Midnight’s Children

I finally finished Midnight’s Children! It was so long and tedious I actually feel accomplishment for having done it.

But now that I’ve finished it, I can’t even tell if I liked it or not. I hated the narrator and the style narration. I loathed it. And I think that was what Rushdie intended. I suppose it deserves its Booker Prize–even if you hate this book, I think you’ll see that you were meant to have hated it–its unlikeability stems not from being a poor piece of work, but being true to its subject matter. Even its rushed letdown of an ending seems oddly appropriate, since by that time you already know that Saleem can’t tell a story about visiting the toilet without hamming it up with a thousand other details.

I do regret not reading this before visiting India–I think it perfectly describes my ambivalence to the country. Also for the little bits of history sprinkled throughout that reading Wikipedia doesn’t quite convery.


Tribulations of a Chinaman in China

I’d like to read this book–Tribulations of a Chinaman in China by Jules Verne–but I can’t find an English version. My french isn’t good enough that I can understand anything beyond the first few sentences.

Why I want to read it? Because the Wikipedia article says the hero “rejects seppuku”, and I want to know if this was Jules Verne’s idea of China. The first recorded sighting of a seppuku by the West was only around 10 years ago, so the practice was probably making the rounds in a These-Chineseses-Are-Crazy fad, and I suppose Mr Verne might have just been trying to add some spice to an otherwise bland comedic farce.

(In case there are any non-Asian readers of this blog, I would just like to say that the Chinese do NOT commit seppuku.)

We The Living

Just finished We The Living by Ayn Rand. I have to admit I got started only because I thought it would be a deeply philosophical introduction to Objectivism, but I completed it only because it turned out to be a romance-novel-esque romp through Communist Russia.

Which was good, because I managed to finish it in three days instead of the weeks I usually take to finish anything with a philosophical bent to it.

Perhaps I’m a little desensitized to tragedy – the sufferings inflicted upon a bourgeoise family in Communist Russia didn’t seem much worse than the standard dished out to Taiwanese-drama-serial people-in-agony. Which I believe to be the result of the Chinese habit of glorifying suffering – a quick survey of the mando-pop songs in the market will reveal over 50% of them being about terrible relationship breakups inducing all manner of trauma and pain upon pitiful creatures.

I’d like to get my hands on something about the suffering suffered by the bourgeoise during China’s conversion to Communism. I vaguely remember watching a film about the Last Emporer, but all I remember of it was that it was very boring (I was very young), I needed to go pee halfway through it but there were no toilets within the cinema (I was very young, and Singapore’s cinemas weren’t quite as nice as they are now), and my father managed to coax me into peeing into a drink bottle, which he disposed of later in the rubbish (I was very young, cinemas weren’t very nice and I knew no shame back then).

The situation described of Russia in the late 1910s was so familiar I had to look up Animal Farm in Wikipedia to see if it was a critique of the Russian Revolution. And it turns out it is! Forgive me – I’m a Science major, we don’t learn these things in class.

On the other hand, I can still remember an algorithm for the conversion of Decimal to Binary – someone called me about it today and I actually remembered it off-the-bat, which leads me to wonder how much of my memory is occupied with these relatively useless algorithms.

Now to use that 40%-off voucher for Atlas Shrugged – hopefully it’ll be better.