Umami Mart

It’s been a while, right? It doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating. At the end of last year, I did a runner for my birthday and flew to Perth with my friends and stopped in Hong Kong on the way back. It was 3 days of eating and sightseeing and boy did we manage to eat lots and lots of incredible Chinese food. And we insisted on only Chinese food. And we started with Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred dim sum joint where you have to queue with the locals and there is no special treatment. But it is SO worth it. Check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I finally finished parts 1 & 2 of Haruki Murakami’s chunkster, 1Q84. I’ll review it once I finish part 3 which I am dying to read. It’s proving to be one of my favourite Murakami novels at the moment. I’m currently trying to finish Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, my pick for this month’s book group which I can only describe as different.

Upcoming is a brand new literary festival hosted by Daunt Books, details here, on March 27th and 28th. Some quality sessions including one to celebrate Virago Modern Classics. Deborah Levy will be there and they will be discussing Barbara Comyns, one of my favourite authors! So do put it in your diaries. I recently swung by Daunt Books in Marylebone and got myself one of their canvas bags in navy and a copy of Sisters By A River.

I’m so glad that Virago is bringing Comyns back into print. I wouldn’t have discovered her if not for Simon T kindly sending me an out of print copy of Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which was magnificent. More people need to read her!

Sisters By A River

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

20 August, 2013

Umami Mart

It’s been a while hasn’t it? But it doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating! On a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, I ate a lot of things in an incredibly short space of time. Check out the first in a series of posts on KL for Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish starting with Bah Kut Teh. Don’t know what it is? Then go and check me out!

In bookish news, I read quite a few books on holiday, mostly mysteries which was exactly what I needed. I finally finished the 5th book in the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, Dark Road to Darjeeling. I also began reading Ben Aaronovich’s urban mysteries featuring PC Peter Grant, Rivers of London, which lived up to all the hype and I went straight on to the second and third volumes once I got home. And I took my hardback copy of Michelle de Kretser’s Questions of Time all the way to Sri Lanka and Malaysia only to finish it once I got back to London. Don’t get me wrong, it’s exquisite but not one you want to read when you are in a hurry. And because de Kretser is such a fine writer, I dug out my copy of her first novel, The Rose Grower, and have just started it.

I only brought back a few books this time.

SL 2013 books

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
by Nayomi Munaweera which I actually got last November but didn’t manage to write about. This first novel has been garnering a lot of attention.

Doomsday by Mahasara Gunaratne, a whodunnit featuring Uncle Arthur set in early 20th century Ceylon. I’m thinking a Sri Lankan Agatha Christie, perhaps? Apparently it’s a series but I was unable to find the first volume. Can’t wait to tuck in.

And Shyam Selvadurai’s new novel, The Hungry Ghosts which I cannot wait to start.

Ghost Town

Rinder himself came of immigrant stock. He had clawed his way into society, had become a partner in the House of van Horn, had married into the family – all good reasons why others must be prevented from doing the same.

I get all excited about finding books to read whenever I plan a holiday just so’s I can immerse myself in the culture and history of the place I’m visiting . But my trip to New York was way too short and I only managed to read 1.5 books. Patrick McGrath’s Ghost Town: Tales of Manhattan Then and Now was a recommendation on Kim’s blog and was appropriate as I spent 4 days in Manhattan with no time to explore the other boroughs of NYC.

Ghost Town is a collection of three stories stretching from the American War of Independence to New York’s rising economic boom in the 19th century to the aftermath of 9/11.

The Year of the Gibbet
is a son’s lament on the downfall of his mother’s revolutionary activities in which he tries to expunge his guilt 50 years later. There is an immediacy to McGrath’s tale, as the British army advances on Manhattan, burning everything in sight, the locals struggling to cope with death and overcrowding, helping each other and covertly assisting General Washington’s troops. Edmund’s mother is a strong, patriotic woman intent on keeping her family together and fighting the British. Set at a turning point in New York’s history, McGrath manages to keep this story visual and lyrical.

