Road Dahl Ten Short Story


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If I want to write short stories, I should read more of them, and who better to teach me than the master himself, Roald Dahl. I have a Roald Dahl Omnibus of short stories but reading that requires more arm strength than my arm balancing poses for the dictionary-sized thickness. Then I found this copy – probably from one of my sons’ school literature text, which is just short and nice.

I like Roald Dahl’s short stories for their plots and very clever and neat, if not, brutal ending. He has no qualm with killing of his protagonists, like in Dip in the Pool, where Mr Botibol loses his savings in a cruise’s pool draw and plans to sabotage the results, alas with unfortunate result; or in The Way Up to Heaven, where a hateful husband persistent in torturing his ever punctual wife by purposefully making her late.

I also gasped with pity when I read how an expensive antique gets destroyed when a con man who thought he has secured a profit for it in Parson’s Pleasure.

Interestingly, I noted that Mr Botibol is the title of another amusing story – same name but different character. This just goes to show that sometimes, even a famous author has trouble choosing a protagonist’s name, but I can’t fault him seeing how many stories he had written.

The stories are simple yet clever, with a twist, but never pretentious. The characters are ordinary, even dowdy, but so real. This reader can’t help but cheer for the justice melted in the end. I have continued to another book of short stories by a local author, which at the end of the story, I went, huh? Yet this book was shortlisted for Singapore Literature Prize. I guess literary short fiction is not the right genre for me.

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Taking Pictures by Anne Enright


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This is a collection of nineteen short stories, some of which I really like, but there are a couple of which I just didn’t get it, like the story Taking Pictures which graced the title of the book. I like that this Irish writer, winner of The Man Booker Prize 2007. She writes simply and I didn’t have to keep referring to my phone for the dictionary, which is kind of distracting since I end up doing other things with my phone.

I like that this writer experiments with different POVs, and the protagonists consist of males and females of different ages and backgrounds. A facilitator at a writer’s workshop once said, the first story a writer writes is mainly through experience, and subsequently, stories are written through empathy. Anne Enright proves just that. From reading this book, you wouldn’t be able to get a sense of the writer’s bio, not her age nor her background, for her protagonists do not provide any clues.

I bought this book a decade ago when Borders Singapore was still in business and had probably started it many times but did not manage to continue, for the first story did not draw me in. So this time, I started with the second story and then skipped around, without following the sequence, before finally finishing the book. I thoroughly enjoyed In the Bed Department, a story about a middle-aged bed saleswoman who has a one night stand who discovers she is pregnant at a late age. Another story I like is Honey, about a woman who is attracted to her boss and is invited to a working trip with him and is sure, or so she hopes that something will happen. There is this awkwardness of who should make the first move, how often they do it, etc. The writer has managed the inner confllict perfectly.

The problem with short stories is that the ending is often inconclusive, and you are left pondering, which is rather unsatisfying, yet this is apparently what many editors like, a hanging ending, which is unlike the way Roald Dahl writes his short stories, very neat and complete.

Now as a novice writer to short stories, I am left wondering how I should go about with my endings.

 

 

 

 

 

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Down


when once I love rainy afternoons

for the cool misty shroud in which I could imagine

stories and words and metaphors

to ply the journey of my dream

why then does this afternoon seem gray and

dreary

a downward spiral of drips from my heart to my feet

where once the path ahead looks straight and clear

well-paved with sign posts to guide my route

with directions to take charge of my life for once

and go where few have trod

why then does it now seem fraught with uncertainties and

doubts

the confidence lost in this meander with no destination in sight

at this start of a steep learning curve

am I not prepared

that

to climb and concur every peak of euphoria

to also have  moments that dwell in valleys of struggles

like the emotive highs and lows of an addictive drug

that brings me days to rejoice and days of

disappointments

today is but one of many downs yet to come

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Tze char with Karaoke 


You probably would never hear of this kopitiam unless you work in the surrounding industrial estate,  or someone brought you here.  My husband was taken here for lunch for the Hong Kong roasted meat here is cheap and good. He brought me and we discovered that there is a tze char restaurant which opens on weekends. The car park is convenient and perfect for rainy weather. 

The first time I came on a Sunday,  I was more interested in the karaoke than the food. The aunty DJ informed us that karaoke on Sundays and Wednesdays are free and costs $5 for two songs on other days. There were not many people at 6.30pm and I gamely when up to serenade to the mostly middle-aged audience there. The regulars, some who were quite good, even brought their own dics and sang mostly oldies and hokkien songs. 

I like the atmosphere – non pretentious and friendly. I could even sing with a babe in hand and still received applause. 

What we really like though,  is the tze char which is delicious and very reasonably priced. 

The curry fish head comes with fresh red snapper ($22) which is cooked just right that even my seven year-old nephew asked for seconds. 

Another good choice is the fried eggplant with floss. ($10). I like the combination of crispy yet soft eggplant with floss.

We tried two different omelettes during the two visits – oyster and bitter gourd.  The oyster omelette ($8) is more worth the price although I like the bitter gourd for the lightness of the dish. 

