Category Archives: Literature

Not judging a book by its cover;

An adorable idea, Spineless Classics’ new series of posters, which squeeze an entire novel into a single poster. DailyCandy did an adorable version of ‘benefits’ you will obtain from using these:

1. The tomes (Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet, to name a few) are impossible to put down. Therefore, it’s more convenient to have them mounted.

2. Staring at the wall becomes an interesting and informative pastime.

3. No one will ever question whether you’re well read. It’s obvious.

4. At approximately 50-by-70 or 100-by-70 centimetres, every story is a tall tale.

5. When was the last time you used a bookmark?

6. Detract from the, um, less intellectual reads on your shelves (see: Why Men Love Bitches, The Twilight Saga).

7. And, finally, you can stop being one of those people who judges a book by its cover.

 Pride and Prejudice one page book poster

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Wind in the Willows


An Ode to Penguin

I tried to cushion up colleagues/WS into going with me, but in the end I trotted off happily alone to the Penguin exhibition at Artshouse, Thursday. For a booklover, just standing in front of the whole collection of pretty books and revelling in coverart and the interpretation of the spirit of texts is like a bite of strawberries dipped in your third glass of champagne- you feel almost a little tipsy, and memories of the things you have read just come back full blown in little gipsy voices as you finger the covers gingerly. The Penguin orange gets to me more than a Hermes box. The old covers are comfy and classic, the new ones curious and unsettling. The gorgeous Fitzgerald embossed covers of black, gold and navy (of which I have earlier mentioned that I bought the Flappers and Philosophers’ one) mark a new era of the book becoming popular again, a gift of a story, a paragraph read in the middle of a Sunday tea party.

I wish I could sit with Irving on the floor before all the books…and start from the middle or left or center or cross center or back where we will start from each book – and recall where we read it – what we were doing when we read it (like I still remember reading this glorious Mansfield while having KFC) – and about what we thought about the book. The best friend recently told me about rediscovering an old Joseph Conrad interpretation text in his Sydney home (which I thought had been sold but turns out it wasn’t and it now comes with his room intact- I have to do things like move my fantasy of the best friend’s home back into the corner of my mind, together with said Conrad book again) which he had bought from an old market, from a time when he did not know Conrad. Before he read Lord Jim, and then Heart of Darkness. I always adored Conrad, and he is one of my favourites – it all started when my junior college literature teacher, Harris, at the end of class when people were leaving, came up to me with wide-eyed determination, banging a book on the table – said to me “This is your book.” He knew I was in and out of wild things. He knew my life was a little bit of that ineventual storm that was in Lord Jim, that I would know what ie meant to be haunted, and live life romantically with a little trigger bomb at a corner of your soul. That’s why I love Conrad, perhaps. In Victory, the story of a man who runs off to a solitary island to escape. In Conrad’s universe, that was only the beginning. You never really thought you could run, could you?

But I am going too far and what I really wanted to say was how much I love this little bit of quirkiness that fell into my lap – that I admit to having gotten one of em’ orange Penguin bags, and I started doodling Penguins in the evening in the train, and puffins, and thinking of Nabokov all over again. And you will never understand my foolish excitement even about seeing Virginia Woolf, Rainer Maria Rilke and T.S Eliot pencils. Recently, I had been going through some of J’s texts which he is using to teach his English class. Descriptive writing. Horrendous, banal, absurd. Why doesn’t anyone think of utilising Woolf, or Eliot. It almost pains me to read the ‘model essays’ – when there is so much good writing out there to feed off. I miss Harris. He was old-school and brilliant and classic -and we all loved him that way.

But bugger, here’s the love to share ~

I love this. I quite like the little penguin raising part of its leg actually. Its like a penguin rushing off to begin reading his little book! Yay. I like mischievous young penguins more than mature penguins.

I don’t quite understand the Crown Jewels part. If anyone gets it do let me know. The most popular books they have ever published? Books from a special collection?

