Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tisn't The Season

According to one nearby mall, Christmas extends from 14 November to 28 December. So much for the twelve days I grew up with.

And now it seems they've discovered something called Black Friday back in my homeland, a day on which unmitigated savagery is unleashed in pursuit of things/stuff/goods/consumables. As if we didn't have enough already.

I'd count myself as disillusioned were it not for the fact that I wasn't exactly illusioned in the first place.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Still Old Friends

The disconcerting thing about meeting someone you've not seen for a while is the sudden feeling of trepidation you experience just before you do so that there's some possibility of hearing bad news about family or mutual acquaintances. Fortunately our meeting today with Steve threw up nothing but good news regarding family. To my gratified surprise his mum is still with us having reached the big nine-zero. I sort of assumed the worse based on the fact of my own Mum's death and my erroneous belief that his mum was older than mine. Also gratifyingly, all his offspring have turned out to be remarkably accomplished and are making their various marks in distinctly creative ways.

So, given all this and the sheer enjoyment of nattering away with a big buddy it was nearly all good (as the shots above testify). Alas, there's always an exception when you reach our age. Steve gave me news of the death some five years ago of a mutual friend from our time at university. I'd have to say it was tentative news in that he was pretty sure, but not quite one hundred per cent. I hope he's wrong, but I've got a horrible feeling it wasn't a case of mistaken identity. 

Thinking of the friend in question I find it impossible to picture him as anything but the warm, gently cheerful, happily eccentric young man of several decades ago. Sad to think he may be gone, but happy to think he was here, and hopeful he had his share of the wonderful ordinary happiness that Steve and myself have been granted.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Old Friends

Noi and I spent a couple of enjoyable hours this afternoon catching up with Karen and her news over kaya toast and tea. All is well on the Karen-family front, though her mum is getting more forgetful - though still, it's good to know, playing mah jong. This news prompted some reflection on the increasing ability as the years pass of all participants in the conversation to forget the obvious. At one point, I'm happy to say, I remembered something or other that indicated my brain was in reasonable working order. Unfortunately I've now completely forgotten what it was I remembered.

I've not forgotten that tomorrow we'll be meeting up with old chum Steve Cannon. I've got a horrible feeling, however, that he's going to be talking about stuff we did during our university years that I've long forgotten and I'm going to struggle to recall. Noi, by the way, managed to remember where we took Steve's daughter, Kate, to eat when she visited some years back so she surely wins first prize on the memory front, for today at least.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bouncing Back

A few years back I was listening to something on the radio about Tony Blair, the former British PM, and his ability to wake up refreshed no matter what headaches he'd been facing the previous day, and breezily get on with setting the world to rights. This aspect of his character was outlined by someone who'd written a book about him but who wasn't exactly a complete admirer. In fact, the guy sounded like a bit of a turncoat - someone formerly of the inner circle who'd kept a diary of sorts of the circle's circling, now doing the dirty and spilling the beans. At the time the observation in question struck me as a useful insight into what made Blair effective, well, at least to the extent of getting himself a string or two of power to pull. Whether he pulled them in any useful directions is open to numerous questions: I know a few folk who might well see him as setting the world to wrongs rather than rights. Which, of course, leaves open the question of whether the man's resilience is something we should seek to emulate. If you're just bouncing back without bouncing in any good direction you might be better off deflating.

This thought came to me as I awoke this morning with a bouncing sort of energy for the second day of an on-going Drama Camp. Galvanising the troops prior to breakfast felt satisfying to me, but I'm not sure I would have appreciated it as one of the actual troops. If you really enjoy irritating people seek to be revoltingly fresh first thing. You can happily wilt later and no one will really notice.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Out Of The Storm

It's raining, a hard, hard rain, in that gloriously anarchic greyed-out, flood-happy manner characteristic of the tropics. I'm not entirely sure why this makes me feel cheerful, but the fact that I'm sitting where it's safe and dry enjoying nature's more-than-plenty from a distance may be a contributory factor. Part of me yearns to be out there in the storm, but fortunately it's a very small part well under the control of the rational, self-preserving bigger bit.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Siren Voice

Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan has got to be the most extraordinary second novel written by anyone in terms of development from the first. Player Piano was a remarkably assured first novel, as I discovered on my recent re-reading, but all the ingredients that make Vonnegut Vonnegut come together by a kind of magic in his second. Indeed, I believe he has stated somewhere that the writing of Sirens seemed effortless. Yet there were false starts and roads never taken in between the writing of the two.