On our previous visit,  we ordered my son’s favorite claypot tofu,  and it didn’t disappoint. 

For the kids,  we ordered sweet and sour pork ($10) and stirred fried broccoli ($8) in small portion but they came in bigger portion than other restaurants. 

I wanted the sambal patai beans with sotong ($12) which went really well with rice. 

Most of the dishes average $10 for small size but the portion is enough to feed four, which is really reasonable compared to HDB kopitiam tze char restaurants. Plus,  you get free entertainment. 😀

I want to go  there to try their seafood next. 

Address : Bukit Batok Village Seafood , no 2 Bukit Batok St 24, #09-18 Skytech Building,  Singapore 659480. Tel: 87178755/97382826

Posted in Food and drink, Singapore | 2 Comments

Silk Carnations 


It’s was Mother’s Day yesterday.  My phone vibrated non-stop since early morning – girlfriends were sending me Mother’s Day messages, with photos of flowers and the joy of motherhood.  My second son sent a disappearing instagram message from Iceland which disappeared before I even knew what was going on. He’s away and I am glad he thought of me. 

A friend posted on Facebook that she already had the best Mother’s Day gift: her children are healthy and happy.  Another declared she doesn’t want any flowers nor cakes, just kind children.  I salute them for being so unconditional with their maternal love. I wish I m like them. 

This morning, day after Mother’s Day, I found three stalks of silk carnations strewn on the dining table,  the same stalks I’ve seen sticking out of my youngest son’s school bag. Since he had wished me verbally yesterday morning,  I had assumed the flowers were meant for someone else. So when he came down for breakfast this morning,  I asked what are those flowers.  For many times,  I find discarded stuff from my children on the dining table,  waiting for me to either keep,  dispose,  or recycle. He said in the usual flippant manner that they were for me. And no, they were neither presented to me nor handed over despite being a day late.  If you are not a mother, then imagine seeing roses on the dining table after Valentine’s Day while your lover has his breakfast and replies that the roses are for you,  only he forgot to give you for Valentine’s. 

My first thought was that he wanted me to dispose or recycle the flowers, and I didn’t want them.  To know that they’re for me made me weep with sadness.  It made my motherhood so pathetic. 

My classmate-chatgroup have deemed me ungrateful,  for many mothers don’t even get any acknowledgement. They want me to see how blessed I am, late or otherwise. 

I am still navigating the misty path of gratitude ahead, trying to hold on to my stalks of silk carnations. 

Posted in Me! | 6 Comments

The woman in the mirror 


The way her shoulders hunch up to her ears

Countering a noticeable weight bearing down

Like she’s stuck in an eighties Dallas fashion rut

With shoulder pads beneath an invincible jacket

Which is ironic 

Shouldn’t the burden weigh you down

Reflected in a dejected downward slump 

Like the sliding droop lines of her mouth 

Parentheses of her unhappiness 

Those crow feet around her eyes

Once crinkled by a smile 

Now permanently edged as doddling lines

A continuation from her forehead frown

She wonders 

Who  is this woman in the mirror?

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Enduring Love – Ian McEwan


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My lecturer Darryl read the first chapter of this book to us and it was the most captivating chapter of any book I have heard read, partly because Darryl is such a good reading orator. He once read my essay aloud and made it sound like it was written by a famous author instead of me. Still, credit must be given for the vivid opening chapter of this book, where the scene is so richly described, the moral dilemma so real, one can’t put the book down until the chapter is finished.

Joe and Clarissa are in the middle of a field having a picnic when they spotted a hot-air balloon in trouble. A man is entangled in the rope while trying to land the balloon, with his grandson calling for help in the basket. Four different men, including Joe, rush to help and each manage to hold on to a rope on all sides but a strong gust of wind blow them up. If all were to continue holding on, they might just manage to get the balloon down when the wind dies. But one man lets go and the balloon drifts higher. What do you do if you are hanging on one of the rope and the balloon is drifting higher?

All other three men let go just in time, with bruises and broken bones, except one, who eventually falls to his death.

An inquest to the accident is held but don’t expect much about the accident to follow, for the book veers off tangent and instead focuses on de Clerembault’s syndrome (an appendix at the end of the book explains it if you want to learn more), when one of the men, Jed Perry, thinks himself in love with Joe and stalks him. The story becomes more bizarre as Clarissa does not believe Joe and thinks him paranoid. Joe somehow knows Jed will kill him and a chapter is dedicated to him going to buy a gun.

Ian McEwan is very detailed in his description and you can visualize his description clearly, whether it is a fight, an assassination attempt, or a description about his toiletry, where after the purchase of his gun, he goes to defecate in a field. I did wonder what has that got to do with the story. It’s like the writer just wanted to put it in just so because he could describe it so well.

Like I said, the story is simply bizarre. Read to learn from his beautiful prose instead, which if you like action scenes, would slow you down to a drag. But since I was reading the book like a writing student, I savor every word and sentence of his.

 

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