Friday, May 26, 2006

Dogs and a Bush

Arundhati RoyAmy Goodman Interviews Arundhati Roy. On AlterNet

AR: ... Across the street from them, in a five-star hotel were Bush's 16 sniffer dogs who were staying in this five-star hotel, and we were all told that you can't call them dogs, because they are actually officers of the American Army, you know. I don't know what the names were. Sergeant Pepper and Corporal Whatever. So, it wasn't even possible to be satirical or write black comedy, because it was all real.

AG: Didn't President Bush visit Gandhi's grave?

AR: He visited Gandhi's grave, and first his dogs visited Gandhi's grave. Then, you know, Gandhians were, like, wanting to purify it. And I said, "Look, I don't mind the dogs. I mind Bush much [more] than the dogs."

Full interview here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tautou and Da Vinci Code

Audrey Tautou
One the French actress of The Da Vinci Code movie, Anthony Lane wrote:
"as for Audrey Tautou, it is surely no coincidence that Howard sought out and hired almost the only young French actress who emits not a hint of sexual radiation."

I don't think Lane got it. The point of Audrey Tautou is not her sexual appeal - but the fact she looks like a potential psycho-stalker. Hence she should have been offered the Silas role instead.
Full New Yorker review of The Da Vinci Code.

Da Vinci and BAD BAD Dialogue

From Anthony Lane's New Yorker review of The Da Vinci Code:
The task of the Bishop and his hit man is to thwart the unveiling of what Teabing modestly calls “the greatest secret in modern history,” so powerful that, "if revealed, it would devastate the very foundations of Christianity." Later, realizing that this sounds a little meek and mild, he stretches it to "the greatest coverup in human history." As a rule, you should beware of any movie in which characters utter lines of dialogue whose proper place is on the advertising poster. (Just imagine Sigourney Weaver, halfway through "Alien," turning to John Hurt and explaining, "In space, no one can hear you scream.")

Sound advice really. And so, so true.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?

Another Russian. It's my karma, I swear.

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?

You're Anna Karenina of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy!
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Monday, May 22, 2006


"She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Where as I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water."

~ From The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"All atoms must jump in one direction..."

From The English Patient:
"I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pendant, who imagines or remembers a meeting when the other had passed by innocently...But all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur."

A long time ago, I was at a play by The Necessary Stage. It was an invitation from BMH, who brought her friends. I sat next to the girl who would captivate me a year later.

But at that moment, we were unknown to one another. She sat next to me, telling lame jokes throughout the play. Trying to get a laugh. Trying to break the ice. She spent the night sitting next to a sombre, silent stranger.

I did not recall much of her about that night. This anecdote was passed on to me through her narrative.

A year later, quite by accident, some antics of hers finally made me laugh. Then I fell in love.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Irene Jacob

Irene Jacob from 'Rouge'
After watching Kieslowski's Rouge, I wrote this about Irene Jacob:

" cannot imagine her capable of evil with that beauty"

New Yorker Story

From The New Yorker
Issue of 2006-05-22
Posted 2006-05-15

... He asked if I had seen "Red" and "Blue."

"Yes, I’ve seen them," I said.

"Who is more beautiful, Juliette Binoche or Irène Jacob?"

I turned my head to the right, then to the left.

"Juliette Binoche," I said.


"Because Irène Jacob is pure soul. Pure soul cannot be beautiful."

Read story here

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Brain on Toast

I'm just that tad bit burnt-out with the serious books I've been reading recently. So I've putting aside Maximum City, the absorbing biopic of Bombay City.

I'm now reading H. Rider Haggard's She - the same author who wrote boyish trash like King Solomon's Mine. Basically I'm regressing back to sensationalistic gothic trash. Yea.

Brain fever.

Excuse Me, I'm Looking for a Book

People have come in asking for these titles. Seriously.

  1. To Mock a Killing Bird

  2. Catcher in the Wheatfield

  3. The Little Prince by Machiavelli

  4. Who Moved My Tree

Frequently Asked Idiotic Questions:

Customer: "Hello, you work here?"
Me: "No."
I swear. This happens to me even when I'm in T-shirt and jeans in other bookstores or at the supermarket.

Idiot: "You must read lots of books."
Me: "No."

And far too many times, people coming in with, "I'm looking for a book. I don't know the title or the author or what is it about. Can you help me?"

