Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Am sure it has become most evident this here ol' blog's been lacking some love this year. I have been increasing my efforts to not be sat in front of comp for nameless hours every day.

(-) decreased comp time with (+) increased Facebook time= (0) time for bloggering

But! Despair not, there is such a thing as chronic procrastination and a fervent, bubbling narcissism that just won't die. Enough reason for me to be hence writing about my more recent escapades.

This week I've attended Qing Ming for the second time in a row. I believe that's a record for me. That's grave sweeping day for the uninitiated, btw. And finished Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. One did not cause the other, but I will find a link before this palaver ends.

On the one hand, you really could not get more traditional than Qing Ming. It involves ancestor worship, firecrackers, food, fake riches (every Chinese occasion needs to involve moolah), cleaning (see: Chinese New Year), setting things on fire and incessant noise.

In our family my eldest uncle is the most knowledgable in these matters so we just put things and pour things where we are told. I had the thought: what happens when I need to decide where to put things and what to pour? We are not that traditional, but still a disconcerting thought.

Food, rice wine and chinese tea are put out, and also coffee for my grandpa. When I was dragged to Qing Ming as a kid on the rare occasion we were in town at the right time, I used to think it was a waste of a perfectly good shopping day. Standing around in the burning heat, pulling out weeds will give you thoughts like that. But now I think it's nice we do it. My gong gong passed away when I was 6 or 7, so I have very sketchy memories of him. I didn't know he liked coffee so much. We sent him a yellow Mercedes this year. It's kind of a deliciously crazy image; gong gong burning rubber in a yellow Merc.

From the prism of my western education, "ancestor worship" seems equally bizarre. But I figure if you're going to show respect and create rituals for anyone, to mark the way they led their life, which is basically what religion involves, then why not your elders? It is said a child never repays a parent's sacrifice. Your own parents have more kindness for you in their little finger than some holy guy from millenia ago.

I have been lucky I guess, my dad adored his parents. And the same is true of me. But I know the same is not true for a lot of people. That alone I think is worthy of worship.

So that's tradition which seemed weird but I found my way around to seeing the point/liking.

Brideshead Revisited on the other hand, turned out to be something traditional I thought I would like and was kind of ..meh.

See I have se-ri-ous banana credentials. I am seriously white on the inside. I would join a Jane Austen Book club if there was one around here. Mark Twain even better. I read Pride and Prejudice (almost) every year. I follow Stephen Fry's twitter. I love a good period drama. I will watch anything involving ridiculous hats or ridiculously hyphenated names or English manors. I will swoon at all three.

But I feel Brideshead was so so heavy on the Englishness and light on the why-should-I-care factor. The curtains were so starched. The protagonist's upper lip was so. stiff. that he was barely likeable let alone someone I could empathise with. Literally none of the characters came out likeable. Doomed, hopeless, rich, nonsensical. But likeable.. no. So when everything falls apart, I had a hard time feeling sorry for the guy. Perhaps I not being British, have not appreciated the raging emotion in between the lines. Perhaps this is like a Zen rock garden. Everything has been distilled into the design, down to the last pebble. Even if it does look like a bunch of rocks.

I am taking recommendations for the next off the list. My ones of readers: please comment!

* Where I got the inclination to read Brideshead


Miss T said...

I hear you on the britishness. Especially after you read some passionate, angry, succulent postcolonial novel, Waugh and Lawrence and even Miss Eyre herself seem only to mess with trivial matters. That's something to say about those times and britain's relations with the rest of the world....ah but i won't go there! Here are some I read this year and highly recommend (warning: not very British):

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (i cried on the plane to vegas!)

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (gotta love the economy of this book! deadly good writing)

The Glass House by Amitav Ghosh (you want an epic? this is as epic as they come. so refreshingly transnational too. awesomely written)

McEwan, JM Coetzee, Rushdie, Pramodya Ananta Toer are other favs....


Miss T said...

The Glass Palace, not Glass House.

Starwolfgang said...

Hey Ming,

Am currently reading 'Bleak House' by Dickens, love it so far, just British enough for me:-)

Am reading 'White Tiger' next month for my book group so will let you know how that goes.

Happy Qing Ming and Sussadei Chnam Thmey (Happy Khmer New Year)

Love Jo

miss clio said...

hrmmm i dont think i have read any good "adult" books in a while... but i read a lot of childrens books. sometimes its a good idea to broaden the range a little :).

some books i recommend
1. tale of despereaux
2. the miraculous journey of edward toulane
3. holes by louis sachar
4. and just for the trashy factor - the twilight series ... hehehe :P


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