Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hairdressing Reads

A favourite place to read ... at the hairdressersand many of my books have snips of hair between the pages to prove it.This is Felix of Cut Above, by the way, a guy who is eternally patient with my hair.

Have just finished reading Hari Kunzru's new novel My Revolutions for review. It isn't out until end August, so I was very happy to get my mitts on it ahead of time thanks to Abby of Kinokuniya. It is very good indeed but that's all I can tell you for now.

Just started reading Tinling Choong's FireWife since the author will be here end of the month and is kind enough to volunteer to do a reading for us at Seksan's. Forty pages in I'm still not sure what to make of it. What is the centre of it? What holds it together? I like the energy and the humour of the writing, but the language is a little self-conscious ...

Anyway what book's in your hands this week?

Don't miss me too much Wednesday as I will be in Kota Bahru again and then hurrying back to go see Alias Grace with Animah. So where got time for blogging??


Pelukismelukis said...

Nice. You're hair looks super smart and sharp, Sharon :)

Anonymous said...

Looking good! You're going to break a few student-hearts!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to leave my name for the above comment about student-hearts.

synical said...

I'm just about done reading another Ben Elton book, Gridlock.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Vonnegut is laugh out loud funny. Sharon, u MUST read The Sirens Of Titan.


Madcap Machinist said...

Managed to get through quite a number of books during the downtime. Two remarkable ones:

Recently read The Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian--absolutely enjoyed it...may be that it's not a male's first choice from the shelves, but sections on the history of tractors are gripping stuff. Guess that's how I finished it in two nights, and a friend did it in one. The story's good too, but it is the characters that makes it stand out.

Riding Rockets is Astronaut Mike Mullane's story about the challenging life as a space shuttle astronaut. He was one the first batch of astronauts to be sent into space after the Apollo program).

This group comprised also the first female astronauts (making them the pin-up girls of space-geeks everywhere and figures of the feminist movement), and the book has some interesting anecdotes about how they had blazed trails into what was a male-dominated domain.

Then, there are the descriptions of how astronauts trained, worked, and played (take the training supersonic jet on a joyride anyone?) which would of course thrill a space exploration aficionado, but great background reading for SF writers too.

I am all for Malaysia to have our first astronaut, and I think this book should be read by my little brother, but of course he wants to be a film maker.

Read@Peace said...

What a funky look Sharon! Love it!

Read so much in the past two weeks that I don't even know where to begin. Posts should be up soon.

Tunku Halim said...

Harry Pothead No. 4, Twilight in the Desert - The Coming Saudi Oil Shock (non fiction), The City of Forgetting (Gopal Bharatam), Island (Autumn edition), Hand feeding the Crocodile (Gina Mercer - poetry), The First World War (non fiction), The Disney Touch (non fiction), A Prologue to English Literature (non fiction).

Just worked out why most books sold are non-fiction!

mel said...

A.S. Byatt's "Elementals". Got it from the last Times warehouse sales for only RM8.

sharkgila said...

Just finished Anthony Burgess' The Clockwork Orange, Albert Camus' The Outsider and Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Not sure what to start on next.

I want to get my hands on FireWife, so this calls for another bookshop excursion. yippie.

irene said...

Currently reading Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent. Very interesting -- she writes about her experiences interacting with men as a man herself (she disguised herself as a man). Makes me want to get hold of some books on sociology.

Ted Mahsun said...

Am reading Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. Scientists who practice thaumaturgy, Khepri women with scarabs for heads, giant moths with rorschach test blot patterns for wings that flap on different planes and parallel dimensions, steam-powered sentient robots, steam locomotives, and lots and lots of gore and multispecies sex!


nel said...

Seriously, I wonder how you guys read so fast. I am just trying to finish one book in a month ... :)

Gette said...

I'm having one of those weeks where I don't really want to read. Good thing I'm book review has already been submitted this week. I just finished Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris, and last night, bored witless, picked up a random book I got at a secondhand book store (Without Mercy, Lois Gilbert) and finished it three hours later.

FireWife is on my list but I'm hoping for a paperback version. The hard cover cost a lot more than what I'm willing to pay for a book I'm not sure about.

fei said...

Dear Sharon,

Like your hair:)

Am reading a series of essay regarding post-colonial experience from a HongKong female Writer Huang BiYun, she is one of my favourite writer.

