Tag Archives: novels

croissants and meaningless books

14 Apr

london 8.18pm 7C dark now sunday 2019

simon said he is quite cold in the flat. i dont feel it, so i think he might be coming down with the flu or something. he said he had the runs , so that sounds like he is coming down with something. i hope that the runs got rid of the toxins and he will feel better now. the body has its ways of getting rid of a bad meal or poisonous waste products. so i hope he is on the mend. he said he warmed up a carton of soup but did not make it hot. so that might be the reason for the runs. 

i myself am getting better. 

on the bus to the library in paddington this morning it was really full and it was due to a large group of young people from europe, they got off at victoria, and later on my way back a large group of europeans students boarded the bus at victoria. i wonder whether they belong to the same group or what. i could not recognise any of them from the morning group, but seeing they left at victoria and then this group boarded it in the same area, i would guess they are the same group.  is it the time of year when all the europeans organise school trips to london? or are they all doing it before the uk leave and make such school trips more problematic.  they really fill up the bus, trooping upstairs and fill it up and then proceeding to fill up the bottom deck. i left before they left the bus, so i dont know where they came from. perhaps from vauxhall, as there is a large high rise tower block of  student accommodation there.

added mon 15.4.19 i read that there will be a huge demonstration all over uk today by the climate change activist, to disrupt london especially . there are a lot of young people in it, and i wonder if these huge numbers of young europeans that i see are here to attend that demonstration. it seems they intend to demonstrate over 3days to disrupt london. they do that by sitting on the middle of the road, or bridge, blocking it. 

this morning,i got a pleasant surprise at waitrose, the branch near the paddington library. i saw they have reduced their bakery goods by 20%, so the croissants are reduced from 95p to 76p, so i bought one to eat with the free coffee. in fact yesterday i went into the waitrose in vauxhall to see if they have reduced their bakery goods , it was about 7pm, when i was on the way to the tesco to buy the reduced stuff, and saw this 20% reduction, which i thought was what they would reduce at the end of the day… but this morning when i saw they are still reduced so early, i think it must be a promotion by them. whether they limit it to only at weekends, and tomorrow they will revert to the normal pricing; i shall find out tomorrow. but it is still pricey, when lidl sells croissants for 35p, and if not for my gift card i would not be buying it. 

added mon 15.4.10 12.57pm 14C sunny. today the croissants are still 76p. so it looks like this price is here to stay. 

i am finding it hard going with the books i borrowed from the library. it is the book by mohammed sanif and cixin liu. both are unreadable. i hope it is not early onset dementia on my part that i find i can read the words but they are meaningless to me. there dont seem to be any logic in the string of words to convey meaning. the cixin liu books are translated from the chinese, and i wonder if the translators have just done that literally… wrote the english translation directly translating from the chinese without trying to make sense of it. anyway i am giving up on them. those chinese stories seem to have won chinese prizes too. so maybe it is the translation that is at fault… or it is just me… it has gone over my head. i wonder if others too find it difficult to get the story. 

misinterpretation of what we see.

30 Sep

london 12.27pm sunny 17.9C wednesday 2015

it’s a sunny bright day, blue sky hardly a cloud in the sky, and we are allready a step away from october. the trees are still keeping their leaves, hardly any brown ones and not many littering the ground. a lovely time to be here in uk.

i have been reading excepts in the papers of the latest bill bryson book, where he mentioned seeing a well dressed fashionable lady putting in money in the tip box next to the till, after she had paid a bill of £20 or so. he went to look inside the tip box and saw 10p. and he concluded she is a stingy one when she thinks no one is looking. i think bryson is mistaken and jumped to the wrong conclusion. he had been living in america all this time, and so is used to their tipping culture. where people who dont tip the proper amount are ridiculed…but here in uk, the lady had allready paid the service charge and so had paid the tip. that tip box next to the till is really for loose change that people put their change in if they are too lazy to put it in their purse. bill has interpreted it as stingy and what is more, stingy when no one is looking, but he is definitely mistaken. that is what happens when u come from a different culture and not realise that u are now in another country with other customs. i have enjoyed bill’s books, and his observations in his travels around britain in his previous book , notes from a small island,  but i think in his new book, he should simply state what he sees, and let the interpretation of it be left to the readers.  