I was staring at this series of books and sighing a little. I quite like war books in a strange, sadistic way. And the Greek Myths one by Cicero sounds so intriguing. But wait…do you notice that they spelled Chekov wrongly? I quite like Turgenev too, even if Chekhov poked fun of him as a Russian romanticist in his book.

Seeing all the orange makes me sigh. I still want to finish the rest of Evelyn Waugh and Aldous Huxley. And I still really dislike D.H Lawrence, despite what the Feminist Movement says.

The new texts. You can’t really see from this picture, but the newer texts have been given special treatment and also have special embossed features. I think they are pretty cool actually. They make what I thought were boring books sound vaguely interesting enough to read. Like a British newspaper’s take on the Yorkshire Ripper, in a sensationalist form of way. Can you read a book by its cover?

Artsy patterned covers. I am not sure about general patterns though. Pretty bland. I prefer the former.

A pretty little sewn version by Lewis Carroll, I really liked his other book – Through the Looking Glass!

I love snazzy literature on art and photography even if they make simple concepts sound very complex. I have built up a steady collection of Sontag and Barthes, two of my favourites in this area – brilliant critics of our time. They make me think so hard, I can never finish a book at one sitting. But it means that I will be revisiting the books and rereading them, again and again for the rest of my life. For that reason, worth the investment. And it is rare to find kindle versions of literary criticism.

I feel guilty but I was supposed to finish Kafka! In a strange way I enjoy reading Kafka criticism more than reading Kafka! Have you ever felt like that about any author? And that’s Eileen Chang’s Red Rose/White Rose, I watched the play at the Shanghai Theatre Festival, and really liked it. Maybe I should pick up the book.

My favourite Fitzgerald collection. The ones I hemmed and hawed over and gave up and bought the one on the far left! I feel like getting the rest too but how do you justify getting books you have read, just because the covers are pretty (esp when I have the kindle versions).

I love the way they are called art DICTATORS.

I really want an Evelyn Waugh Vile Bodies cup. I do. Each time I drink a coffee, I can think of VILE BODIES. Haha! Ok, I admit I haven’t read the book. But I will. Someday.


Born from their decade-long personal collection of Penguin books, BooksActually is proud to present the first-ever showcase in Singapore of over a thousand books from their private library featuring Penguin’s unique cover art that spans from its humble beginnings in 1935 to the present day. Embark on a visual and historical journey of the vision that made the world of literature accessible to the man on the street with BooksActually in An Ode To Penguin.

Presented by BooksActually
The Arts House, Gallery | 8 July – 16 July 2011

(photos below from exhibition tumblr, above mine own)

“How I fell in love with a Penguin…”
Write a short paragraph of no more than 150 words, and share your  first encounter with a Penguin book and how you fell in love with it !  You may even include a picture of your favourite Penguin book, or your  shelves full of them !
Send your entries in to our Facebook page !

“How I fell in love with a Penguin…”

Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem

Here when I say “I never want to be without you,”
somewhere else I am saying
“I never want to be without you again.” And when I touch you
in each of the places we meet

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
and resurrected.
When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
in each place and forever.

– Bob Hicok

I really quite like Hicok’s writing, it is rather unique and personal.

In his university page (lucky you liberal arts students): I write poems and stories. I have little faith or interest in my thoughts on writing. Those who do a thing are often too close to be perceptive commentators, particularly where love is involved. I love writing, maybe most of all because it doesn’t matter, because poems don’t lift bridges or make refrigerators shinier. The nakedness of the endeavor—just one person, sitting at a desk, trying to express something they feel in a way that will allow others into their mind—may be among the most human things we do. We are the mouths of the world, and through poetry we speak.

And it is also perhaps, time to revise a little Eliot. I’ve been chanting this to cats and think it is a perfect song… I am always story-telling to my cat. I wish she would act a little more interested, just from time to time. So I poke her a bit every now and then, to gather a little bit of ‘rattling’ reaction.

HEY are rattling breakfast plates in basement kitchens,
And along the trampled edges of the street
I am aware of the damp souls of housemaids
Sprouting despondently at area gates.
The brown waves of fog toss up to me
Twisted faces from the bottom of the street,
And tear from a passer-by with muddy skirts
An aimless smile that hovers in the air
And vanishes along the level of the roofs.