Certainly it was an effortless read, certainly for this reader, both when I first read it in the last century and over the last two days. This time round I kept thinking of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It had never occurred to me before just how much Adams owes Vonnegut. But there are two distinctive features of Vonnegut that put him in a different league, or, perhaps more properly put, give his fiction a depth that I don't think Adams would have ever aspired to. One is the American writer's sense of real menace in portrayals of violence. The comic nature of the utter failure of the Martian invasion of earth in the second novel doesn't stop it being genuinely disturbing. The second is the powerful sense of melancholy with which Vonnegut endows his characters. I can't think of a more straightforwardly sad writer, even though his characters are tissue thin. He seems to be able to capture the essential sense of loneliness and failure of us all, and then make us laugh at it.

I found myself moving on automatically in my Library of America edition of the early novels to Mother Night. I'm as happily addicted as I was when I was in my early teens.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Bit Of Sense

Enjoyed reading a piece by Jonathan Zimmerman in the latest on-line edition of The New York Review of Books, entitled Why Is American Teaching So Bad? He's the Professor of Education and 
History at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at NYU, and, given how out of touch those who teach teachers so often appear to be, I was agreeably surprised at the simple good sense of much that he finds to say. The last three paragraphs string together a sequence of observations that make mincemeat of the educational orthodoxy that surrounds me, and help me understand the woefully weak foundations on which said orthodoxy rests. It's something of a relief, though hardly a surprise, to have someone beside me articulating so clearly the emperor's lack of suitable garments.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Worlds

Reading Dashiel Hammett's The Dain Curse has served as a reminder that he was no slouch when it came to intricate plotting. I don't think it's actually possible to follow who's killing whom as you go along, things get so complicated. Rather, it's a matter of enjoying the unlikely action and then seeing if you can follow the explanatory chapters that sum it all up. An amazingly different kind of novel from Red Harvest also. The range of the four great novels (and, I suppose, five if you count The Thin Man) is remarkable. Unlike Chandler he never repeats himself, except for that undercurrent of the rottenness of it all. Even in that respect Hammett is inventing the whole noir genre.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Spent a small but profitable part of the day listening to the 'A' side CD from Dusty Springfield Complete A and B Sides 1963-1970. Confirmed my sense that the idea of the 60s as a golden age of popular music has a lot going for it, though I'm not in love with the production values on some of the material, especially the early singles, in the same way that I am with stuff from Motown or Stax of the same period. It's only with the Memphis sound of Son of a Preacher Man that I start to get really comfortable.

Amazingly some outstanding material performed only so-so in the charts of the period. How Can I Be Sure?, which would now be seen/heard as a stone cold classic, didn't even go top 30. What were people listening to? The funny thing is that I'm sure Ms Springfield was well aware of just how good that single was, and one or two others like it. I think she just gave up on the idea of taking the charts seriously. I heard a similar story in relation to The Who's I Can See For Miles, with Pete Townsend, knowing he'd created something of rare beauty and power, becoming entirely disillusioned with the record-buying public on its relative failure in the popular arena.

So whilst we had our golden age I'm not entirely sure we deserved it - which is usually the way of these things.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Did today's Friday Prayers at Masjid Sultan, my first time there for the congregational prayer. Impressed by the simplicity of the place. The carpet has a cheerful clash of colours that's somehow welcomingly comfortable. It's nice to think that the closest thing on the island to a national mosque is so homely.

I was a bit taken aback by the azan, though. I was sort of expecting something really mellifluous, and I suspect it was beautifully read. But the amplified voice was treated with so much reverb and echo that it was actually difficult to make out the precise words of the call to prayer. I'm not sure if this is seen as some kind of halo effect, or whether it's an attempt to re-create the reverberant quality of a prayer-call in one of the really grand mosques of the world. I've heard the same thing on studio recordings of readings from The Holy Qur'an and it just doesn't work for me. What does work is the powerful music of an azan, or prayer, read with the urgency of a full commitment to the words you hear so often in quite ordinary places of worship.

