Apologies to those hoping for more substantial content, this will just be a desperate catch-up list of quick notes on blogworthy things that I never found time to write properly about but don’t want to forget.
- Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim (David Sedaris): Funnier, sadder, and generally more engaging than Barrel Fever.
- A Burnt-Out Case (Graham Greene): Greene never disappoints. I don’t think this is an especially famous novel of his, but it is no less perceptive or original than any of his best. It also feels very elegantly structured – not usually something this O’level literature student is able to spot in a novel, but which seemed particularly outstanding in this one.
- Maus: My Father Bleeds History (Art Spiegelman): Just Book I, I’ll read Book II as soon as the other borrowers in the library let me, and am aware that whatever commentary I attempt here is necessarily incomplete. Not sure if my feeling about the book is shared by others, but it seems to me that although it is ostensibly a fairly straightforward Holocaust story, the true heart of this book lies not in the story itself, but the fact and manner of its telling – by a protagonist to an author, from human speech into stylized illustration, and above all, by a father to a son.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Sorry for the blasphemy, but as someone who last read the books when I was 12, and therefore has no specific memory of them beyond an abstract aura of wittiness and a couple of ubiquitous email taglines, I found this thoroughly enjoyable.
- Sideways: We didn’t rush to watch it in the cinema because it seemed like the sort of movie you could enjoy just as well on DVD, and it is. Despite its incredible acclaim I’m really struggling to come up with anything strongly positive to say about it. It felt like a slow car ride through pleasant but unremarkable countryside inhabited by people you care very little about. You don’t object to the journey, but you’d just as happily never take it again. Case in point: I can’t fault Paul Giamatti’s acting here, but despite playing a character far more likable than in his previous “loser” outing, something about American Splendor made me root for Harvey Pekar, and something about Sideways made me stop caring about Miles.
- Downfall: The best film I have seen so far this year, and one of the top five of my life. Can you even imagine a similar film being made in Japan? [Very tangentially, the broader political/societal culture which gives fruition to films (among other manifestations) like this is one reason I think Germany is a great nation, and its disappointing contrast in Japan is one reason I have never been able to admire or embrace Japanese culture the way many of my peers seem to do.]
- Poetic Licence: I love poetry on paper, but poetry readings much less, so I have to admit the only reason I went to this was that Yish had free tickets. Well, shame on me for my rock-bottom expectations, because this was one of the best poetry events I’ve ever been to. The team behind this should be very proud that they took on something quite ambitious – 46 poems to dramatize! – and did a pretty good job for most of them, finding and expressing the latent drama of the poems without compromising the primacy of their words. Yish gave an impromptu performance of Loud Poem to the cast afterwards, which was fun. The only part of the evening I didn’t enjoy was when Eleanor introduced me to Ivan Heng and, tongue-tied and star-struck, I stammered, “Hi…I’m a big fan…” AND NOTHING MORE.
- Neil Gaiman in Singapore: My boobs came between me and Neil Gaiman on the Monday and Tuesday of his visit to Singapore (I’d had the surgery on Monday), but goddamit I wasn’t going to let them spoil my fun on Wednesday! (Yes, one can define queueing for 5 hours for two signatures as “fun” if the signatures in question are from Neil Gaiman.) By the time I got to the front, Neil was obviously pretty tired, so I didn’t get anything as elaborate as the Coraline rat I got the last time, but at least I got “Sweet dreams” on the last panel of The Sound Of Her Wings and eyes drawn in the skull on Neil’s “goodbye” message (just after the last page of The Wake). I mumbled something stupid about having had surgery two days before, but just having to come see him anyway. He stopped signing my book, and looked up at me. “And you’ve been waiting in this huge queue all this while?” “Um, yeah.” “You really shouldn’t have, but thank you so very much,” as he reached out and squeezed my hand. And just like that, five hours in line paled before thirty seconds of very genuine warmth from a man who, by the end of the night, had signed for a thousand people.