Wednesday, August 25, 2010

After the Quiet

looking out from Tiritiri Matangi Island
I have managed to catch a virus and sprain my neck at the same time. Today is my final day convalescing at home. Admittedly, it's a welcome relief from the coal face. Working six days a week at my non-art jobs isn't so bad. I'm often asked how I manage that on top of my art practice. The answer is, other aspects of my life give way, like not having the time for family and friends. A slipping exercise routine. No time to watch films. Overgrown armpit hair. A slightly dirtier house.

It may sound pathetic that I have to be sick in order to catch up on all the things I have been remiss in. I finally had some time to put finishing touches to a few small watercolours, watch three Hitchcock films (Topaz, Mr & Mrs Smith and Rebecca), listen to book podcasts and also start reading Tan Twan Eng's Gift Of Rain which I picked from the MPH store at KL airport. I still haven't made human contact outside the house, though.

This is not a book review

Gift of Rain is proving to be an enjoyable read. It is set in 1940s Penang and Perak, and I find myself stopping every few pages or so to drift off into a reverie of my childhood and experiences at the very places that Tan describes in his book. It's the story of Philip Hutton, a young lad of English and Chinese descent growing up in Penang. He befriends a Japanese diplomat who starts teaching him aikido and becomes his sensei. Their friendship deepens but is frowned upon by others as the threat of a Japanese invasion looms over Malaya.

I'm only two-thirds into the novel, so I can't say whether the story is satisfying. But I'm very much enjoying the telling of the protagonist's special friendship with his beloved sensei, as well as Tan's gift for apt similes like this one:
Under the eaves were more carvings, crawling down the columns that held up the roofs like petrified vegetation.
Many of Tan's descriptions of Malaya are very romantic... Okay-lah, a bit drama-lah, but this time I really don't mind-lah. Consider this passage about Penang itself, narrated by the protagonist, Philip:

I have never seen the light of Penang replicated anywhere else in the world - bright, bringing everything into razor-sharp focus, yet at the same time warm and forgiving, making you want to melt into the walls it shines on, into the leaves it gives life to. It is the kind of light that illuminates not only what the eyes see, but also what the heart feels.
I want to check with my Penangite friend KB to see if she feels the same way, heh heh. Perhaps that is what Home feels like, anywhere in the world.

Can't wait to reach the conclusion. I'm dying to find out how the characters betray each other. If you're thinking about buying this book, I recommend looking past its production quality! The print job is amateur; you can make out the pixels in the letters and the ink comes away when you rub your clammy fingers on them. Oh dear, is this what all print-on-demand books look like?

Craig Cliff

I've started reading Craig Cliff's blog and added him to my links bar. He is a New Zealand author and his first novel, A Man Melting, was launched by Randomhouse just recently. This will be my next book purchase, for sure, but I am being VERY disciplined by promising myself to read the unread books on my shelves before buying a new one or even borrowing one from the library. I came across Craig's writing in Sport magazine (a literary magazine, mind you, so why on earth is it called Sport??) and was quite impressed by his short story 30 Ways Of Looking At Marumaru South which is made up of thirty vignettes, each told from the point of view of an inhabitant of Marumaru South.

I like that on his blog Craig writes things like: "I still feel a bit dirty with all this thinly veiled self-promotion, but hopefully there’s enough honesty in these sorts of posts to be, I dunno, redemptive?"


Well, I've only a couple of hours left before my usual life routine engagements responsibilities sweep me up again in a vortex of activity... So, I'd best be art-ing along. I want to finish a watercolour work today. Friends, until next time!

She hobbles away coughing...


Craig Cliff said...

Hi gnute

I've noticed the slice of traffic you've sent the way of my blog since you put up the sidebar link, so thanks for that.

And thanks for plug for A Man Melting -- I look forward to hearing what you think when it makes it to the top of your To Be Read pile.


gnute said...

Always glad to help, Craig. Keep up the good work. Hey, maybe you can enlighten me as to why Sport mag is named such??

Craig Cliff said...

I've always taken the name 'Sport' as a kind of ironic statement, like 'We know most of you are obsessed with sport, but we're more interested in poems and stories, thank you very much.'

This article from the DomPost earlier this year might shed a bit more light about the history of 'Sport':

gnute said...

I like that explanation! :)