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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Chinese Singaporean Way Of Death, by Li Sian Goh, The Toast

There is a documentary called “Moving House” about an extended family in Singapore who exhumes the remains of their parents. These remains were cremated, then transplanted into a columbarium that housed over 65,000 funerary urns. In Singapore, this is unexceptional – land scarcity in one of the densest cities in the world has resulted in the government decree that all who are buried after death must be exhumed after 15 years and cremated. In order to save their children the trouble, my fathers’ parents were both cremated immediately after dying.

As with all cultures the world over, Chinese people have a particular way of communing with their dead. Adherents of Chinese folk religion practice ancestor worship, a term that is in a sense misleading. When my family and I light joss sticks, prepare food offerings, and burn paper gifts (mostly replicas of clothes, houses, and cars) for our ancestors in return for blessings such as wealth and good health, it has always seemed to me that what we do approaches worship not so much as it does a highly pragmatic, reciprocal relationship tempered by remembered bonds of love and affection.

How Shakespeare Lives Now, by Stephen Greenblatt, New York Review of Books

It is as if he were refusing to insist upon his own identity and proprietary claim. It goes without saying that Shakespeare was a genius who left his mark on everything he touched. But there is also a strange sense that his characters and plots seized upon him as much as he seized upon them.

The Case For Very Short Novels, by Cynan Jones, Publisher's Weekly

What a short novel asks is that you commit, in one sitting, the same amount of time to reading as you frequently commit to a film, or a football match. Make that commitment and, in many cases, the pay off outweighs the investment.

It's Love That's Important In 'The Truth About Death', by Heller Mcalpin, NPR

Two funeral directors, one American and the other Italian, get together in Rome and share undertaker stories. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but there's nothing funny about the situation in the title novella of Robert Hellenga's new book, which confronts death matter-of-factly.

What, Reserve A Table? Cubans Confront A New Dining Culture, by Michael Y. Park, New York Times

Cubans sometimes joke that of all the lessons living under three generations of communism has taught them, by far the most important is learning how to wait.

So it’s a little surprising that as capitalism creeps in — the introduction of private ownership has created a thriving restaurant scene — people here are discovering, to their dismay, that they need to book reservations to get into their favorite places for dinner.

The Dogs, by Sam Buchan-Watts