FILM: The Da Vinci Code

Caught The Da Vinci Code movie last night. It would be an over-statement to tell it a thriller. I was not thrilled. Or excited or even intrigued by the plot.

In fact, it insults the intelligence of the audience. But if The Da Vinci Code does become the biggest box-office hit of the year, then to paraphrase JM, the people are getting what they deserve.

The movie opens on what is obviously lazy plotting and no research. A murder has occurred in the Louvre. We see the man, Jacques Sauniere, shot in the stomache by Silas (Paul Bettany playing a tortured, spaced-out albino psychopath). The police detective Bezu Fache (Jean Reno) asks for Professor Robert Langdon's (Tom Hanks in a bad haircut) assistance in the investigation. Jean Reno, who is so cool in Leon, just walks around, breathes a little and talk a bit in this movie.

When we see the naked body of Sauniere laid out in the pattern of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, a pentagram drawn in blood on his chest. Langdon asks, who did it to him? Fair question, I would think.

"He did it to himself," answered Fache.


We are the generation brought up on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. And first rule of a murder investigation: preserve the crime scene.

Query: Are we to believe that Fache can just bring in a stranger (and a murder suspect at that) into the crime scene with a dead body?

Bezu Fache supposedly cleared off some of the text Sauniere wrote in ultraviolet marker before his death.

Query: Is Fache allowed to tamper with a crime scene before the body has been removed?

Also, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief that:

1. Sauniere, after being shot in the stomache - has the time and strength to walk around the Louvre writing cryptic anagrams with a ultra-violet marker?
2. Sauniere is the kind of man who just happens to carry a ultra-violet marker with him everywhere he goes?
3. After his ultra-violet graffiti, Sauniere proceeds to strip naked, use his own blood to draw a pentagram on his chest, before lying down to die.
4. Sophie Neveu, having never met Robert Langdon or Fache, knows Fache is trying to frame Langdon for the murder of Sauniere.
5. Sophie Neveu never once suspect Langdon of the murder of her grandfather

A critic wrote that Akiva Goldman actually improved on Dan Brown's novel. This scares me and re-affirms my decision to stop reading after the first page. I gave away my copy of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons to a colleague and left her these parting words, "I don't want them to come back."

25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written

Playboy compiles their list of the 25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written.

Don't judge me. ;p

BOOKS: Istanbul by Pamuk

Istanbul: Memories and the City
By Orhan Pamuk
Translated by Maureen Freely
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005
[05/05/2006 ~ 09/05/2006]

Pamuk wrote Istanbul not just as a portrait of the city of his birth. It is also the portrait of Orhan Pamuk the writer - from his childhood amidst his large Turkish family, to his younger days as aspiring artist and when he finally decided to be a writer.

In his book, there is love and joy – but also a grievance against the city of his birth. He identifies a perennial sadness that possesses the entire city. Istanbul is a fallen city. The gem of the former Ottoman Empire that is no more.

Pamuk opens his book with an epigraph from Ahmet Rasim:
"The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy."

It encapsulates the poetry of the city.

Ahmet Rasim is a columnist of the city in the late 19th century. He is praised for his love of love, his wit and the joy in his craft. Rasim spent 50 years writing about Istanbul. Some of the best portraits of Istanbul are drawn from the ink of her journalists.

Random picks from the journalism over the years:

The celebrated French author Victor Hugo was in the habit of riding from one side of Paris to the other on top of a horse drawn omnibus, just to see what his fellow citizens were doing. Yesterday we did the same, and we were able to establish that a large number of Istanul residents take little notice of what they’re doing when they’re walking down the street and forever bumping into each other and throwing tickets, ice-cream wrappers, and corn husks on the ground; everywhere there are pedestrians walking in the roads and cars mounting the pavements, and – not from poverty but from laziness and ignorance – everyone in the city is very badly dressed. [1952]

It is only by giving up on our old way of comporting ourselves in the streets and in the city’s public places, and only by complying with traffic regulations as they do in the West, that we can hope to deliver ourselves from the traffic chaos. But if you asked how many people in this city even know what the traffic regulations are – well, that’s a different matter altogether. [1949]

Thursday, May 11, 2006

INTERVIEW: Gillian Anderson

From The Guardian, Sunday May 7, 2006
Interview with Gillian Anderson

Anderson from Bleak House
She was the intelligent, sardonic FBI agent from The X-Files. And the real star of the show, if you ask me.

The Senior Ms H once watched an interview with Gillian Anderson on David Letterman. She was indignant, and griped that Anderson "sounded like a bimbo!"

