Since I am feeling lazy, this will be structured according to whatever comes to mind first.
Byatt's The Game was very disappointing. Not only did the blurb completely oversell the plot (which is not her fault, but still), but the entire story was rather uneventful. Pretty much nothing happens for half the novel, then things start happening towards the end, but the action is interspersed with long, boring scenes that are redundant and dull. One of the two main characters (Julia?) is also quite annoying. That said, it's very well-written and I especially liked Cassandra (is that her name anyway?) and her unrealistic fantasies, and her living in those fantasies and keeping reality at bay. I feel like that sometimes, like the stories that I concoct in my head are more meaningful and interesting and palatable and thus real than what really happens in reality. Maybe that is the root of all my problems - my unrealistic expectations, these expectations that expect real life to match up to the stuff of my imagination. I know this; Mag told me this today; but I still can't let go.
I wonder if reading hasn't been too good for me. Julian Barnes says, 'Whereas the novel tells the beautiful, shapely lies which enclose hard, exact truth.' But novels also dramatise, fantasise, make possible the impossible, provide an escape into an alternate reality where emotions are intense, things feel life-changing, important, serious. How often is life like that? When do we ever fatefully run into a long lost lover that has never quite left our minds on the streets or in a cafe or when transiting a busy MRT station? Perhaps the true cause of my perpetual discontent (sometimes subtle, sometimes bubbling over the surface, sometimes engulfing) with life is that I keep expecting life to be as serious as the books that I read; but it's just somewhat trivial, the day-to-day mundaneness, interactions with people that barely scratch the surface. I seek a connection with someone else, the penetrating sort, because in my mind, that has the seriousness that I have read about. But does it really exist? (It kind of did with G. But what does that even mean?)
Perhaps reading all these novels throughout the course of my life has created these unrealistic expectations, fuelling and enabling my penchant for escaping into a fantasy world. Of course I am disappointed by real life. It seems a necessary consequence, being disappointed by that from which I feel the urge to escape. The disappointment follows from the need to escape. When will reality ever be good enough?
Anyway, that was a huge digression from what I wanted to say, which is that I am reading D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and I just cannot believe how tedious a book about sex can be. I guess the sex scenes are sexy, kind of, but just yesterday I laughed silently to myself while reading it in a cafe because some of the sex scenes are just so over-the-top, almost purple. He even goes so far as to write about the man's pubic hair and how the lovers weave flowers into each other's pubic hair. What the hell?
Sometimes I read these classics and I find them overrated and tedious and laborious. This particular one is not difficult to read at all; it's just too long, with scenes that are there clearly because Lawrene wanted to make a political statement. I find it really tedious when novels contain characters that are clearly - CLEARLY - vehicles for the author's political viewpoints. Clifford, for instance. He is simply representative of Lawrence's dislike for upper class snobbery. How convenient, too, that the cripple to whom Lady Chatterley is married is a thoroughly awful person. Wouldn't it be more interesting if Clifford were more nuanced, i.e. an actual three-dimensional human being, instead of an effigy of upper class society? It would be more interesting in the sense that Constance would have a real dilemma: should she cheat on her husband, who is loving and kind but paralysed from the waist down and hence can't fuck her, to satisfy her sexual needs?
Of course, it is interesting to read about the class struggles in English society. I wonder if much has changed in the last century since the book was written. Anyway, I am almost done with it; I can't wait to find out what happens in the end.
I was in Taipei for a week, from 30 December 2016 to 5 January 2017, to visit my grandparents.
I think it is safe to say that my love affair with Taipei is officially over. The city is ugly, the air is polluted, there is a constant buzzing of motorbikes which crushes the soul. There is a stench from the sewers that lingers in the air. I used to like that I could walk out of the apartment and be greeted with rows and rows of shops, but I realise now that the price of that convenience is this incessant hustling and bustling, this thin separation between your private life and the public, this infiltration of the outside into the small parcel of space that is yours. Perhaps this is what it means to age; this need, sometimes, for some peace and quiet, away from the constantly-moving city. But I think of the places that I lived in London: Old Street, Edgware Road, in the very centre of London, and I never felt this sense of oppression from the city that I did in Taipei. In Taipei, I step out of the apartment and I'm on the main street, and I hear the motorbikes zooming by and maybe my mind is playing tricks on me, but the air feels more stifling, less fresh, and I can't help but wonder, what kind of quality of life is this? And yet, I lived along Edgware Road in London a few years ago, right along the main road, and yet, I didn't feel the same way. Is London less polluted than Taipei? I highly doubt that. But I think the absence of these contingents of motorbikes really make a difference, as does the fact that London is simply prettier than Taipei. I find something depressing about these dilapidated-looking buildings, grey and old and grimy, as if crumbling, that people actually live in. I find it really uninspiring, too, these high rise buildings with tinted reflective windows, constructed with some kind of brown or grey material that is austere, functional, unimaginative, uninspiring. Even the food that I used to like has stopped tasting as good. (For example, I can make better liangmian than what I bought.)
I was also unlucky enough to randomly catch a virus while outside, which saw me taking a taxi home with mom from an Australian cafe in Xinyi somewhere and abandoning our plans to go to Eslite. My grandparents were convinced that it was because I went out of the house in a short skirt and a sleeveless top and caught a cold; but how does one catch a cold when it's 25 degrees outside? This Taiwanese winter was really weird and unusually warm, and so I dressed like I would for English summer. My grandparents really drove me crazy with their nagging all the time about what I wore. And I almost wanted to leave early after I went to the doctor and was told to rest more; the thought of being cooped up all the time in the apartment, which is basically a place where family members store things that they don't want, was oppressive and shitty.
The doctor, too...oh my. He was the grumpiest and most unfriendly and rude doctor I've ever seen. The less said about him, the better.
I have lost interest in this entry.