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The Sun Shines & The Igloo Melts

Sri Mariamman Temple & Clive James

Clive James has a sad wonderful poem in The New Yorker.

He has been dying for some time (he was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2010) in a very public fashion and has written wonderfully in the shadow of the inevitable.

"I still make plans to live forever: there are too many critical questions still to be raised. Most of them can never be settled, which is the best reason for raising them. Who needs a smooth technique after hearing Hopkins’s praise “All things counter, original, spare, strange”? Well, everyone does, because what Hopkins does with the language depends on the mastery of mastery, and first you must have the mastery. And how can we write as innocently now as Shakespeare did when he gave Mercutio the speech about Queen Mab, or as Herrick did when he wrote “Oberon’s Feast”, or even as Pope did, for all his show of craft, when he summoned the denizens of the air to attend Belinda in Canto II of The Rape of the Lock? Well, we certainly can’t do it through ignorance, so there goes the idea of starting from nowhere. Better to think back on all the poems you have ever loved, and to realize what they have in common: the life you soon must lose.

TLS, 14 May 2014

Enough has been written about his dying, so I shall reproduce one of his funniest poems below.

The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seeminly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler's War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyart with a forlorn skyscraper 
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee's Promenades and Pierrots--
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor's Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
"My boobs will give everyone hours of fun".

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error--
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets! 
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.

Clive James
Favourite Podcasts & New Bridge Road

The simple pleasures are always the best. Especially if they are free too. For example, when I am travelling, jogging or walking home, I listen to the following:

In the most recent podcast, Nathan Englander reads John Cheever’s “The Enormous Radio” first published in 1947 but still wonderful after all these years

Like an honest conversation between friends. People read out poems, stories or essays that they love and explain why. Emily Dickinson is discussed in the most recent podcast.

Maya Angelou is featured in an interview from Autumn 2005.

Very American, brash and . Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist is feature in a recent podcast. 

There is something so English about DID. I can remember listening to this show when I grew up in England in the 70s. Music makes people open up and present a different aspect to the world. Recently from the archive I listened to Philip Larkin taking the complete plays of GBS to the desert island where he wished spend his time trying to write a novel.

This guy is cool and a wonderful writer.

About to listen to ‘White Lotus rebels & South China Pirates’. Hmm … exoticization, anyone? More thoughts soon.

Bloke Sleeping & Hafiz of Shiraz

One day the sun admitted.
I am just a shadow.
I wish I could show you
The Infinite Incandescence
That has cast my brilliant image!
I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely and in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being

Hafiz of Shiraz


My roommate bought a pack of 24 rolls of toilet paper yesterday, in addition to the half dozen we already had, and stored all of them in the bathroom. And just let me tell you, there’s something incredibly calming and reassuring about looking next to you while you’re on the toilet and seeing 30 rolls of toilet paper sitting there. You get a feeling like, no matter how bad shit gets in there, you’re always going to make it out okay in the end.

(via hardcorekandicore)

Bloke Playing Checkers & Singapore Literature Prize

The biennial Singapore Literature Prize 2014 shortlist is out.

On the list are some of my favourite Singaporean writers, including Amanda Lee Koe with Minstry of Moral Panic (edited by Jason Eric Lundberg) nominated for English fiction & Joshua Ip with Sonnets from The Singlish shortlisted for English poetry. It’s a wonderful achievement to make the shortlist & thoroughly well deserved.

Both write with energy, invention, adventure and humor. People should be reading more SIngaporean literature.

Amanda has a wonderful story, Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes? in Asymptote. ‘Dazzling’ is a good description of Amanda’s work. 

Some of Joshua’s poetry can be found in the August 2014 Singapore Poetry special edition of Blue Lyra Review. Joshua is a prodigious and talented writer. I don’t know how he fits everything in. Unfortunately, he supports Arsenal FC.

It is an exciting time for Singaporean literature in English, however I am amazed that none of Cyril Wong’s poetry or fiction made it to the shortlist.


"The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense, whereas reality never makes sense."  – Aldous Huxley

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