly Marcus Aurelius's Meditations and Andre Gide's Fruits of the Earth. Of course, I chose to read them. Still, it's a good example of how sometimes recommendations should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Reading is a profoundly personal experience. What one loves may not be loved by others. Which is why it's so annoying to have people come up to me to ask," What's good for a 15 year-old girl?"

    Really, it depends on who is the 15 year-old. Is she a science-nerd? A goth-punk? And what makes you think the goth-punk and the science-nerd don't like reading the same book?

    And what makes you think they do?

    I do put a lot of faith on book recommendations and reviews. It's part of my job to rely on Word-Of-Mouth, because book-buyers usually don't get to read the book before we place the orders.

    And for my personal readings, I do make it a point to listen to people's recommendations too. It's quite an adventure to pick up a book someone else loves - but it's a little different from your usual reading diet. The fact is, somebody loved this book (or film or music) - and that is enough reason to take a closer look. If you're lucky, you'll like it too. If not, you allowed yourself an opportunity to experience something different.

    Meanwhile, I'm back to reading The Deptford Trilogy. Put it on hiatus a while back to read other books. A friend loves Robertson Davies (the author). She's so enamoured of his books she's gone to the trouble of giving it away, just so that she can share her love of this Canadian author.

    That's why I put it down on my 100 Books To Read list, even though I know very little about the author.

    Someone I know loves this book.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Reading Detox

    Kathryn Hughes decides to ditch her bad reading habits
    Saturday December 31, 2005
    The Guardian
    'Tomorrow I am going to start my detox. This, though, won't involve giving up booze, steaming vegetables or running round the park crossly at dawn, but something altogether more difficult. I have pledged instead to refine my reading habits, turning myself from a greedy omnivore who snuffles around dustbins looking for left-overs when she's not even hungry, into an aesthetic and disciplined reader who snacks only on the best quality, high-fibre fare. Over the next 12 months I am resolved to effect a personal transformation from a dumpling of a print consumer who crams herself with anything she can get her hands on, into a discerning connoisseur with sharp literary cheekbones and not a spare ounce of fat. Ladies and Gentleman, I am, finally, going to learn to say "no".'

    Easier said than done. Somewhere along the way there will be some trashy reading material that looks interesting (or sexy). And then your ambitious 100 Books To Read reading plan will be fucked.

    Oh wait, that's me.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    DVD: In the Mood For Love - Criterion Collection

    In the Mood For Love - The Criterion Collection
    Directed by Wong Kar Wai

    There are many reasons to watch this film over and over again - although my personal favourite is watching Maggie Cheung (in cheongsum, with tiffin carrier) just sashay sashay to the soundtrack.

    Nerd that I am, I did not realise the Spanish music were from Nat King Cole. But of course Wong Kar Wai will inform you as much in the interview on Disc 2 of the Criterion Collection of this film.

    Did I mention Mr Wong does all his interviews with sunglasses on? Did his mother teach him nothing?

    While watching the Wong Kar Wai interviews, it struck me that if I didn't know better, Wong Kar Wai has the sort of face you wouldn't find very talented. In fact, he could be mistaken for a typical sweaty Mainland Chinese businessman in the "import-export" trade.

    I have been accused of being overly harsh on Ziyi Zhang in 2046. Perhaps I am. Ms Maggie Cheung is beautiful in this movie. It's incredible how she evolved from the buck-teeth little duckling she was in the 1980s to become the actress she is today.

    Books To Look Forward To In 2006

    David Foster Wallace's collection, Consider the Lobster : And Other Essays. His previous books were the kind of door-stoppers that's too thick for my consideration. I will always wonder what I could be doing with my life if I wasn't wasting it reading this thick, thick book. But this collection looks fun.

    A.M. Homes's new novel, This Book Will Save Your Life (April), tells the story of a self-sufficient stock trader struck with a crisis that teaches him how much he needs other people.

    Also in my to look out for basket (it's a small basket) - Sarah Water's Night Watch, coming out February.

    From, the synopsis goes:
    Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller. This is the story of four Londoners - three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching ...Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret ...Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover ...Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances ...

    And what all this tells me is that Waters's not doing Victorian lit anymore. D'uh.

    Books I'm looking out for in paperback this year:

    A Plea for Eros: Essays by Siri Hustvedt
    Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
    The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    Whitbread Award Winners 2005

    This is the second time that my vote for the Man Booker ends up winning the Whitbread Best Novel instead. The last time that happened was for Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the God at Night-Time. So it's a close miss, but am I good at my job or what? ;p

    From The Guardian
    Ali Smith beat Salman Rushdie, Nick Hornby and Christopher Wilson to the novel award with The Accidental, her first full-length novel, which had previously lost out to John Banville's The Sea in 2005's Man Booker prize contest. The judging panel, headed by novelist Philippa Gregory, described the story of 12-year-old Astrid, who is spending the summer with her family in Norfolk, as "a glorious work of fiction that inspired both laughter and sadness."

    All the Whitbread Winners:

    Novel: Ali Smith's The Accidental
    First Novel: Tash Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory
    Poetry Collection: Christopher Logue's Cold Calls
    Biography: Hilary Spurling's Matisse The Master
    Children's Book: Kate Thompson's The New Policeman

    Official Whitbread Site

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Books: Kick-start 2006

    1. The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki

    Was looking for Diary of a Mad Old Man but it was out. So I picked up this little novel instead. Tanizaki is always reliable for stories with that perverted erotic twist.

    2. In Praise of Idleness: And Other Essays By Bertrand Russell

    Confession: I picked it up because the title seemed like a Slacker's Manifesto.

    I found Russell surprisingly readable - except when he goes on and on about Fascism and Socialism. But how can you not like a man who advocate a 4-hour work day so that we can have more leisure time to become more well-rounded people?

    3. Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco

    When—in an unnamed place and time — Manuel Roca’s enemies hunt him down, they fail to discover Nina, his youngest child, hidden in a hole beneath his farmhouse floor. And so, doing just as her father instructed, she neither speaks nor stirs as he is viciously slain above her hiding place. Only after this carnage will one of the murderers discover Nina’s trapdoor. But Tito, a mere boy himself, is so enthralled by the sight of Nina’s perfect innocence that he says nothing to his accomplices.

    By the time she has grown up, Nina’s innocence will have bloomed into something else altogether, and one by one the wartime hunters will become the peacetime hunted. But not until a striking old woman calls upon an old man selling newspapers in town — the old man Tito has become—can we know what Nina will ultimately make of her brutal legacy.

    A compact little book by Italian writer Alessandro Baricco. The story starts with the murder, and then we cut to the old newspaper seller and the striking old woman. Cutting back and forth, Nina's life story is told in bits. There are the facts of Nina's life that she had been unaware of, but known to Tito. In the process some parts of Nina's life is reconstructed in the narrative, and metaphorically, what we see of Nina's journey is not revenge but a lifelong search to make whole what was destroyed on the night of the murder of her family.