Which led to my rebuttal, a little tongue-in-cheek, but with genuine admiration, "That means Gillian Anderson is a really good actress. She actually makes you believe Scully's intelligent when she's [Anderson herself] not!"

The Guardian interview linked here is fun, with Anderson coming through as a slightly unglam actress who is actually approachable. The interviewer wrote this about her:
She's a funny creature, Gillian Anderson. I warm to her for various reasons. She's got a nice line in non sequiturs. She's un-grand. She's wearing an eccentric pair of white patent leather heels, a tatty old pair of combat trousers and a violet jersey. She swears brilliantly. She gets excited when a waiter carries a tray of puddings past, and races off to feed the parking meter so she can have the lemon tart brulee ('and please get the sticky toffee pudding'). She doesn't have a watch. She's capable, even on a day like today, of moments of almost painful candour. Last but not least, I like her because when the interview is over, she will say goodbye and attempt to leave the restaurant not through the door, but through one of the plate-glass windows. She is, I think, not altogether cool.

Remember: Anderson was the poster-girl for geeks 10 years back. (Do I still have my X-Files t-shirt? Hmm.) I believe Anderson is a geek at heart.

Other bitties from the interview. Anderson on a happiness roll:
Four years ago, she went through a really good stage, she was 'really, really happy', and there's a long, dreamy pause while she drifts off, remembering this happy time, and then she comes to and says, briskly, 'Yeah, but I was doing loads of yoga and meditation. I was going to say I was eating wholefoods a lot, but I think I was living off frozen yogurt.'

How can you not like a woman who eats? She had two desserts during the interview. (She went off to feed the parking meter - then came back for seconds.) Then she tells the interviewer:
'... Please don't write that I scoffed two desserts. You can be honest about it and say that I ate all of mine and half of yours. Well, I'm going to have one more bite before I go.'

It's the kind of remark that endears someone to you, because they come off so raw and real.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Barnes on Flaubert

Taken from The New York Review of Books

Julian Barnes, writing about Bouvard and Pécuchet and Flaubert: A Biography by Frederick Brown - things Flaubert.

Full article here.

Holland's shameful treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The Caged Virgin
Holland's shameful treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
By Christopher Hitchens

Hitchens on one example of how over-apologetic attitudes of "liberal" Western countries in fact lack conviction in their policies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia, and had been a refugee in several African countries. She was circumcised against her will at a young age, and then given in marriage to a distant male relative she had never met. Now a prominent activist in Holland, she has received death threats, but the Dutch government is embarrassed to have her.
Entering politics to try to alert the European left to this danger, she was first elected as a deputy for the Labor Party, but after 9/11 she changed her allegiance to the Liberals. This, she explained, was because many Labor spokesmen preferred to think of immigrants as possessing "group rights." They had become so infatuated by their own "multi-culti" style that they had ignored the rights of individuals—especially women and girls—who were imprisoned within their own ghetto.

Full article.

Also, pick up Ayaan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

BOOKS: Reading "Madame Bovary"

Emma Bovary is getting on my nerves. She is the sort of protagonist that I dislike in real life - self-absorbed, deluded and vain. (But then we see too many of these women these days, so there's probably a lot of people I don't like)

The adulterous cad, Monsieur Rodolphe however, reminded me of something:
But with that critical superiority vested in the man who, in every relationship, holds back something of himself, Rodolphe sensed that in this love there lay further pleasures to be exploited. He reckoned all delicacy irksome. He used her brutishly. He made of her a creature docile and corrupt. Hers was a sort of idiot attachment, full of admiration for him, of pleasure for herself; a beatific drowsiness,; and her soul sank deep into this fuddle, drowning there, shrivelling up...

Madame Bovary's weakness was she deluded herself with literary romances. But then again, so many of us fall in love through the books we read - and suffer for it.

Perhaps Flaubert's book irritates me so much because his characters are so utterly human. It's not a romance, definitely.

Salon Archive: Madame Bovary

Taken from Salon article, by Erica Jong

"A book lives longer than a girl," Vladimir Nabokov said, lecturing to his Cornell students about Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" in the 1950s. He went on to praise the master's clinical style, the way he transformed the sordid materials of pulp fiction -- adultery, suicide -- into a poetic masterpiece by his painstaking description of bourgeois life in mid-19th century France.