After prayers it was time for lunch with Fazli, Sharrif, Ismail and Arzami - actually the reason for going to the mosque as we'd decided to eat opposite. They were kindly wishing me well ahead of my intended umrah to Makkah & Madinah, now on the cards for late December after the disappointment of the June cancellation. Can't wait - though, of course, I'll have to.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not An Entirely Loose End

Noi is currently heading north, to climes KL, leaving me a touch lonesome back at the ranch. I'm filling the gap at this moment by playing Joe Jackson's The Duke at an unreasonably reasonable volume. Funnily enough I was disappointed when I first got hold of this gem, thinking it over-produced. I think I assumed that any tribute to Edward Kennedy Ellington would necessarily feature horns - and definitely not synthesisers - and was perturbed to find Mr Jackson had gone in a very different direction from that he followed on the wonderful Jumpin' Jive of some years back. Now I love the wittily eclectic mix of the album and the sheer fun of it all. If you can't have fun playing the music of Duke Ellington, then when can you?

Next up, I think I'm inclined to bang on a bit of Elvis Costello with The Roots, for no particular reason other than the fact it's a really good combination. So there. (Eagle-eyed musos may spot the fact that Ahmir '?uestlove' Thompson features on both the CDs, another good reason for playing them.) 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Woody's World

Came across an interesting interview today involving ace film-maker & comedian Woody Allen (to mention just two of his talents.) Was struck by the sheer bleakness of his view of existence (as was his interlocutor, Father Robert Lauder): Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but these are just small oases. Overall, it is a brutal, brutal, terrible experience, and so it’s what can you do to alleviate the agony of the human condition, the human predicament?

I don't doubt Mr Allen is being entirely sincere here and that he is a man of considerable depth. But I simply, intuitively almost, can't share his perspective. Part of me wonders if this is because I can't bear much reality, and Woody can, and thus I find ways of shutting it out to live at a superficial level. But another part, the bigger bit, suspects I am aware of realities, both temporal and ultimate, and that happiness is as real, and more common, than misery. If the bigger bit is right I don't see this as manifesting any great virtue on my part. I'm just temperamentally lucky.

My view, by the way, echoes the Islamic notion of gratitude. Most of the time I feel lucky to be alive and able to experience the life I've been granted and I wish this were the case for Woody. Indeed, for everyone.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


There were three or four times when I was starting out on Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human when I was tempted to give the novel a miss. It took me at least four days to get through the first twenty pages and I didn't enjoy the experience one bit. Yet once I got going I found myself enjoying the tale more and more such that by the final third I was entirely won over - and hugely entertained.

Sturgeon does something extremely challenging in those opening pages, giving you a point of view that hardly makes coherent sense, and keeps shifting, such that it's impossible to be sure even what kind of novel you're reading. It doesn't seem remotely like sci-fi. A lot more puzzling, I reckon, than the opening to Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, published some forty years earlier, that many of my students seem to think is the last word in difficulty. The fact that a writer seen as working within a popular genre was prepared to go for something this challenging is surely a sign of the victory of Modernism (if such a movement really existed.)

So if those first pages were so tough to read why did I bother to keep going? I'm no masochist and, believe me, I read first, second and third, for enjoyment. The answer lies, I realise, in the sense of trust I have in what might loosely be termed the critical community. By this I don't just mean lit critics, although they are involved in some degree. I'm talking about that world of readers that have created the Library of America and decided Mr Sturgeon's novel is worth preserving for the generations, the fandom of the world of Sci-Fi, the readers who originally bought the novel on first publication, despite its difficult opening, and gave it positive reviews or told their friends how good it was because they recognised its qualities.

We don't read, listen or look alone, but it all comes through the eyes and ears of others before we make it our own. I think I've developed a reasonable degree of staying power as a reader, but I owe it all to others.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Yesterday's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream by the company resident in London's Globe Theatre didn't disappoint. An heroic effort was made to construct the Globe in the Esplanade, the houselights were kept on and much fun was had by all, especially, of course, in the Mechanicals' way over the top Pyramus and Thisbe. (Two children sitting fairly close to us were overcome with loud, giggling delight throughout the clowning in a way that was good to hear.) The roots of the Dream in English folk-tale were made particularly prominent in the costuming of the Fairies and the erotic tensions underlying the whole piece were lovingly exploited. Nice to see the doubling of Theseus & Hippolyta with Oberon & Titania: obvious in a good way.