In Julius we encounter Noah van Horn as he facilitates his social mobility by building a house on prime Manhattan property. The much longed-for birth of his son Julius is tempered by the tragic death of his wife and the little boy is brought up severely by his father only cushioned occasionally by his three older sisters. This reminded me most of Edith Wharton’s New York. The middle class riding the crest of the industrialist wave, the establishment of founding families in one generation, New York was the the place to be if you wanted to marry up and become grand. Julius is the naïve rich boy living in a bubble when he falls inappropriately in love with Annie Kelly, an artist’s model. When his brother-in-law Max Rinder offers to help Noah, Julius’ mind cracks and he spends the next 20 years in a mental institution. It’s a bittersweet and haunting tale, the presence of prejudice and social ambition just lurking under the surface. This is probably my favourite of the three stories.

In Ground Zero, a psychiatrist treats a patient who is having trouble connecting with the opposite sex and falls for an escort. 9/11 looms large in the background as the characters try to move on with their lives, all the while trying to come to terms with what happened that day in their city and shattered so many lives. This was more Sex and the City albeit with some deeper themes, especially the notion of forgiveness, the capacity to hurt one another and the unreliability of people’s narratives.

I was expecting McGrath’s writing to be gritty (for no reason except that somehow I associate Manhattan with grittiness) and was surprised by the gentleness of his prose as I was by the physical ease and convenience of Manhattan itself when I visited. The stories aren’t too heavy even though some of the thematic strands are dark. What remains after finishing Ghost Town is a sense of nostalgia regarding Manhattan’s history and the love of the place felt by its inhabitants.

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

19 March, 2013

I delve into the London Ramen Wars again with a review of Tonkotsu in Soho. Have I converted you into a noodle slurper yet? Check me out at Umamimart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I recently acquired the following books. It’s been a while since I’ve done a drool worthy post which doesn’t mean that I haven’t been buying books. If only I had some self control. Le sigh.

These were kindly sent to me by publishers or bought by me:

Books March 1

These are from the library plus 2 Japanese manga:

Books March 2

And this one I liberated from my sister’s house to re-read:

Books March 3

I’ve also been reading a couple of books set in New York because I will be flying out to the Big Apple in a couple of days with my sister to see my friends and experience what to many is their favourite American city. I’ve finished Patrick McGrath’s Ghost Town and am now reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both of which were recommended on Kim’s blog. No doubt I will find some books when I get there. I’m planning on visiting The Strand Bookshop and, because I’m half-Japanese, Kinokuniya (who can resist?) Any other recs?

Hello there. How are you?

I seem to have missed chatting with you all as the end of 2011 gathered speed and bulldozed all my me-time in a swirl of get-togethers, cocktails and lots and lots of comestibles. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t say no.

I’ll soon be off on my yearly trip to Sri Lanka and will be checking out the Galle Literary Festival again. This time, I have done NO preparation for the festival and will be going with the flow. I think this may be how 2012 will be for me. More chillin’, less frettin’.

I am, however, looking forward to seeing Katie Kitamura talk about her novel The Longshot. I got a copy for my brother-in-law who has given it a big thumbs up as an avid fan and practitioner of MMA himself. I will, of course, be borrowing the book from him once he’s finished, hehe. Juliet Nicholson will also be there to talk about The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War – a favourite historical period of mine. Richard Dawkins, John Boyne and D.J. Taylor will also be there. And I’m excited to seek more new Sri Lankan authors such as Randy Boyagoda and Roshi Fernando who will be talking about Sri Lankan writing in the diaspora. And this time, I’ll hopefully find out more about Sri Lankans writing in Sri Lanka. As usual, there will be panel discussions on literature, politics and war (as Sri Lanka recovers from its 30 year internal conflict) and documentaries about life in the north and the history of Dutch burghers. Lots of interesting stuff to look forward to.

I’ve got myself a brand new spanking phone and hopefully will be able to twitter about the GLF if I can find free wi-fi.

And that’s not all. I’ll be taking a short trip to Bangkok where I’ll be stuffing my face with all sorts of Thai delights! That’s what my family do, you see. We travel to eat. Sticky rice and mango, here I come! And of course, pop into Kinokuniya to stock up on some Japanese books.

