Monthly Archives: January 2011

Anna Calvi: Passion and Desire

I cannot say enough good things about Anna Calvi. It is a most wondrous album. I might try, one day, to do so. Until then, here is a lovely article about Anna Calvi in the Telegraph, including this great bit:

On stage, the diminutive singer cuts a striking figure in the raunchy attire of a flamenco singer. “I try and look people in the eye when I sing,” she says. “It’s funny the reactions you get. You get some people who don’t know what to do, but other people really engage and stare back at you, and you have this weird, intimate moment.

“I like that. If you’re going to create communication, you may as well go the distance.” At one early gig, Calvi caught the eye of a friend of Brian Eno’s. Duly tipped off, Eno checked her out on YouTube, and quickly became her mentor.

“He said, ‘You don’t need me to produce you. I usually produce people when they need help but you already have a really strong vision. Your music’s full of romance and intelligence — what else could we want from art?’ ”

[via the Telegraph]



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Nabokov and the Blue Butterflies

Nabokov, as you probably know, loved entomology. Apparently, he was very good at it as well:

Dr. Naomi Pierce, a co-author of the report, organized four separate trips to the Andes to collect the blues, and then she and her colleagues at Harvard sequenced the genes of the butterflies, as well as comparing the number of mutations each species had acquired. Their research resulted in the revelation that five waves of butterflies came from Asia to America, as Nabokov had originally hypothized.

Also, I love this beautiful little anecdote, as told by his son:

A few days before he died there was a moment I remember with special clarity. During the penultimate farewell, after I had kissed his still-warm forehead—as I had for years when saying goodbye—tears suddenly welled in Father’s eyes. I asked him why. He replied that certain butterfly was already on the wing; and his eyes told me he no longer hoped that he would live to pursue it again.

Read more in the link:

[via The Book Bench]


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Rojak: First Edition

Rojak is a weekly collection of assorted links as well as a bulletin summarising the week on this blog.


Rereading Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. [via The Guardian]

Changes in the rules for Man Booker Prize submissions. [via TheBookseller]

Margaret Price dies. [via BBC News]

James Miller’s Examined Lives looks at how philosophers–namely Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes, Rousseau, Kant, Emerson, and Nietzsche–lived. [via The Barnes & Noble Review]

David Lynch on ideas. [via YouTube]


Roberto Bolaño: On literature and exile.

Patti Smith: Interview with Charlie Rose on Just Kids.

Huayi 2011: My picks from this year’s festival.

National Book Critics Circle Awards: Finalists.


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Omnivore: Week One

Omnivore is a brief weekly report on some of the things that I’ve been enjoying during the week.

This week, I completed my rereading of Cortázar’s Rayuela (Hopscotch). I also did Kōbō Abe’s 密会 (Secret Rendezvous), which I found hilarious and thrilling at the same time. I read two local plays for class as well: Lim Chor Pee’s Mimi Fan and A White Rose at Midnight. Allow me to cheat a little and say that I also completed a Nicanor Parra collection just before the week began.

Music-wise, I’ve been down sticking with tracks from Girls, Smith Westerns, the Decemberists (with their new album The King is Dead), plus occasional Beach House and Don McLean.

For the week ahead, I’ve started reading Simon Tay’s City of Small Blessings, and I’m thinking of writing something about it here. I also have to do a third local play for class. Got my hands on Anna Calvi’s self-titled debut as well, and will be looking to get started on that.

I also want to watch a movie or two, but that might not happen. Kelvin Tong’s It’s a Great, Great World/《大世界》 has my attention.


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Bolaño: Literature and Exile

Roberto Bolaño’s speech on the subject of literature and exile at the Austrian Society for Literature in Vienna is featured here as translated by Natasha Wimmer. [via The Nation]

Literature and exile, I think, are two sides of the same coin, our fate placed in the hands of chance. “I don’t have to leave my house to see the world,” says the Tao Te Ching, yet even when one doesn’t leave one’s house, exile and banishment make their presence felt from the start. Kafka’s oeuvre, the most illuminating and terrible (and also the humblest) of the twentieth century, proves this exhaustively. Of course, a refrain is heard throughout Europe and it’s the refrain of the suffering of exiles, a music composed of complaints and lamentations and a baffling nostalgia. Can one feel nostalgia for the land where one nearly died? Can one feel nostalgia for poverty, intolerance, arrogance, injustice? The refrain, intoned by Latin Americans and also by writers from other impoverished or traumatized regions, insists on nostalgia, on the return to the native land, and to me this has always sounded like a lie. Books are the only homeland of the true writer, books that may sit on shelves or in the memory.