Also pleased that there was a conscious effort to let the verse have room to speak in the various lovers' scenes, rather than being rushed through, as is so often the case these days. There was lots of comic business in their scenes, but a real sense of the lovers' emotional turmoil was allowed to grow due to some judicious slowing of pace. This didn't make them any more distinct as characters, because, of course, they're not, but it did add to the sense of the real pains and puzzles of adolescence and young adulthood.

I came away from the play, as I invariably do, with a feeling of having witnessed something miraculous. Somehow in the time he enchants us in his dream, Shakespeare manages to make something perfect out of his disparate worlds. It's like being allowed to look for a moment into the harmony of things.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In Tune

Very enjoyable concert at the Esplanade yesterday evening. A combination of Mozart and Debussy was not likely to fail, and it didn't, being awash with tunefulness and gorgeous sonorities. I was impressed with the adventurous programming also for the Debussy: two less-than-famous ballet pieces, neither of which was entirely orchestrated by the composer, but both making for hypnotic listening. Of the two I preferred the slightly more famous La boite a joujoux, but the dramatic Khamma made for an engrossing opening to the night's proceedings. The star of the evening, fiddler Renaud Capucon, duly sparkled in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, and so it all added up to a case of What's not to like?

And later today we're off to see A Midsummer Night's Dream - the play, that is - at the main theatre in the Esplanade. So a satisfactorily artistic weekend, all in all, I'd say.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Squeaky Clean

It was some two months ago that I first noticed an odd phenomenon attendant upon the locomotion of this tired old body of mine. As I walked I could hear a faint yet distinct squeaking in my left ear. On the day it began I assumed it emanated from my faithful old Clarkes' shoes, or one of them at least - presumably the one on the left foot. However, to my considerable surprise and mild consternation when I took my shoes off the noise continued.

And the noise continued to haunt me for the next couple of months, though in an on-and-off manner. Often I had no awareness of it at all, and sometimes the squeaking was so faint as to suggest it was gradually fading. At times I wondered if what I was experiencing might be something related to an imbalance in my actual hearing. I also wondered if anyone else noticed I was squeaking, especially when the sound was at its most distinct. But no one ever said anything.

Which body part was causing the problem was a subject for further conjecture. Since the noise emerged at its most distinct when I plonked my left foot down I settled on the knee as the most likely guilty bit.

Things finally came to a head, so to speak, on Thursday of this week when, after a day of particularly loud squeaking, I thought I'd better get the expert opinion of the Missus on the matter. I asked her to join me on three walks across the apartment floor and it turned out I wasn't going crazy. Yes, there was a noise. Yes, it was a squeaking noise. And, since I was wearing no shoes, it was pretty obviously me that was doing the squeaking. We'd both decided that we'd better tell my back doc the odd news when Noi had a brainwave. Take off your belt, she ordered, and the mystery was solved, as beltless I proceeded to promenade soundlessly. And, yes indeed, it was some two months ago I first started to wear the spiffy new belt she had bought for me.

Gentle Reader, I can tell you that the relief was not exactly considerable, but certainly distinct. But here's the funny thing. The Missus, who I should tell had been dealing with the whole situation with a degree of levity that any serious-minded person would have seen as inappropriate, now began to howl with laughter - and has done so on at least two occasions since when reminded of the matter. What is so funny about a squeaking spouse, I would like to know. At one point she sputtered: You, cartoon you know. I have no idea what this means, but I suspect my dignity rating in the household has plummeted to a new low. And this after two months of a furrowed brow, manfully kept to myself.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Getting Of Wisdom

A bit more on The Voice, and specifically Pharrell. Wearing a Rush t-shirt for the latest episode increased the coach's already considerable credibility in this household, but his failing to save Elyjuh was puzzling, to put it mildly. I needed to calm the Missus over this one.

