Thursday, February 8, 2018


Growing up is a necessary part of life. As we age, we evolve and devolve and the memory of how we were young once upon a time gradually fades away. If I were given a chance, I would like to be young again not for anything but just to feel that breath of simplicity, recklessness and optimism again. While we know what humanity is, we would become desensitized so as to remain spirited, open minded and non-judgmental. Being impartial and objective is a defining element of adulthood.  

Words like ‘pretence’,‘fraud’ and ‘corruption’ are no longer just part of our vocabulary but they are real and present in every aspect of our modern lives. We keep up the masquerade and wait for opportune moments as we become calculating and mull over each step we take as if we are moving around our pawns on a chessboard. In doing so, the things that we once believed in may take on a different light and as we move forward, the line between what is right and what is wrong has become unclear. 

I would like to quote this passage from Sweetbitter as the writer equates life to taste.

  'TASTE, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now your tongue is coded. A certain connoiseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet. '

Sweetbitter written by Stephanie Danler is a story about 22-year-old Tess who leaves home and lands a job at a renowned Union Square restaurant and she is hungry for food, wine, love and friendship. She is an English major and when she arrives in New York, she decides to leave her books behind and for the first time in her life, she is reading nothing.
            The novel is divided into four seasons and it begins with Summer. 

A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember. Where you assign words to the textures of taste. Eating becomes a discipline, language-obsessed. You will never simply eat food again.'

Under 'Spring', Ms Danler  begins,
‘ YOU WILL SEE it coming. Not you actually because you don’t see for yourself yet, everyone is busy seeing for you, days filled with unsolicited advice you don’t take and trite warnings you can’t hear and the whitewashing of all your excitement. Yes, they definitely saw it coming, exactly the way it came.
            When you’re older you will know that at some unconscious level not only did you see it coming, but you created it, in your own blind, stumbling way. You will console yourself with the fact that it wouldn’t have mattered, seeing it or not seeing it.You were a sponge for incident. Maybe everyone is when they’re young. They don’t remember, nobody remembers what it feels like to be so recklessly absorbent.
            When you can’t see in front of you  life is nothing but surprises. Looking back , there were truly so few of them. ‘
The prose is fast moving and the narration is smooth. The female characters are compelling as they have to navigate their way through the glitzy night life and the fast and chaotic beat and efficiency that a popular restaurant commands.The dialogues and narration about fine dining and wine are tantalizing. Ultimately the story is in essence about sensory awakening of the palate and the growth of Tess, a young woman from being shy, smiling too much, romantic and non-articulate to become a vocal and self- possessed person. Coming of age is definitely a sweetbitter journey for the twenty-two-year-old protagonist. Life can be brutally sweet. It was an education that they never taught you in school or varsity.

Ms Danler moved to New York in 2006. click She has gone through several restaurant jobs and earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing at the New School.Sweetbitter is her debut novel. There is a television drama series based on the book and it has caused some controversy as the  television critics had # MeToo on their minds. click

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Seasons

I  love going to a snowy place during Christmas. The snow falling is a fabulous sight and  it  makes the landscape incredibly picturesque. The  snow that has covered dark brown houses resemble layers of icing on top of chocolate cakes and fruitcakes.  Coming from a place where the year is only divided between dry and wet season, snow is an eye candy. I can imagine that it will cause some hardship for people who have to experience bitter cold winter year in year out. I savour every moment of it whenever I have the opportunity to experience a cold winter. 

Hakuba, Japan
In December, we were  in Hakuba for a few days. I was sitting in the chairlift with a skiing instructor, he kept saying that he was feeling very cold and how the temperature could have dropped several degrees the last half hour. He is from Brisbane ( that probably explains).While I enjoyed the wintery landscape, it was indeed freezing cold. I wore my woollen pants that provided the warmth that was much needed but I realized that I had worn a layer too many beneath my ski pants  and due to the cold, my boots had contracted and they were biting into my calves so much that  I ended up having the worst kind of blisters around my ankles. Despite all that , I still love the powdery snow, it is dreamlike.

Ali Smith intends to write a quartet of novels entitled Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. Winter is the second novel of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. Autumn click is the first in the series and Winter was published shortly after.  

In Winter, Art, a nature writer pays Lux, a foreign woman to impersonate his girlfriend, Charlotte for  a visit to his mother, Sophie in Cornwall during Christmas holidays. Iris, Sophie’s sister who is an activist shows up at the house uninvited. Unlike Sophie who is a businesswoman, Iris has been a protester all her life.
Smith is very brilliant in translating her philosophy set against Brexit in her fictions. She subtly covers Syrian refugee crisis, Libya and Trump’s administration in Winter.  Lux refers to Cymbeline written by William Shakespeare. 

 ‘Cymbeline, Lux says.
 A play about a divided kingdom subsumed in chaos, lies, power mongering, division and a great deal of poison and self- poisoning, his mother says.
   Where everybody is pretending to be someone or something else, Lux says. And you can’t see for the life of you how any of it will resolve in the end, because it’s such a tangled-up messed-up farce of a mess. It’s the first of his plays I read. It also happens to be why I ever wanted to come to this country to study. I read it and I thought, if this writer from this place  can make this mad and bitter mess into this graceful thing it is at the end, where the balance comes back and all the lies are revealed and all the losses are compensated, and that’s the place on earth he comes from ,that’s the place that made him, then that’s the place I’m going, I’ll go there , I’ll live there.

Art walks past the British Library and he sees an image of Shakespeare outside it on a poster.
    That’s why Lux chose to live here, her of all the places on the earth.’
Art approaches the librarian.
‘ Cymbeline, he says. The one about poison, mess, bitterness, ten the balance coming back. The lies revealed. The losses compensated.
She smiles.’

Ali Smith pays homage to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The world history is cyclical. There is no resolution and the world is unsettling and bleak just like winter and then spring will arrive. The world must feel hopeful again.