You know, my reading place is Shah Alam High Court now, I need to cover the court case of the Mongolian who'd been murdered.

Azmi said...

Isabelle Allende's Aphrodite, got this when I turned golden, ans she wrote the book to mark her turning golden too. Full of sensuous recipes, either she had written really well in her mother tongue or the translator did a brilliant job. Also the May 13 book and Marge Piercy's Sleeping with Cats. Just to confirm that it is perfectly normal to treat cats as "family".....

Sufian said...

Filosofi Kopi, a collection of short stories by Dewi Lestari. Supernova: Petir, the thirsd book in the Supernova series, also by Dewi Lestari. Borges' Labirin Impian (indonesian translation). Keret's Missing Kissinger.

irene said...

Nel: I don't read fast... this is my first book this year! *runs and hides in embarrassment*

lil ms d said...

nice sharon! are we on tomorrow?

wah - everyone's been reading good books.i'm still on the folk/fairy tale book streak...

Eliza said...

Nice hair, Sharon...Looking forward to seeing the hairdo in person!

Kari said...

Love the hair! Thinking about going short myself... Maybe I'll use your 'do as a template :)
What am I reading... Still catching up. I've just finished Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day and am working on Ali Smith's The Accidental and Bel Canto (Ann Patchett).

Pelukismelukis said...

Hear, hear - I love 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' and Sedaris' sardonic wit.
Yet regrettably, I have to confess - I am currently reading 'Men's Health' magazine (the one with Dato' Bernard Chandran on the cover) whilst eating a ginormous bag o' chips.

Ben Samin said...

hey sharon, forgive me for losing much of the grace i don't have, but do you enjoy poetry? what do you think about mine? : )


and that's poet's wallow, not poet swallow...

shehara said...

Hi Sharon

Just received a beautifully written book review on Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje. Reviewed by Ernest MacIntyre

Mac was a well known Sri Lankan theatre director ( Death of a Salesman, The Crucible (Miller)The Caucasian chalk circle, (Brecht), Othello, Hamlet,(Shakespeare) etc He later became better known as a playwright, in fact one of his plays "The Education of Miss Asia" was a GCE A level text for over a decade, (I acted in it with a non speaking bit part of a few minutes appearance as a brat in plats and that’s how I know him in part as does a myriad other theatrical and other links that converge in association in small Island nations such as Sri Lanka)

Mac is part of the Sri Lankan Diaspora in Australia and is in town on Sunday. "He now teaches drama and presents the occasional academic paper in Australia, Sri Lanka and Singapore.".. In fact one of his plays "Let’s give them curry" was a school text in Victoria /Australia

You will enjoy his review I’m sure and I guess we must now all scuttle around and lay our hands on a copy of Divisadero.!!.


"A poet charts the novel for our new century"

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje. Bloomsbury, London, 2007. Reviewed by Ernest MacIntyre

The 1914-18 war may well mark the far end of the medieval European world in terms of transport as well as pristine countryside. At least it does in Michael Ondaatje’s new novel Divisadero. Near the end of the book and the war, a train to Paris is mentioned. Up till then the story of the long last part of the novel, about Lucien Segura, a French writer of years long gone, is literally transported on horses and horse drawn carts in many absorbing sub-stories which engage streams, fields, wooded places, farm houses and medieval church steeples in south central France. But the first part of the book, with different characters and story is in California just about twenty years before the first Gulf War of 1991.Yet the two worlds so far apart in time and place are the same story .The name Divisadero Street, San Francisco which stands there right now, tells us why.