"Madame Bovary" can be approached in many ways: as a notable banned book (like "Ulysses" or "Lolita"), as a book that delineates the confinement of the 19th century wife, as a book that influences subsequent development of the novel, even as a book that betrays the foot fetishism of the author. In "The Perpetual Orgy," Mario Vargas-Llosa's book about his passion for "Madame Bovary," Flaubert's erotic attachment to shoes and feet is detailed.

But what interests me most in "Madame Bovary" is the heroine's fondness for reading. She dies because she has attempted to make her life into a novel -- and it is the foolishness of that quest that Flaubert's clinical style mocks.

A novelist mocking a heroine besotted by novels? Then this must be a writer mocking himself! And indeed, Flaubert memorably said that he had drawn Madame Bovary from life -- and after himself. "I have dissected myself to the quick," he wrote.

Emma Bovary is deluded by literature. Because she is in search of ecstasy and transcendence, she falls madly in love with a cad, then with a coward, ignoring the plodding husband and child who both adore her. She is looking for a higher, more spiritual life than the one available to her as the wife of a bourgeois country doctor, and in this quest she finds only self-destruction. We identify with her because we too look to fantasy for salvation. If Emma Bovary, with all her self-delusion, still stirs our hearts, it is because she wants something authentic and important: for her life to have meaning, for her life to bring transcendence.

"In 'Madame Bovary,'" says Vargas-Llosa, "we see the first signs of alienation that a century later will take hold of men and women in industrial societies (the women above all, owing to the life they are obliged to live): consumption as an outlet for anxiety, the attempt to people with objects the emptiness that modern life has made a permanent feature of the existence of the individual. Emma's drama is the gap between illusion and reality, the distance between desire and its fulfillment. On two occasions she is persuaded that adultery can give her the splendid life that her imagination strains toward, and both times she is left feeling 'bitterly disappointed.'"

Perhaps we identify with Emma because we too feel an emptiness at the center of things -- an emptiness we try to fill with books, with fantasies, with sex, with things. Her yearning is nothing more or less than the human condition in the modern world. Her search for ecstasy is ours. "One way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy," Flaubert wrote in 1858. If "Madame Bovary" can still move us all these years later, it is because she was both Flaubert's refuge -- and his self-portrait.

Sept. 15, 1997

Monday, May 08, 2006

READINGS: John Kenneth Galbraith

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith died recently. The Globe and Mail ran a story on what the man read.
Rather late in life, he was introduced to the work of Robertson Davies, which he thereafter avidly consumed. No doubt one reason was that Davies set his Deptford Trilogy -- Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972) and World of Wonders (1975; all three published by Macmillan Canada) -- in rural and small-town southwestern Ontario, not far from where Galbraith had grown up; this, however, was more likely a co-ordinate attraction. Far more powerful, Galbraith insisted, was "the ring of truth" in Davies, embedded in his richly imagined physical, social and moral landscape, and ornamented with what Galbraith found to be "an extraordinary range of wholly unpredictable information."

In case you're tempted, The Deptford Trilogy is truly worth the effort.

Among Galbraith's works are The Affluent Society and The Good Society.

BOOKS: Lost Guide

The Guardian reviews Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost.

I brought the book to a Phuket trip last year, and I enjoyed it. It was a stronger collection than her previous book, Wanderlust. The Guardian reviewer puts it in a nutshell:
De Vaca stands at the heart of this book, not just as a symbol of the plucky adventurers and mingling nationalities that created modern America, but as an exemplar of Solnit's strongest theme: getting lost means accepting change. "The things we want are transformative, and we don't know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation.

Reading Baby

A 28 month old Vietnamese baby can read
The child could correctly and fluently read a Vietnamese-language newspaper though his pronunciation sounded like a foreigner’s.

Shame on us then.

Link via Bookninja

Friday, May 05, 2006

Get a Life

I'm catching up with Season 5 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. I'm also barely 1/4 into Natasha's Dance - an interesting book (to me at least) on the cultural history of Russia.

Now, I should be reading more, but really, I prefer to spend my time watching Grissom and his team solving crimes.

But what I really like to do is to have a life.

Excuse me, what to do huh?


Overheard at the office:
"I hate reading the newspapers these days. The whole thing is just about the PAP."

BOOKS: Winterson in The Times

From The Times
29 April 2006

Winterson's Her Word. She's writing on the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. On why literature is important.
Books must now compete against films, against television, against the internet — the noisy new media. Books are quieter, but we must still listen.