Mind you, Mr Williams's preface to his decision put the whole show in a knowingly realistic context. It takes someone who's paid his dues, on top of possessing real ability to keep it real.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Totally Cool

We've been enjoying the latest episodes of The Voice (American version) this week. Some genuine talent and a real sense of celebrating live music amid the showbiz paraphernalia. Plus tonight Pharrell Williams was wearing a Yes t-shirt thus rendering the whole enterprise uber-cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


It's difficult to imagine another public work of art matching the perfection of execution and purpose of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red any time soon. If anyone needs to cite an example of why Art is necessary this is it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Disregarded

Reading about Mary Norton's wonderfully imagined Borrowers again I'm struck by how much of the power of borrower-mythology - and it obviously is possessed of an extraordinary imaginative energy that transcends the details of the novels - has its roots in an awareness of how strangely powerful the disregarded becomes once it moves to the centre of our attention. And you can multiply this by ten for pre-adolescents. Do children still explore? As a kid I spent a fair amount of time looking for stuff on the edges. We went hunting for discarded bottles, I remember, on the grounds that if you found enough of them someone would pay you for them.

Derelict buildings were like magnets to us. And the idea of finding an old air-raid shelter and going inside was a version of going to the promised land. And tunnels! The idea of coming out somewhere else at the end! And secret passages! In those days when I still had an imagination I used to dream of these, and the chamber at the centre of the network where all the wonderful stuff lay dustily waiting to be discovered.

Here's a useful exercise in keeping the mind alive: each day try and notice something that nobody else pays the slightest attention to, and invest it with life.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Saw Fafa off at the airport this morning for her trip to China and then came back to enjoy a day of rest. Unfortunately this wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind for the day. Actually I'd planned to take myself and the Missus off to the Esplanade to watch Bryony Lavery's play Frozen being done by Arian Pang's company. This wasn't to be due to the lack of availability of tickets. I'd not tried to book until too late since I'd not been sure of whether we were going to be free to watch the play. Must say, I'm pleased at the sell-out for Pangdemonium since I'm pretty sure running a group doing serious theatre on a regular basis on the island is hard work deserving of reward. But, as so often is the case, I'm irritating at missing something tasty when the diet of good theatre here is so thin.

The problem is that nothing out of the mainstream ever gets a decent run - Frozen was on for little more than a week, for example. Even the mainstream musicals come and go pretty quickly so you need to be on your toes to catch them. And the demands of my line of work are such that quite lengthy periods of time are often wiped out in terms of a life beyond. And when it comes to one-off concerts, it's a cause for celebration when we do manage to get to something.

But I also have to admit that if I put a bit more effort in I could get myself to a few more events than I now manage annually. I suppose that the youthful energy that got me to Halle concerts on a weekly basis back in the 80s has thinned out along the way. I suspect I was equally busy then, but less prone to excuses. And just how was it that I managed to turn out to play for Whiston FC pretty much every Saturday in the football season?

Yep, at least some of the limitations I'm moaning about are my own and no one else's.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Before re-reading it I assumed that reacquainting myself with Vonnegut's Player Piano was going to be a bit of a chore. For some reason in my teens I'd somehow formed the opinion that the writing was a bit flat and the novel too long by a third. I now realise what a fine, sustained work PP actually is. True it lacks the stylistic and thematic fireworks of what would follow appearing to be in most respects a fairly conventional piece of sci-fi, but it's a beautifully controlled satire of corporate politics and behaviour, written before most folk had become really aware of just what the corporate world was/is like. Come to think of it, it's hardly sci-fi at all in the usual sense.

I'm guessing I just didn't have any real connection with the essential subject matter of the novel all those years ago and, understandably, just didn't get it. Would that I might be that innocent again.

Friday, November 7, 2014


There's been much tension in our little household pretty much every night this week, around 10.45 pm. The current series of Masterchef airing on BBC Lifestyle is, as so often, responsible. And I thought cooking was a relaxing sort of activity.

Amazing levels of skill and creativity on display, by the way, despite the pressure. Perhaps because of it, mayhap? At least one of last night's contestants was demonstrably high on adrenaline, and was more than happy to say so.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I decided a little while ago to purchase an iPod thingy on account of the fact I'd discovered how to download stuff from iTunes onto more than one computer and realised that if I could get said stuff on said Pod thingy I could play it through the stereo in the living room. Thus making life complete. Well, not really, but it would be a nice add-on to the plenty I already enjoy. I've got a reservation or two about iTunes, most of which are based on the fact that from what I can gather the remuneration for the musicians involved is not exactly equitable, but it's all too murky for me to figure so what the heck is my carefully thought through conclusion, at least for the moment. But I'm still managing to drag my feet over actually getting the device and getting down to business. And I think I've figured out why.

