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.
In this post, I feature my first ever guest blogger, Ray Hecht, an American writer who has published books about Ohio, California, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he has been living since 2008.
You can find out more about him through his blog: https://rayhecht.com/
“How do I write? Why do I write? What do I write? This is what I am writing: I am writing Mr. Potter. It begins this way; this is its first sentence: ‘Mr. Potter was my father, my father’s name was Mr. Potter.’ So much went into that one sentence; much happened before I settled on those eleven words.”
-Jamaica Kincaid, ‘Those Words That Echo… Echo… Echo Through Life’ (1999)
Two weeks ago, I went to a writer’s open forum hosted at the University of Hong Kong, titled ‘How, What and Why Do Writers Write? A Conversation between David Tang, Hannah Rothschild, Simon Winchester and Wilbur Smith’.
(From left to right) Simon Winchester, Hannah Rothschild, David Tang, Wilbur Smith
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877)
“All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike,’, says a great Russian writer in the beginning of a famous novel…”
– Vladimir Nabokov, Ada or Ardor (1969)
Last week, I finished reading the fourth and final sequel in John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy.
First love, last rites (left to right): Rabbit, Run – Rabbit Redux – Rabbit is Rich – Rabbit at Rest
For a fiction maniac like me, this is cause for celebration, because I don’t think I’ve ever fully completed a novel series. I abandoned grew out of Harry Potter after The Half-Blood Prince (6th book), and – shock horror – I’ve never been big enough on Tolkien or high fantasy to plough through the LOTRs.
In fact, after an extended period of fiction sampling in the past 10 months, I can pretty much confirm that my literary taste tends towards the opposite of sci-fi and fantasy, which is realism, and American realism, in particular. British realism is more in the tradition of Charles Dickens, George Eliot and – if you want something grimmer and more naturalistic – Thomas Hardy, all of which are authors I have grown to love and admire, but wouldn’t put at the top of my ‘to-read’ list any time soon.
“How human the metallic peal of the trams! How happy the landscape of simple rain falling on the street resurrected from the chasm!
Oh Lisbon, my home!”
– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Entry 74
After a month-long hiatus, I’ve finally returned to the blogosphere:
Hola, mi carino, mi blog.
Reason for being MIA: Earlier this month, I went on a trip to Spain and Portugal with my mates, and let’s just say that readjusting to Hong Kong life took some time.
Originally, I had planned on writing a travelogue detailing each part of our journey from the east of Spain to the west of Portugal (Barcelona to Madrid to Lisbon and finally, to Porto), but:
(a) that would yield a gargantuan ‘guide’ which probably won’t rival TripAdvisor in terms of comprehensiveness or readability, and
(b) I figured that I, well, wanted to talk about something else instead.
Stop all the clocks, Hong Kong people.
That which we hold dear about this city
is likely to end in 2047.
But if we do not recognise the objective
passing of time, might we stay
in the present?
– Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, ‘2047’ (2016)
If Hong Kong poets writing in English are few and far between, then female Hong Kong poets writing in English would be the human equivalent of unicorns here, given how uncommon a species they are in this 7.3 million-people city.
But if you think they’re rare, then you’ve not met Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, who is not only a locally born and bred prize-winning poet, but also a Dickens scholar, an English professor, an academic editor and a literary journal co-founder. Prior to completing her PhD in English Language and Literature at King’s College London, Tammy gained a First Class Honours degree in English Studies and Translation at the University of Hong Kong.
We shall not attempt to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedron nose – that horse-shoe mouth – that small left eye over-shadowed by a red bushy brow, while the right eye disappeared entirely under an enormous wart – of those straggling teeth with breaches here and there like the battlements of a fortress – of that horny lip, over which one of those teeth projected like the tusk of an elephant – of that forked chin –
– Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1833)
I woke up this morning with two red, saucer-sized welts under my left eye. Swollen and sore to the touch, I grabbed the nearest reflective surface in alarm.
After ten minutes of microscopic self-inspection before the mirror, the first thought that crossed my mind was:
I might as well go back to bed.
If I sleep for long enough, maybe there’s a chance that I could sleep these Welts Brothers away.
Uh, fat chance, more like.