Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Umberto Eco, Lists, Love & Infinity

...lovers who took great pleasure from the fact that "they often had more than one tongue in their mouths"...
Umberto Eco writes about infinity in The Drawbridge's latest issue, themed First Love. In his piece Infatuated with Armies of Angels, he characteristically connects different ideas, toying with theories and romancing his readers. He writes about his current pet topic, 'lists', and how they suggest infinity, and how Love is a means of expressing the infinite. In fact, I wonder if this article in The Drawbridge is an excerpt from his new book, The Infinity of Lists, which I have not read.

Readers of this blog will know that I love making lists... For some reason (Umberto could probably tell you why), listmaking is such a comforting and fun exercise.

Stuff I'm digging at the mo

Outrageous Fortune back episodes
Emily Perkins
Sam Hunt
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell poetry
Being at home with family, ferns, moneyplant creepers, Malaysian street food, durian
Off The Edge magazine
Making sketches
1000 piece Jigsaw puzzle
Citronella oil as mozzie repellant
Shaun the Sheep
Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bookish news

Yippee, the holidays means I get to read even more than usual. Here are some NZ book news.

Sam Hunt, Sam Hunt

has just been interviewed by Kim Hill. You'll know by now that he's one of my favourite poets. Bask in his ebullience and that famous laugh. If you're hungry for more Sam, he appears on Kiwi FM's Radio Wammo breakfast show at 8.40am sharp every Friday, in a segment called Sam Hunt's A Little Something For The Weekend.

Karl meet CK, CK meet Karl

Our man CK Stead has written a short piece about his travels abroad in the latest edition of Booknotes (download here).

Emily Perkins

I am in the thick of The New Girl, having been wowed by her masterpiece Novel About My Wife. Perkins also has an article published in the latest Booknotes, on writing from different points of view. May I add that her first person voice in Novel About My Wife is perfect (might blog about this at a later time).

Pecha Kucha

Pencil this in for 12 February 2010. Fourteen speakers, including CK Stead, Emily Perkins and Michelle Leggot (our former poet laureate) will have 20 seconds to talk about each of the 20 images they've picked out to share with an audience. Beyond that, I've no idea what's in store, but it's got CK, and it's cheap, and it's accessible. Shed 12, 91 Wellesley St, Auckland, from 8pm, $10 door sales.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Books and the supernatural

Have just gotten my mits on some books I've been meaning to read for a long time:

Ripples by Shih Li-Kow - a short story collection
Lions In Winter by Wena Poon - more short stories, featuring Singaporeans
Growing Up In Trengganu by Awang Goneng - looks good and has a nice cover to boot

I still find it strange that when I am in New Zealand, surrounded by family and friends who do not believe in spirits, I lose that sensitivity to the supernatural world. If I am spooked, I blame it on a horror film I'd seen. However, as soon as I am back in Malaysia, it is so common to refer to spirits as if they were real people. I find myself thinking that my grandmother still hangs around the room she used to sleep in.

Flipping through Malaysian novels in the bookshop, I came across lots of stories with witch doctors and superstition... If South America has its magic realism, we have our pontianaks. Rani Manicka's The Rice Mother and Preeta Samarasan's Evening Is The Whole Day both have ghosts in them. The supernatural is as real to us as anything else.

I know of some readers who do not enjoy the magic realism of writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami. Perhaps they think that the magic is there only to exoticize a place further and render it unfathomable, mysterious, and therefore appealing to the Western reader. Or perhaps these readers are fatigued by the seemingly pointless twists and turns (annoying deus ex machinas?) of a magic realist plot.

I wonder if there will be a similar 'pontianak/spirit fatigue' with Malaysian novels. It's probably a moot point, nothing to worry oneself about. Malaysians love eating up stories about the folllowing: how someone gained or lost his wealth, how someone's marriage fell apart, and how the spirit world plagues us. It's obvious that our stories of the supernatural are told for our own entertainment and not so much for 'the Westerners'. I think these stories are here to stay.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rangitoto in Summer

Just a little something I painted for the holidays. Ah, Rangitoto. "Bloody Sky". I love that you are right there, a familiar silhouette, a muse for books and poetry, a place to explore and daydream in whenever we get sick of the City.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


When the weather's right, I like to go to the Speedway. I love the atmosphere, the various little routines (like the guy who constantly has to powder the starting line), the crashes...

Sprint cars with grunt

Masked men