The case of Bill Frisell sort of sums it up for me. Browsing the albums available at iTunes I realised that at a conservative estimate I would download at least fifteen immediately. Now I can afford these, but I'm not at all sure I could do justice to all of them in terms of giving them the listening ear or two they deserve. And then I'm pretty sure I would discover in double-quick time some other equally worthy name whose material was urgently in need of making mine.

So as long as I stave off acquiring the technology I can hold back from drowning in the glories of Gone, Just Like A Train and the like. But surely no one can resist something so urgently, wonderfully marvellous for too long? On the Frisell-front I'm a gone case, as they used to say.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Conversation

It was in my late teens that I first became aware that I wasn't necessarily uncomfortable being excluded from groups, indeed, quite enjoyed being out on the fringe. Edges allow a kind of freedom, assuming one can keep one's balance. So it's with some relief I discover that once again I have somehow avoided the mainstream as, according to a recently consulted source:

The conversation seems to have moved on from blogs to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and the rest.

Isn't silence restful?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In Place

Chuckled over an article in today's paper about product placement in new novels for e-readers. Way to go! Literature moving forward, eh? If only Milton had had the opportunity: Of Man's First disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree, truly Golden / And Delicious entire, whose mortal taste / Brought death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden... Paradise regained, I reckon.

Anyway, as I sit here, my tasty Coke Light in hand, I can only hope that some major soft drinks company of internationally high repute will recognise the selling power of this Far Place and smile upon me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

From The Top

Have moved on from Red Harvest to Player Piano, Vonnegut's first novel. It's not my favourite of America's finest successor to Twain, I don't think he really gets into his stride until The Sirens of Titan, but since I've now got all the early stuff in the LoA editions I might as well get a sense of his development and read sequentially. I'm fairly sure that when I first read him as a callow teenager (me, not Kurt) I kicked off with Cat's Cradle and assumed pure genius came naturally thinking badly of PP because it seemed so ordinary. Now I'm looking for continuities.

Actually I'm glad to get away from Hammett for a short breather. Don't get me wrong, I love all the novels, but they are intense in a manner that's quite forbidding. Once you get passed the manner, the sheer style of Red Harvest you realise an awful lot of blood has been spilled and at some level this is meant entirely seriously.

Another short novel I'm quite glad to have come to an end of is P.J. Kavanagh's period piece for children, or teenagers rather, Scarf Jack. It's a worthy enough effort at writing in the Kidnapped, Moonfleet, vein of boys' adventure, but it feels curiously laboured for a relatively modern effort - being published at the end of the 70s. The action bits are readable enough, but it gets more than a little bogged down in thematic concerns related to Irish history Anyway, I'm moving onto one of Mary Norton's Borrowers series in my reading of kids' stuff. I need a bit of charm.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fed Up

Caught up with newly-weds Kate & Rob on their way from sunny Devon to a three-week delayed honeymoon in sunnier Vietnam. We managed a very pleasant couple of hours of their company in between flights, letting them escape from Changi Airport to Bedok Corner where Noi plied them with chicken rice and tea. I overdid it on kachang phool, normally not an item associated with excess, I know, but we were going on to a wedding dinner in the afternoon following one yesterday afternoon and, in truth, I wasn't approaching my nosh in a spirit of moderation. And all this following our rather splendid seafood dinner for Fifi's birthday last week.

Tonight the Missus tells me we are eating something she terms 'fruit' and that sounds like a jolly good idea to me.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hard Boiled

A lot of people had done a lot of shooting, but so far as we could tell nobody's bullets had hurt anybody.

Thus Dash Hammett around about the two-thirds mark of Red Harvest. Wonderfully laconic, as flat as reality. But the curious thing is that the violence of the novel is rarely, if ever, realistic, even when characters are getting themselves killed, as they do regularly. What is realistic is the sense that Hammett knows the world of the criminal in a way that Chandler doesn't.

And Chandler would have turned the line above into an elegant wisecrack. With Hammett it's difficult to be sure the wit is intended due to the scrupulous flatness of the narrative. Must check whether Camus had read Hammett in translation prior to the writing of L'Etranger.