– T.S Eliot

WELVE o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.
Half-past one,
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, “Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”
The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.
Half-past two,
The street lamp said,
“Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
So the hand of a child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.
Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.
The lamp hummed:
“Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smoothes the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and old Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.”
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars.”
The lamp said,
“Four o’clock,
Here is the number on the door.
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair,
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”
The last twist of the knife.

– T.S Eliot

Weekday quotes

My weekday collection of somethings.

razorbladesalvations:by (Jess Marie)

from jessmarie

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Anaïs Nin  

“I want to give a really BAD party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.” F.Scott Fitzgerald, Tender if the Night

“Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed. And all the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately—and the decision must be made by some force—of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality—that was close at hand.” – Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald

“But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.”  – Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald

“I knew I had to have it. I mean, I know Luke and I had a little agreement about not buying any more furniture for the apartment- but this is different, surely. A real cocktail cabinet, just like in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films! It’s going to completely transform our evenings. Every night, Luke and I will mix martinis, and dance to old-fashioned songs, and watch the sun go down. It’ll be so atmospheric! We’ll have to buy one of those old-fashioned record players with the big horns, and start collecting 78s, and I’ll start wearing gorgeous vintage tea dresses. And maybe people will start dropping by for cocktails every night. We’ll become known for our witty soirees. The New York Times will run a piece on us! Yes! The cocktail hour has been reinvented with an elegant twist in the West Village. “- Sophie Kinsella

“You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned – the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean Theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it will be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations – even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.” Gabrielle Zevin (Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac)

“Hail, happiness, then, and after happiness, hail not those dreams which bloat the sharp image as spotted mirrors do the face in a country-inn parlour; dreams which splinter the whole and tear us asunder and wound us and split us apart in the night when we would sleep; but sleep, sleep, so deep that all shapes are ground to dust of infinite softness, water of dimness inscrutable, and there, folded, shrouded, like a mummy, like a moth, prone let us lie on the sand at the bottom of sleep.

But wait! but wait! we are not going, this time, visiting the blind land. Blue, like a match struck right in the ball of the innermost eye, he flies, burns, bursts the seal of sleep; the kingfisher; so that now floods back refluent like a tide, the red, thick stream of life again; bubbling, dripping; and we rise, and our eyes (for how handy a rhyme is to pass us safe over the awkward transition from death to life) fall on–(here the barrel-organ stops playing abruptly). “Virginia Woolf, Orlando, (1928)

“One has a sense that catastrophe has occurred in the psychic landscape” – Leonard Cohen

‘You, darkness that I come from/I love you more than all the fires’ – Rainer Maria Rilke, You, Darkness.

“We are too alone in the world, and not alone enough to make every minute holy. I am too tiny in this world, and not tiny enough just to lie before you likea thing, shrewd and secretive.
I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will, as it goes towardaction, and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times when something is coming near, I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.
I want to be a mirror for your whole body, and I never want to be blind, orto be too old to hold up your heavy and swaying picture.I want to unfold.I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am
a lie.And I want my grasp of things true before you.  I want to describe you likea painting that I looked at closely for a long time, like a saying that Ifinally understood, like the pitcher I use every day, like the face of my
mother, like a ship that took me safely through the wildest storm of all.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Ann Siang Hill & Club Street Revisited

I had been thinking of traipsing round the Club Street area to find Books Actually, a quaint little books hideout I have written about. However, to my surprise, they have changed homes once again, to Tiong Bahru! Ah. But I found these old photographs by timelessbeauty to reminisce a little about Ann Siang Hill & Club Street, due a visit soon, and to new beginnings in Tiong Bahru.

The “THEN NOW NEXT” exhibition at the Fred Perry Laurel Wreath Shop (23rd April – 22nd May). A visual art exhibition, this display features stories and personal items from 18 individuals – ZOUK, JUICE, :phunk, Tracy Philips, Kenny & Karen from Books Actually, etc – who have shaped the local art scene in one way or another.