 i think he had fallen into the mistake that all old people make, they see things through their onesided lens. hence u have these old people writing into the papers complaining of the young having no manners, or constantly looking at their smartphones, etc etc. or people talking either too loudly or mumbling, when it is really they, the old git, going deaf.  or wanting to keep everything unchanged, preserved in aspic. 

i am getting old myself and i can sometimes catch myself saying the same thing. haha. so i know what i am talking about. old people can be a pain sometimes. and i am not excluding myself.

this time round, when bill bryson revisits britain in his new book, he is too much lamenting what has changed. he sees litter, and people doing things and changing the landscape and is more critical of it all. so the tone of the book is not so pleasant as the last one. this one is too carping in tone. 

added. 1.10.15 janet street porter article in dailymail on bill bryson’s remarks.

hounded, by kevin hearne

18 Sep

london 4.12pm rain off and on, 17.5C friday 2015

drop by the trafalgar square to see what is happening with the malaysia night which is an annual thing. its been rainy off and on, which dampened things a bit, so the square was not as crowded as in the past years. the grocery stall was doing great business. did not buy anything as the frozen fish balls were all sold out it seems. i asked if they do it, because i did not find any and was told they are all sold out. so early in the day too. 

not so much the food stalls. no queues at all for the food.

and there were no stage performers when i went there at about 2.30pm. the rain must have made them cancel the performances. pity that because the music and dance does make for a nice atmosphere.

i got more books to read at the charing cross library. one about djinns, ‘the golem and the djinni, by helene wecker, and the alexandria quartet, by lawrence durrell. the last one is a very old collection of 4 books 1957-1959. he died in 1990. i have read it before but did not finish it, and thought i shall try it again. 

but i want to talk about the latest one, hounded, that i finished reading last night, stayed up late to finish it. i seem to like these fantasy books about magic and werewolves and witches. it is the first of six books so far. called the iron druid chronicles. about a druid who is 2000 yrs old but looks 21yrs old and is very powerful, fighting and killing gods. i found it by random chance and picked it up in the library. it is nicely written.

i seem to gravitate to fantasy novels nowadays.

i picked up some booker prize nominees, but after reading the burbs, and finding they deal with the emotions of a kid growing up or some girl falling in and out of love, i put it back again. i kind of got bored with these relationship novels now. 

Digital StillCamera

Digital StillCamera

whatever by michel houellebecq

10 Sep

london 4.46pm sunny 21C thursday

it is a slim novel so i read it quite quickly. but i could not see why it was so praised when it first came out in 1994, even to the extent of a magazine(?, a movement? i dont know what to call it) being started which was inspired by it.

i went back to pick on it, reading bits of it, trying to find out what it is that i missed that garnered so much praise. but i could not.

i would be grateful if someone who praises it will tell me what i missed. do you think it is the english translation ? after all, the person who translated it was so tired out with it that they just translated the long french title to  ‘whatever’. it is the kind of word we use when we could not be bothered to argue back when someone is nagging at us.

so i guess that is the feeling of the translator when faced with that long french title. and that might explain some very long winded words in that novel, translated in english.

they said this novel was funny, but i must be lacking in a sense of humour because i dont find anything in it funny at all. perhaps the french have a different sense of humour or the humour comes out better in the original french. oh well…whatever.

i think if i were to have read this way back in 1994, (or in 1998 when the english version came out) i would not pick it out as anything special. but it seems the french made it a bestseller. and from that he made enough to give up his day job and devote full time to writing and proceeded to write other novels, which the critics say are interesting. i haven’t read them , but having read this one which the critics praise so much and finding it not so … i shall reserve judgement as i can see those critics  judgement seem rather suspect.

unless it is all the fault of the translator not good enough to bring out the hidden gem of his work. do you think so?

am really grateful to francesay for showing me how his surname is pronounced. it saves me from being profoundly irritated everytime i see that word and  not being able to pronounce it.