It is among the speeches and essays collected in the forthcoming Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches (1998-2003).


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Charlie Rose interviews Patti Smith.

Charlie Rose talks to Patti Smith about her memoir, Just Kids; an enjoyable interview; transcript available at the bottom of the page.

[via Charlie Rose]

(Yes, I’ve ordered the book. Order still being processed though!)


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Nota Bene: “On The Spot” by Seamus Heaney

“On The Spot”

Seamus Heaney

District and Circle (2006)

A cold clutch, a whole nestful, all but hidden
In last year’s autumn leaf-mould, and I knew
By the mattness and the stillness of them, rotten,
Making death sweat of a morning dew
That didn’t so much shine the shells as damp them.
I was down on my hands and knees there in the wet
Grass under the hedge, adoring it,
Early riser busy reaching in
And used to finding warm eggs. But instead
This sudden polar stud
And stigma and dawn stone-circle chill
In my mortified right hand, proof positive
Of what conspired on the spot to addle
Matter in its planetary stand-off.

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Huayi 2011

huayi picks

Huayi (the Esplanade’s Chinese festival of arts) for this year starts next week, and now would be a good time to get tickets if they’re still available. These three events in particular have my attention:

The first thing that caught my attention was 《命运建筑师之远大前程》 or Grand Expectations directed by Edward Lam because it was all over the papers. It sounds pretty entertaining, and I’m sure it will be too.

[Chinese link via Huayi] [English link via Huayi]

Next up, the performance I want to watch the most, actually. 《红玫瑰与白玫瑰》 (Red Rose & White Rose) is a production by the National Theatre of China and is based on the Eileen Chang novel of the same title.

[Chinese link via Huayi] [English link via Huayi]

My third pick is the Kit Chan concert. She has proven to be arguably the most enduring and endearing of Singaporean pop stars and it’s really great to see her back in action. The concert description sounds great too:

“Be re-introduced to Kit as she takes you on a musical journey with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra led by Maestro Tsung Yeh, through the story of her life and career, singing songs from her albums, musicals and more…”

[via Huayi]


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National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalists

Finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards have been announced with some fairly high-profile names on the list. Franzen’s Freedom, Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Patti Smith’s Just Kids all make the list. I’m rooting for Patti Smith to take another prize even if I haven’t got my hands on the book yet. Actually, I’m going to order it right now.

Here is a partial list, with the complete one in the link.


A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (FSG)
To the End of the Land by David Grossman (Knopf)
Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson (FSG)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Faber Faber)


Half A Life by Darin Strauss (McSweeneys)
Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco)
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate by Kai Bird (Simon Schuster)
Autobiography of An Execution by David Dow (Hachette)
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve)
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (Feminist Press)


One With Others by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)
Nox by Anne Carson (New Directions)
The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber (Princeton)
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (Penguin)
The Best of It by Kay Ryan (Grove)

[via PW]


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work in progress

Hello. I’m terrible at first posts (because I don’t get to do them that often, I guess), but it’s probably a good time to talk about this place and, well, say hello. Which I’ve already done. Yeah, I’m terrible at these.

This, foremost, is an arts and culture blog. It has no fixed focus, no specific area of interest, except that it coincides perfectly with the things and people that evoke within me adoration or fascination. Quite broadly, it’s going to cover literature (in fiction, poetry, theatre, and criticism), music (classical, jazz, roots, and contemporary music, mainly), film, photography, and other forms of performing or fine arts. It’s going to cast a wide net; it’s going to have an omnivorous nature. I don’t know if it will be generic or esoteric, but hey, if you can find something to like here, then it’s all good.

Which brings me to the idea that this blog is currently a testbed for an actual site. I don’t know what’s going to go up here. I don’t know how it will be received. And so on. So I’m trying to spend my time here figuring out what works and what doesn’t, before hosting the page somewhere else. Let’s see where end up!

At the same time, I realise that’s a terrible description of what to expect on the site. So I put up a picture with a few names that you might expect to see here. It’s just me being fancy. The size of the names don’t mean anything except that it’s just me being fancy.

One other thing: because I’m based in Singapore, I’m going to try to spend a significant portion of the work here on bringing attention to local news and events too. I can foresee items such as new releases, featured artists, upcoming events, and so on, with a Singaporean slant. That said, it’s not a central priority, so there’ll definitely be something for everyone.

Okay, partly because I’m so bad at this, I’d better stop and let you discover the site for yourself. Give it time and let’s hope it grows. Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy your time at this place.


P.S. I might update this post as I go along. We’ll see.

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