In Petuluma country, California, a terrible massacre of the Cooper family leaves only a little boy of four hiding under the floorboards. He is ‘adopted’ by the neighbour for training as a farmhand. The farm owner’s only child Anna is born soon after, the mother dying in the act. The father adopts another infant Claire, from the same hospital, whose mother also died at childbirth during the same time. The Cooper child becomes ‘Coop’, a brother. Up to a point in the story we think he is also ‘a son’. When he is about twenty, and becomes Anna’s lover, it provokes a terrifying and seemingly senseless act of violence by the father, breaking up the ‘family’ and scattering it in all directions. Coop escapes to the card tables of Lake Tahoe where he finds new companions, some like Dorn and Ruth, compassionate and enduring, and others so violent, that they brutally clean him out, even of all of his memory. Anna escapes from her father and eventually goes across the Atlantic, to the countryside of France. She absorbs herself in researching and re-creating the dead Lucien Segura. Claire who works for a Public Prosecutor returns to the father’s farm at week ends. She seeks solitude riding in the woods. She is the only one of the trio to continue contact with the old man, unexplained except for retrospective compassion by Anna that “there must have been some fearful grains of love for me”.
After she has moved from California to the countryside of south central France, Anna says, “I come from Divisadero Street … between San Francisco and the fields of the Presidio”. The Presidio at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, with its historic sense of place, fields, and wooded hills is suggestive of the old world, perhaps even of the French countryside of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from which Anna creates most of the art about Lucien Segura.
On the other side of Divisadero Street is the San Francisco and California of our times in which happened the violent incident that eventually sent Anna away to the ‘old world’. Divisadero Street, on either side of its width, also allows one to cross between the two worlds.

Michael Ondaatje.
Divisar also means ‘to gaze at something from a distance’, and it is from a time long past, through Lucien Segura, that Anna looks into the present and future distances for those she has lost and wonders about. It is from this structural aspect of the novel that the reader may get the impression, of two separate novellas, the large, “latter”, more or less continuous one about Lucien Segura of about say, 1875 to about 1925 and the other “earlier“, apparently shorter, card pack shuffled arrangement of what happened to Claire, Coop, Anna and their old man between about 1970 and about 2002. Ondaatje easily lets happen the functional two- novella effect by deftly closing off the visible story of Claire, Coop and the father followed by making Anna invisible once she has got the story of Lucien Segura moving.
We then get absorbed by a whole lot of the many parts of the Segura story, each part a story by itself. Each of these stories of poetic economy can literally be scissored out from the pages, pasted and framed as separate independent ones too. So can the stories from the earlier story of Anna, Coop and Claire. Ondaatje may even be hinting at this structure through the later voice of Anna referring to the seminal incident of the novel as “something that might occur within just a square inch or two of a Breughel.” The painter Breughel who caught the attention of the early twentieth century German makers of the ‘epic’ form in dramatic literature. It is thus a novel with an effective episodic structure which combined with its poetic narration conditions the reader away from any tendency to be dragged emotionally towards one or more characters. It nearly happened to me with Coop when I saw him for the last time, as he, movingly but without memory, takes the correct turn, driving past a tree of his childhood, towards his old home.‘Epic’distancing, perhaps divisar again, makes the experience total.
But Ondaatje’s own master craftsmanship goes beyond the ‘epic’. For to reason that because Lucien Segura is unearthed and told by Anna , time wise his story is a result of the” primary” California farm story, is of no value in experiencing this novel. Daringly Ondaatje has pulled off in art what some scientists have popularized for the general reader, that linear demarcation of events is a practical convenience for everyday life and our brief existences. That the way time is really constituted is something else.
And yet the wars of the world concede to the traditional reader some well spaced time markers. Vietnam, the first Gulf war, the second Gulf war, the 1914-18 war. This function though is probably secondary to aligning the community violence suffered by Ondaatje’s characters alongside America’s reach across the world. Far away big wars come through, just so and no more, enough to allow the reader’s imagination to make the connection. In one very moving intimate scene the novelist fantastically juxtaposes a war long before the birth of the USA with the Gulf War of 2002. After an earlier Coop episode in which “One of the great high-tech massacres of the modern era” in 1991 Iraq is shown, significantly through the ubiquitous TV war screens of our evenings, we meet Coop twelve years later, the individual victim of local brutality that removed his memory. He is induced by the caring Dorn and Ruth to join their community’s medieval costume festival when America was poised to attack Iraq again. Ruth was hearing about America bombing a civilian city, and indicating Coop says, “Look at your friend, even he’s not innocent. No one here is. Not me. Not you. Not even you. We’re the barbarians too. We keep letting this happen.” She goes up to him, crying. “Dance with me Coop will you? “. He puts his arms up and she moves gently in against him, remembering the results of the local barbarity on his body and mind.
The writer then collapses time in the theatre of the imagination even while he aligns the local to the international. Children and adults come onto the floor in their fourteenth century European village costumes. Medieval monks carry anti American-war placards as if at an outbreak of the centuries old European hundred years war.
Nietzsche stands as a portal to this novel. “We have art so that we shall not be destroyed by the truth”. Anna’s art laying out the story of Lucien, Lucien’s art re-creating in fiction the love of his life, Marie-Neige, the weekend ‘solitude’ of Claire in the woods near her childhood home. Coop was adept in the physical world but outside the sphere of language. Had he still possessed memory when we last saw him he too could have found his saving in the creations of ‘solitude’. He is the only one, artless, that my heart went out to.
Overarching them all is Ondaatje’s art, magical poetic transportation on words, phrases, paragraphs and sub-stories, so that our reading shall not be destroyed in the technical structures of the novel. We swim along compulsively atop a stream of reading ; the originality and structural ingenuity of the work moves underneath. Its depth and complexity surface upon you almost unnoticed, quite gradually.