So I will leave you with a tentative list of books I’m planning to bung into my suitcase:

Dust of Dreams (Malazan 8) by Steven Erikson
Clash of Kings (Song of Ice and Fire 2) by George R.R. Martin
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – as I doubt I’ll finish it before I go
Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka – What? I still haven’t read this?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – if it doesn’t push my suitcase over the weight limit
And a couple of mysteries I haven’t decided upon yet.

So what are you all up to? Any plans for the new year? Or is there a book I absolutely must take with me on holiday? Come on, spill!

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a series of vignettes written between 1957 and 1960 just before Hemingway’s death about his life in early 1920s Paris when he was still an impoverished and struggling writer.

My father read this last year when we visited Paris and kept raving on about it, so this year I decided to crack it open as we were visiting the French capital again. Don’t you feel like reading up about a place you’re going to visit? I always get the urge. Usually I’m all over the existentialists, but this year, we walked in the footsteps of Hemingway, even staying in a hotel on rue Vaugirard which goes all the way to the Luxembourg Gardens where Hemingway used to walk. The only place we didn’t visit was his local bar Closerie de Lilas (which my father managed to find after I’d already returned to London. Well done, Dad!)

Hemingway talks about the mechanics of writing, his daily rituals, how he and his first wife, Hadley, celebrated when he finished a story, betting on horses to make money for holidays, what they ate, drank and what was most interesting to me, was his friendships with other writers. There was Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein who he later fell out with (but she fell out with almost everyone), Ford Maddox Ford and of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald. In some ways it’s a romantic idea of a writer’s vision of Paris in the 1920s, and you begin to wonder how much of Hemingway’s recollection is remembered through rum-filled glasses, as he wrote A Moveable Feast almost 40 years after the events and just before his death.

Sylvia Beach and her bookshop, the original Shakespeare & Company where James Joyce used to frequent, then situated in the rue de L’Odeon, played an important part in young Hemingway’s life. I hadn’t realised that Beach’s bookshop was also a lending library and it was lovely to read how she would lend him books even though he didn’t have the money to pay. You get the feeling that the writers all supported each other because they knew how important books were.

I think what surprised me most about this collection was how romantic Hemingway came across. His softness and love of Hadley was surprising to me.

I really enjoyed this collection and recommend it to anyone who is going to visit Paris. It will give you a new perspective of the writer and the city. So of course now I have to get my mitts on The Paris Wife by Paul McLain about Hadley, Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s first novel, and The Garden of Eden based on the breakup of his first marriage, just so I can steep myself further in the legend of Papa.

Also, Dolce Bellezza and A Book Sanctuary are doing a readalong this month, so if you are thinking of picking up A Moveable Feast, why not join them?

is all about Paris today. So check me out at Umamimart: Slightly Peckish!

The weekend before last my family and I made a flying visit to Paris. As we were travelling with my sister’s family, this time including my two little nephews, we did a lot more touristy things such as visit the Notre Dame and climb the Eiffel Tower. Even my brother-in-law who suffers from vertigo. Respect, ‘coz the lift kept climbing and climbing and it was a pretty gusty day. We also didn’t need to queue or pay at the Musée d’Orsay which we visited after a lovely dinner because luckily for us May 14th was La Nuit de Musée where lots of museums and galleries open their doors until the wee hours for free. I hadn’t been to the Orsay in 20 years and it was a revelation to see so many beautiful paintings by the Impressionists. I even rediscovered my favourite painting by Maurice Denis which I had copied for my grandmother as a kid. I had always wrongly assumed it was by Degas, so was flabbergasted. It was so beautiful.

And of course we hung out in our favourite square in St. Germain des Prés:

And I came back with these goodies:

And talking about everything French, BookBath and Thyme for Tea are hosting Paris in July again. I’m in. Are you?

Also, to celebrate the publication of her new book, London Walks!, badaude will be doing signings and talks and even a walk so do check her out. I’m really excited about this book!

On a slightly different note, Kals who blogs at At Pemberley has started a fascinating project, A Passage to the British Raj, on the impact of the British Raj and the East India Company on India, it’s subsequent independence and Partition. So do go and check it out!