Digital StillCamera

Digital StillCamera

to be provocative or just being honest that u cannot stand an author

8 Sep

london 5.35am 13.3C monday 2015

jonathon jones saying terry pratchett novels are lightweight and not Literature, with a capital L.  and then admit he never read that author at all and hence got his prejudice against the author and his books  all from disliking the hype that the publicists use to talk of the books or from reading what others praise about the books and disliking the way they praise it. this is dislike by hearsay. it is very easy to do that… be prejudiced about an author just because others praise it so much. but very provocative of him to lambast terry pratchet on that basis and not acknowledge that it is his prejudice speaking. if he had done so, we can understand, because we have all been there. but not acknowledging his prejudice, i cant see how anyone can take him seriously from now on.

a very good article which talks of this as well as why we derive great pleasure in not reading certain books or authors is this one in the parisreview. i have not heard of this publication until i found them when i was searching for more info on Michel Houellebecq. they are really a very good publication for which i have bookmarked them.

in it he says he wont be reading Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

the first two i agree with, i will not be reading them too.

the last one, i forgot what it was and found a review of it. about the war, a subject that i never did like reading about. and after reading the review and comments about his style, 

Unfortunately, Doerr’s prose style is high-pitched, operatic, relentless. Short sharp sentences, echoing the static of the radios, make the first hundred pages very tiresome to read, as does the American idiom. Somehow it is strange to listen to the thoughts of Marie-Laure and Werner and the many other characters, both German and French, give forth such Yankee utterances as “Werner … you shouldn’t think big.” Sidewalks, apartment houses, the use of “sure” instead of “yes’ – all these cut across the historical background that Doerr has so meticulously researched. No noun sits upon the page without the decoration of at least one adjective, and sometimes, alas, with two or three. And these adjectives far too often are of the glimmering, glowing, pellucid variety. Eyes are wounded, nights are luminous and starlit, seagulls are alabaster. “Fields enwombed with hedges” is almost the last straw. And so the novel is far too long.

makes me even less inclined to read it. 

michel houellebecq

7 Sep

london 7.56am 11.6C monday 2015.

have not heard of this guy, with his unpronounceable surname, but this interview certainly makes me want to read his books. it is strange that i am not aware of him, seeing he is something to do with the charlie hebdo massacre. he was featured on the cover of the magazine, and his latest novel came out for sale on that fateful day.

 he writes in french, so whatever i read will be the translated version in english. a bit more of him here.

than there was none

4 Sep

london 6.26am cloudy 11.9C friday 2015

today google featured joan aiken. 1924-2004. hmm, i have not read her. haven’t come across any of her books in the library, or maybe i was not looking. i shall browse her when i get to the library today.

her books are written for children, and gives alternate history. nowadays with all the rage about multiple  universe you could look on her writings as happenings in another timeline.

 spoiler alert. i finished the agatha christie book, than there was none. the film i saw had a different ending, and was not faithful to the book. i hear there will be a new film version coming out soon and it seems it is more faithful to the book but hopefully they will make it more modern. and produce a more polished version than the book. 

(but hope they dont make it too modern and introduce gay characters haha. though it will make it more interesting, it wont be in the spirit of agatha christie. it will change it into an entirely different book, or film.)

they are now saying 007 bond should be black, or gay, but really it wont be james bond anymore if they do. it will be some one else. so call him something else and makeup another story, rather than steal the james bond character. 

reading the book, it feels very dated. and the plot is very contrived… i cant help thinking it is not possible for people not to notice when someone is properly dead, rather than pretend to be dead.

someone in the guardian wrote that her book,  ‘the murder at the vicarage’ is a better book. it came out in oct 1930. strange that it should be more polished, or so he says, than this one, which came out later in 1939. unless of course as christie wrote in her biography, this one took a long time for her to cook up the plot. even then, it was very contrived.  i think the guardian writer  might be right, now that i have read the ‘than there was none’. i shall have to read the ‘murder at the vicarage’. i am afraid all these crime novels are very forgettable. maybe that is the attraction. you forget the plot so when u pick it up again and re read it, it feels like it is all new again. haha. at least it is so for me. 