Literature is a place where you can always go and always be welcome. No one is shut out. It is truly global, in that it crosses all boundaries but does not seek to make everything and everyone the same.

Literature is about discovering difference. That is why it is so important, in our world now, that it be available. The internet is no substitute for a good bookshop where a real-life browser will always find something unexpected, and come away the better for it.

The story goes, there were only 6 books in the house Winterson grew up in. One was the Bible - and 5 other books on the Bible. So she bought books and hid them under her mattress. Her mother peered in one day and found a DH Lawrence. Mrs Winterson proceeded to set the books on fire.

What she learnt that day from her mother was how some people burnt books - because you never know what you will find in books until it was too late. She also started to memorize passages from books - because they can't take away what you take from the books.

WINTERSON: Column May 2006

From Jeanette Winterson's website. The Column for May 2006

I like this bit:
As I get older I get more concerned about excess - which is not the same as indulgence or luxury, I can do both of those. But excess? Why? I don't want to carry too many pounds, too much luggage, have too much stuff, or even, know too many people.

Ever felt this way?

ESSAY: Iranian Lost Epic

From The New York Times

An essay by Reza Aslan: The Epic of Iran. He writes about Iran's national epic, the "Shahnameh."
Written more than a thousand years ago by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, the "Shahnameh," or "Book of Kings," recounts the mythological history of Iran from the first fitful moments of creation to the Arab conquest of the Persian Empire in the seventh century A.D. Ferdowsi was a member of Iran's aristocratic class, which maintained a strong attachment to the heritage of pre-Islamic Iran. According to legend, he composed the "Shahnameh" under the patronage of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, who promised him one dinar for every couplet. But when Ferdowsi presented the sultan with nearly 60,000 couplets, a flustered Mahmud offered him a fraction of his promised reward. Insulted, Ferdowsi rejected the money and returned home to the city of Tus, where he died impoverished and embittered. But his poem endured.

A verse from the Shahnameh:
Where are your valiant warriors and your priests,
Where are your hunting parties and your feasts?
Where is that warlike mien, and where are those
Great armies that destroyed our country's foes? . . .
Count Persia as a ruin, as the lair
Of lions and leopards. Look now and despair.

Reza Aslan is the author of No God But God.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

CULTURE VULTURE: World Literature Tour May 2006

Culture Vulture World Literature Tour goes to Japan.

Something wanky happened with the Culture Vulture page. It does not allow me to sign-in.

So I will not be adding my 25 cents worth on Japanese Literature people should read.

No, not Haruki Murakami. I think we over-dosed on him already.

Jose Saramago and Democracy

From The Observer
Interview with Jose Saramago

Jose Saramago is probably the most famous (if not the only) Nobel Prize winner Portugal can lay claim to. Ironically, Saramago left his homeland of Portugal 14 years ago in protest of the government censorship of his novel, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. It was the sentiment of the authorities that his book offended religious sensiblities.

At 84, Saramago is still actively serving the political role of the author. He is a writer of conviction - one of the dying breed. He is also the kind of writer who ends up talking about the problem of democracy during book discussions. In light of our forthcoming election, I'm inclined to highlight something he mentioned in the interview:
'I answered that I didn't have a solution, except that we, as citizens, do have the power of the vote, but we always use it to vote for one or other of the parties on off er. But there is another possibility, which is to cast a blank vote.' He leans forward and points a stern finger. 'And this is not at all the same as abstention. Abstention means you stayed at home or went to the beach. By casting a blank vote, you're saying that you understand your responsibility, you have a political conscience and you came to vote, but you don't agree with any of the existing parties and this is the only way you have of saying so.

'Then I thought about what would happen if the blank votes went up to 50 or more per cent. It would be a way of saying society has to change but the political powers we have at the moment are not enough to effect this change. The whole democratic system would have to be rethought.'

Not that I'm advocating anything political, of course. I'm hardly political. I don't even have to vote. I live with a country where I am 30 and have never casted a single vote for my democratically elected government.

Is voting really compulsory by the way?

Read the latest title by Jose Saramago, Seeing, translation by Margaret Jull Costa. Saramago is published by Harvill Press in the UK, the original English publisher for Haruki Murakami.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bayley and Iris Murdoch

John Bayley wrote his 3 part memoir on his wife Muriel Spark?

So says my jack-ass boss - Store Director of one of the biggest bookstore in the country.

I work for ignorant people.