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.

Argus Lou said...

Two-thirds into "A Company of Planters" by John Dodd - parts of it funny, not very well proof-read though.
Short story collection about agent Ashenden by Somerset Maugham.
Still happily dipping into 'Women Who Run with Wolves' (non-fiction/socio-psychology) every so often.
Just finished 'The Kite Runner' - made me cry.
Started on 'Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'.

Ben Samin said...

Wah! the way u guys write and read, my poetry pales sheet white in comparison! now i'm ashamed.. don't look at my blog.

bibliobibuli said...

haha my hair never looks like this for long so you can keep referring to the picture to see what it is supposed to look like.

you guys have given me some great must-reads. ben elton - love his humour but haven't read any of his books yet. vonnegut - must soon.

symp - i read too fast and thought "student-hearts" was the title of a book, it would be a good one.

machinist - glad you are enjoying "short history" and yes, the tractor bits are surprisingly interesting. the astronaut book sounds good. reminds me i haven't seen that book "space dust" around at all - about what happened to the apollo astronauts in later years

read@peace - look forward to reading you again!

tunku halim - my god, that's quite a pile!

mel - is the byatt good? i never read further than "possession"

sharkgila - bookshop excursions are the best fun, who needs an excuse. you are reading so much great stuff back to back - but do read slowly enough to really enjoy them

irene - "self-made man" is amazing. i haven't blogged my thoughts on it, something i keep meaning to do. but if a woman wants an insight into the strange male mind ...

bibliobibuli said...


ted - china mieville sounds right up your street. haven't read him yet ... though he was a she at first!

nel - so long as you enjoy what you read. i actually don't read fast but i find lots of pockets of time. i read through all mealtimes, on public transport, while taking a coffee break etc etc. and always carry at least one book in my bag

gette - i have those weeks too. and after reading a really good book i often don't feel like picking up another. i'd lend you my "firewife" but you're a bit far away!!

fei - wah! you're covering that story. i think you don't need any more drama in your life.

azmi - of course it's right to treat cats as family members. they're a lot more civilised than a lot of people. i'm upset because all my cats (except for the outdoor romeo) have a mysterious mouth infection which can't be cured, only controlled - it's gone from one to the other and they're all in discomfort. my vet is very good but i'd love a second opinion ... do you know anyone who's really good?

i used to have "aphrodite" but gave my copy away to someone who loves both food and books. i'll probably rebuy it if i see it

sufian - i want the keret!!! where did you buy it? how's the dewi lestari? another should read

ms d - you deserve the comfort reading ...

kari - short hair is cooler and it's all i can keep tidy. you can borrow mr. felix!

haven't heard of 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' will go look it up on amazon

ben samin - thanks will check it out

bibliobibuli said...

cont. ...

shehara - thanks for posting the review. can't read it though until AFTER i've read the book ... and guess what, i went straight out and bought it!

argus lou - that's a good lot of reading! i haven't started 'company of planters" yet

ben samin - i will i will! but reading is the key is writing. you've got to swallow and absorb tons of it


Sufian said...