added 10.46pm. 14.1C well, i have finished murder at the vicarage which i borrowed from the library today. i have read it before, but forgotten the plot. its a more accomplished plot. i am not really a fan of the crime novel, because it can be a quite convoluted read, with blind alleys and misleading information given to the reader not to mention all those police interviews and characters to remember who said what and where they were and what they did. confusing really and it is no different with this one, though it is rather a clever plot. i find it is the kind of read which is easy to do and will while away a rainy afternoon.crime novels are a bit like doing the crosswords, i think. finding clues and so on.

i dont think i have the temperament to like them.the plot can be too contrived sometimes and sometimes the motive is too far fetched. 

i also got joan aiken’s the wolves of willoughby chase. it is the first title in the saga. set in 1832 in a fictional english period where king james III came to the throne and a newly opened chunnel tunnel gives access to ravaging wolves. 

changing habits

3 Sep

london 7.38pm 12.9C, thursday 2015

i thought it will be difficult to change my habit of taking the bus everyday to the library. but i find it is not that difficult. i used to walk to the library, until i got my free bus pass, and so began to take the bus instead. but now i have reverted to that and find it was a nice habit, that walk to the library. it is enjoyable to walk, i get to see new things and observe more variety of people than just those who take the bus. of course for the two days i have been doing it it has been dry. i wonder if i will feel the same way about it when it is cold and wet. haha. i sent an email to the library informing them of the wifi situation. and got a reply today from them. they are looking into it, are aware of it, and can only ask that i use windows for now. well, my chrome dont have windows, and today in the library, a woman also could not use it, and she was using firefox. but the librarian switched her to safari, (she was using an apple laptop and seem to have all these other browsers installed) and it worked with safari.

ah well, i used the library computers when i want to get online, and i use their chrome installed in it, and it works so maybe it only do not work with chrome in private laptops.

i use the library computer to put in the daily mail unique numbers.

interestingly, my chrome wont allow me to log into the mymail website even when i am at home using my own broadband. i wonder why. it worked on my previous chrome browser, but since i had this new one installed, it seem to have blocked that mymail website, and only that one so far. well, that is the mystery of the internet for you. fortunately it is not crucial.

you could say that will teach me to use chrome, haha. if i had windows this would not be a problem. i guess u could say that, but for a lot of other reasons, i am still glad i got chrome.

the papers were saying they got a survey from agatha christie readers asking them what is the most popular story they like, and it seems ‘than there were none’ came first. it was originally titled ’10 little niggers’, but u can bet that must have raised a ruckus, and was soon got rid of.

it so happened after i read the article in the papers, the library return section got the paperback with that title so i borrowed it. rather good, as i have not read the book.

i have seen a film version of it on tv. quite a old film.it was in black and white so i know the plot. but it will be interesting to read her version. 

the book  was first published in 1939, and the characters seem to like calling everything ‘queer’, haha. 

how do the rich live?

23 Jan

I am reading this book which I borrowed from the library yesterday. It is ‘crazy rich Asians’ by Kevin kwan.
I was curious to see how he depicts the wealth and lifestyle of these rich Asians.
When u think about it, really rich people don’t really flash their cash about. Their houses are furnished in quite conservative ways. You just have to look at pictures of the queen receiving foreign dignitaries in Buckingham palace and see how ordinary (almost old fashioned) are the sofas and lampshades. There was even a 2bar electric heater in the fireplace. And that got quite a lot of comments. Haha.

So how would the author put the wealth of these rich people in Singapore on display?
Singapore is a small country so land is a premium, so the author put the hero growing up in a huge house in a huge estate in the middle of Singapore, in prime land. It is a description of a country estate in England, but plonked down in Singapore and hidden away so that even those who live there and deal in real estate were not aware of its existence. It is a fairy tale allright, but rather appropriate in the context of the novel.

Now I come to think of it, it really is difficult to show by sight, how wealthy a family is. Short of covering them in diamonds and precious stones the size of hen’s eggs, or drape them head to toe in designer apparel, name dropping like crazy all the well known as well as not so well known designers (unknown except to the elite of course); and even do a reverse snobbery by disowning Gucci and burberry as too common, haha. What else can one do to show how rich people live?

