“I find it amazing that the most prominent kingdom of the Indian diaspora completely evaporated, leaving nothing behind other than these stones.”
– Samuel Ferrer, The Last Gods of Indochine (2016)
I will admit it – I’m a picky reader.
There are certain genres that I used to love but now wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (chick lit lad lit I’m lookin’ atcha), and I secretly wish that Top 10 Bestseller shelves could be consigned to the dusts of bibliographic oblivion.
Fie! Fie! Get thee gone
I’ve written about my (much contested) aversion to sci-fi before, and I’ve always found the idea of fictionalising history a bit unsettling.
This is why, when author, double bassist and jazz musician Samuel Ferrer reached out to me a while ago with an invitation to read his historical fiction novel, The Last Gods of Indochine, I was skeptical. Looking back, I’d say I was thrown out of my ‘reading comfort zone’, given that a large part of it is set in medieval Cambodia – a period in history which I have absolutely no knowledge about.
What is most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.
– Susan Sontag
Back in October last year, I took up strength training as part of my fitness routine.
Since then, I have been lifting weights every week in full badass mode; headphones in, West Coast hip-hop on, huffing and puffing while I bust out 20 squats with 20-pound dumbbells in each hand.
Not the most flattering self-portrait, I know, but no one looks flattering when they’re working out. And if you disagree, you’ve either not worked out before, or you weren’t actually working out when you thought you were.
#FACT #sorrynotsorry #keepinitreal
CLIFF: Anytime I want to, I can close my eyes and call it back. Then it’s like I’m really back there and I can practically hear that field buzzing. In a way, it’s like I never left that field. In a way – it’s like I can’t.
(The single light fades, and bright summer sunshine fills the stage. Dorothy is on the ground, reading a book.)
-The Land of Cockaigne, David Ives (1995)
In the past few months, I’ve taken a brief hiatus from this blog to focus on sorting my life out living.
As I take my digital labour of love – Classic Jenisms – into 2017, I have decided to take part in my first WordPress Discover Challenge.
In the spirit of a brand new year, the challenge is titled ‘Retrospective’, and the Editors are asking us bloggers to “look back over our past years’ worth of blogging… to build on or synthesize our best work of 2016”. Since I’ve only ever published prose on this blog, I figured that it’d be a nice change for me to write a ‘found’ poem using lines from my 10 most popular posts to date. For ease of reference, I have hyperlinked all of the lines to their original posts.
I hope you enjoy it, and in contrary to my customary urge of offering ‘literary critique’, I will leave you, dear readers, to ‘interpret’and glean from it whatever you will. 🙂
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
– Emma Lazarus, ‘The New Colossus’ (1883)
Have you ever experienced moments in life when you feel restless and reckless, like there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet got round to doing because of [insert excuse 1][excuse 2][excuse 3]?
For all the stultifying effects that a life of routine poses on the mind, thoughts of reckless abandon hit me on a regular basis, but if I were to act on them every time they came knocking on the door of my consciousness, I would probably be the poster child of millennial bohemianism by now, living like a troglodyte in a ranch ten thousand feet below some random Idahoan mountain for half a year and jet setting in a perennially airborne state for the other half, courtesy of parentally accumulated mileage points and savings.
“Life’s great happiness is to be convinced we are loved.”
– Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (1862)
Among the many types of mental fallacies, confirmation bias has got to be my favourite. Mostly because I’m so often guilty of it. Confirmation bias means the tendency to seek out information that validates your assumptions and beliefs, in the process screening out those which don’t.
The example most relevant to this blog would be my awareness of a constant uncanny ‘echoing’ between my daily reading and my daily living, which I’ve written about here and here and here.
As much as I’d like to think of myself as some Minister of Literary Humanism, deep down I suspect that these ‘coincidences’ are less so manifestations of an uncanny ritual, as they are simply a testament to the fact that I read a lot of humanistic fiction, which, of course, is made up of events drawn from this activity called human living.
“Your library is your paradise.”
– Desiderius Erasmus, circa 1520s
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
– Jorge Luis Borges, 1955
When Henry James dissed Victorian novelists for writing “large, loose baggy monsters”, he kind of had a point: in an age where distractions abound, the idea of spending time on the nitty-gritty ins and outs of imagined people does seem quite cavalier. What is the use, what is the point, what is the objective end goal target achievable of reading fiction etc etc.
And yet, utilitarian checklists, dull and soul-sucking as they may be to some, are beautiful in their slavishness to time efficiency. As such, the combo of boxes-and-ticks is often the boon of corporate-minded souls, or just people who find solace in structure and reassurance in the regimental.