Saturday, June 18, 2011

Title-phobic Post

It was bound to happen at some point: Today I can't think of a straight-forward title so I've decided to go meta, hoping that it's straight-forward (and elsuive) in a different manner.

I'm spending my Saturday night in a busy soi (lane) tucked away from the much busier road which intersects the famed MBK supermall and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. On the other side of the glass, people dodge cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and the odd tiny cat to get to wherever they're going. I recognise a lot of the people in Soi Kasemsan, and they're all a little glum. Life is hectic and relentless, and through some laughter breaks up the tedium, people don't look too happy at the end of the day. This is Bangkok. I would prefer to be in Pai, ot at least Chiang Mai.

On a brighter note, this is a good way to get into 'holiday mode' - plenty of rest, the joys of delicious food in abundance, and a room of my own. It's a ridiculously liberating feeling to have a hotel room all to yourself - you can be who you want to be without worrying what the neighours will think of you in the long run, and while that doesn't mean I'm making a lot of noise, it does change my whole behaviour.

Two days ago I had the kind of massage that might pass for a light form of torture in a different context; a Thai man pinched, poked and slapped my neck, back and head for half an hour, and I have a bruise where he pinched too hard on my arm, quite unlovely. I do, however, feel very fetching, as I bought new eyeglasses, and have been getting appreciative looks from a few of the locals.

I'm developing a strong interest in the anti-psychiatry movement. Associated with Michel Foucault, R. D. Laing and somebody with the last name of Szasz, these series of discourses destabilise the notion of mental instability/illness. I don't want to say too much because I have a lot of reading to do before I feel confident enough to write a treatise on the subject, but shall we say that it's an unpopular movement which resonaets with me.

Over the last month or two I've been doing a considerable amount of reading:

In Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, he takes the concept of a city, turns it on its head, contemplates the highs and lows of all possible scenarios, and explores the evolution or entropy of the city-world over time. Perhaps the most compelling sections of the narrative are the ones when Marco Polo breaks up his story-telling to a non-European king and explores the subjectivity of his oral texts. Perhaps it was because the pace of the book wasn't what I wanted to read, I found that the book lacked passion. A very reflective piece that dwells at lenght on details, and asks you to scoop up the words that lace the lines and inspect each of them as jewels. Perhaps, in my busy modern life, I am out of practice of savouring language so deeply. Perhaps I am even spiritually out of touch. I do remember that Calvino was a misogynist - his representations of women were rarely more complex than a fulfillment of an object for male desire. He's a male writer who writes for men, no matter how gifted he is as a narrator.

In Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled, magic realism is the rule and an assembly of stories from around the world (Tokyo, Delhi, Istanbul, Germany, Poland, London, New York City, Paris, Shenzhen and more) makes his tale of plane passangers stranded in an airport strangely memorable. A typical Scorpio, the author repeatedly delves into death, birth, sex and rebirth. There's an element of the disturbing in most stories, but at their best they delighted me and left me in admiration of Rana's imagination.

I'm going to have to leave it here for now... hope you're well! :o)

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