You can throw in the names of all the expensive car marques ,which is all very vulgar really. No wonder the really rich just don’t bother to put on this kind of show and dress very unobtrusively, in custom made clothes rather than branded ones.

It is the nouveau riche who put gold and gilt everywhere. And the author gave a good example of such a family, the Gohs. I think it stretches credibility a bit on the part of the reader to pretend these are really old rich families with pedigree. Singapore is such a young country, (about 50yrs old I think)even the old rich families are not that old rich really. I mean all of them stretches as far back as the great grandfather of these so called old families who would be from poor backgrounds who made their fortunes in the last 30-40yrs.
This context of old family might play better in Hongkong, which has a longer history and has the allure of the big kongsi houses as the origin of the great wealth amassed by the old families. Hongkong has a longer history. 

It is a good read, with the usual mix of unfaithful husbands, and one upmanships and status conscious mentality.

It made me suspect that really the rich dont live any more richer lives than ordinary people. granted there will be more expensive stuff around them, but really like the queen they will still eat their breakfast cereals just like any one of the poorer families. Nobody goes round eating caviar everyday, or drinking champagne like tea. haha. I suppose they can jet off at a whim, to any part of the world for a day or two, but i should imagine it loses its novelty after a bit. 




reading a crime novel

15 Jul

I have just finished a crime novel and normally I am not a fan of crime novels, but this one, the bull of mithros, anne Zouroudi, has a lot of background atmosphere of life in a small greek island , one that depands on tourists for its livelihood.

I think I would like a crime novel if it has this kind of background setting. Thus I would pick up a crime novel set in venice, for eg, as I like venice.

I first came across a novel about greek islands in Durrell’s ‘my family and other animals’ and found I was captivated at his description of the island and its flora and fauna; so if the background is well written I like reading these novels about murder.
The murder becomes incidental, to me anyway… and it is only of passing interest to me how it was solved. Sometimes they used a very convoluted trick which is quite far fetched. I am sure every trick in the book must be used by now. Haha. Agatha Christie must have used them all…

This one shows how small islands depanding on tourists need a gimmick, a statue or myth to hang a tale on that would entice tourists to visit. And it depands on a rich man or a rich family to support the islanders or a family business to sustain the livelihoods of all those who live there, and gives rise to loyalty and rivalry. Quite a fertile ground for setting up murders I suppose.

The book shows how the small island mentality that must be common in all small islands plays its part in the murder.

When I read a murder mystery, it always amazes me how the writer can so casually have the people in the novel commit murders. To me who find even killing a chicken for dinner quite horrendous, the very idea of killing a human being is quite outside my scope. And yet in these crime novels, people get killed at a drop of a hat.

Anyway I borrowed another two of her novels, today. The library seem to have a stack of her past novels. I borrowed the messenger of Athens, and the whispers of nemesis.

Today I read that j k rowling is the secret writer of a crime novel, the cuckoo’s calling. Under the pen name of robert galbraith, and it seems it is a better effort than her ‘casual vacancy’ which I could not finish because I did not really find the problems and petty rivalries of those people in her novel that interesting.
Already that crime book she wrote is in the number 1 slot. If u are famous, and can write, u can make money. but only if u are famous allready, because before people know she is the writer, that book was no where. From the reviews it looks like she copied Agatha Christie but make it more modern.

But I think what u write is important too. The casual vacancy is about poor people and middle class people and their petty troubles. I think there are lots of us around who know well how boring poor and middle class lives are , and not wish to buy a book talking about it. Most of us read a book to escape from our present lives.

don’t get me wrong, I like my life, and would hate it if any of those things in those murder crime novels happen to me;;; but if I am going to read a book, I want it to be full of twists and turns and excitement and terror and fright… not things I like to happen to me in real life, but if it is fiction that is alright then, as those people in the novel are not real.

added.19.7 it seems the leak came from rowling’s lawyer. a partner told his wife’s best friend and she twittered it. the leak may be a blessing in disguise as it is now topping the best seller list. it just goes to show nothing succeeds like success. if u are famous for one thing  to start with, everything u do will become well known and brings success. it is like a brand name.