I got the Keret from Kino 69.90 (too much!). I love Dee's (Dewi Lestari) books. She fun and funny, (Ayu Utami, though, is all doom and gloom)

I suppose if I have to do a hollywood pitch I'd say she's a magic-realist-bastard-child of Nick Hornby, Dave Eggers, and Julio Cortazar.

jen said...

wah... so many books ... and so current ...
Five or six years ago, a friend suggested I read 'Sophie's World'.
I finally picked it up in April.
I am STILL reading it. (Meaning I'd read a bit, put it down, think a bit, and then start again)
Maybe I should return this copy to the library and just get one for myself. This book is taking forever to read and digest, and I suspect I'll need a second reading, and I don't want the librarian to hate me.

Madcap Machinist said...

searched amazon for "space dust" but couldn't find a reference. of course google threw me a million links.

i've got my radar on for more astronaut books.

bibliobibuli said...

jen - i really love "sophie's world" - it's such a great introduction to the history of western philosophy

some reads cannot be hurried so maybe you should buy this for yourself. i lent my copy to someone and it never came back so i need to buy a new copy

bibliobibuli said...

machinist - sorry dear, it's called "moon dust" by andrew smith (i wrote a blurb about it for the mph magazine!)

fei said...

Yeah, Sharon, u r right, i felt like watching Rashomon and thought of Kafka everytime i went to court for the past few weeks. I think we don't really need to create or make up any story, the trial itself is a proof of absurdity.

Have you read Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun? If you have read it, what do you think abt it?

xmocha said...

love this pic of you.. so enjoys


Anonymous said...

Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng. Almost at the end. Suspect it won't be a happy ending.

bibliobibuli said...

fei - i have "half a yellow sun" to read. ought to make it a priority so we can compare notes

xmocha - many thanks. hey, need to catch up on your news!

anon - i read the last part very very slowly ... also afraid!

Madcap Machinist said...

thanks sharon, looks like an interesting book. I'll probably put in an order for it!

Azmi said...

Hi Sharon, I was offline since July 5(did my 5th chemo) and discharged y'day. Still groggy. Chet alerted me about your needing a vet to contact. My vet is Dr Kathi at Hartamas Veterinary Clinic,near Bomba/same row as Maybank at Desa Hartamas. He has been swell with all my cats and the strays I picked up for his inspection. Very thorough and so far so good, the cats have fared well. Have passed the contact details to Chet..good luck, Dr Kathi will sort it out I am sure.

bibliobibuli said...

hi azmi - hope you soon feel better. thanks for the contacts too. am so frustrated that i can't get my cats properly well even though vets fees are one of my biggest expenses. maybe there is no cure, but i wish i could manage the situation better

Chet said...

I just finished Half of a Yellow Sun - was reading and watching Venus Williams shine on Wimbledon, and after the award ceremony, stayed up to finish the book.

The ending's very sad, and the last line is the most surprising of all!

Various bonuses at the end of the book - transcript of interview with author, plus her take on the writing life, etc.

bibliobibuli said...

i have it to read ... was trying to clear the decks with one or two things i have to review ... and then ... need perhaps to dip back into my tbr pile for something i pledged to read ... or shall i read the michael ondaatje??

Anonymous said...

hello, no spoilers pls! we don't need to know how the ending is or whether there is a twist, or what the last line is like. just tell us if you enjoyed the book.



Chet said...

Oops ...

*hand over mouth*

My apologies.

Yes, I enjoyed it very much. It is an absolutely stunning book, well deserving of the Orange Broadband prize and whatever other prizes it has won and will be winning.

Alice Teh said...

Oooo... I've just finished Morrigan's Cross and Because She Can this week.

I read non-fiction most of my life, but recently in May 2007 developed a passion for fiction. All thanks to the influence of my blog friends! I'm still a big fan non-fiction stuff. That's just mean I'm reading more than ever before...

By the way, I really like your hairstyle!

Anonymous said...


u been missing out on a lot of great stuff! i cannot imagine life without fiction.


bibliobibuli said...

alice - i need a diet of both fiction and non-fiction, but viz is right ... a life without fiction is unimaginable! hope you find your way to some good stuff!

mel said...

Re: mel - is the byatt good? i never read further than "possession"

No, not really. I can put it down quite easily. Not dying to know the ending of any of the short stories in there. I'm reading it more for the beautiful language than the plot.

Chet said...

Is this the same Elementals that was filmed and recently shown on ABO? Apparently, the last part of a trilogy.

mel said...

I don't think so. Here's a good link: http://www.rambles.net/byatt_elem.html