And I am crazy about thrift shops. Reminds me of the little Nottings Hill markets and Brick Lane on weekend! Hippies dot the streets playing Beatles somethings with bright colours and a light spirit.

Can’t wait to bring you to Books Actually when you arrive, Irving…

I’m recently thinking of going into books on the jazz and beat generations…and actually starting on Jack Kerouac that Diego used to be so fond of.

They have a bookshop cat. One of my favourite things about the shop.

And on their facebook page, the facebook administrators are named as the bookshop lemur, the bookshop cat, bookshop hamster…I expect to meet all these exciting personalities.

Only problem, the books are always quite overpriced. And there are other ways to get them from Abebooks or Books Depository, which is what I do as I can be a Waiter (with my bow, heh). Problem is, when I do possess something, I never get round to reading it (thus the very precious collection on my shelf). I figured out its useful for when people ask me about what I will do on a desert island, one day if I retire after becoming a japanese violinist’s wife, if I am banished for comments about the state to a faroff place featured only in Joseph Conrad’s book, or simply if a kindred soul like Irving sits down to read with me.

The books not on my shelf (ie. shining and gleaming in Books Actually) always seem more tempting. But I only buy the books I know I will really, really love. Isn’t that a bit of a self contradiction? It is a bit like the way I fall in love with people/things who will never love me unconditionally back. Like my cat.

(photos all from Books Actually)

A flashback to the past…Books Actually’s old home at Club Street…

And its new roost! 


BooksActually (est. 2005) is an independent bookstore specialising in Literature. We publish and distribute books under Math Paper Press. We also hand-stitch notebooks and produce stationery under Birds & Co. BooksActually is now housed at a charming new location, in the heart of the country’s most beloved neighbourhood.

T h e  L A U N C H.
at № 9 Yong Siak Street,
in the heart of Tiong Bahru.

Operating Hours :
Weekdays  11am – 9pm
Saturday  10am – 9pm
Sunday  10am – 6pm

The Beat Generation
+ Jack Kerouac
+Allen Ginsberg
+ William S. Burroughs
+ Neal Cassady
The meowmies are named Cake and Pico. Darlings, I KNOW you both have read more books than I might have in my lifetime secretly at night. But I will keep it a secret just for you.
A shared with me the below link and told me that the girl really reminds him of me, haha!
One of my favourite scenes of all time. I picture my domestic life to be like that.
A Woman is A Woman (Une Femme est Une Femme) 

by Jean-Luc Godard
I also really want this book called The Flavour Thesaurus. So I can mess them up and confuse you, Irving.
When I was a child, I wanted to make my mother a Mothers Day lunch, but the only thing I could make at age 5 was instant noodles. So I made her a pack, added lots of soy sauce and little peanuts, and poked in several Christmas sugar canes (the red white ones) for good measure. I told her to lick the peppermint with every spoon of soup.
I will either be a very, very good wife or an extremely bad one. I don’t think I can ever stand to be banal.
But I hate rhubarb. Aargh!!

John Tiffany’s Radcliffe Fellow Proposal

John Tiffany, associate director of the National Scotland and Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute 2010-2011, explains his research proposal. Tiffany is studying voice and attempting to develop an authoritative method for using voice to represent identity within the theater.

“Finishing her first drink, Gloria got herself a second. After slipping on a negligee and making herself comfortable on the lounge, she became conscious that she was miserable and that the tears were rolling down her cheeks. She wondered if they were tears of self-pity, and tried resolutely not to cry, but this existence without hope, without happiness, oppressed her, and she kept shaking her head from side to side, her mouth drawn down tremulously in the corners, as though she were denying an assertion made by some one, somewhere. She did not know that this gesture of hers was years older than history, that, for a hundred generations of men, intolerable and persistent grief has offered that gesture, of denial, of protest, of bewilderment, to something more profound, more powerful than the God made in the image of man, and before which that God, did he exist, would be equally impotent. It is a truth set at the heart of tragedy that this force never explains, never answers—this force intangible as air, more definite than death.” – F.Scott Fitzgerald, Beautiful and the Damned