For years, the 213-acre site was a destination for Halloween thrill seekers and bird watchers, a haven of green in an overcrowded land. But in recent years it has become something much more powerful: a pilgrimage site for Singaporeans trying to reconnect with their country’s vanishing past.
That has put Bukit Brown at the center of an important social movement in a country that has rarely tolerated community activism — a battle between the state, which plans to level part of the cemetery, and a group of citizens dedicated to its preservation.
Stepping onto the marinara-red carpet of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s north hall, I inhaled a whiff of baking dough and followed the call of a gentle legato tune. Past a towering display of insulated delivery bags, I found the music’s source: at the Stanislaus Food Products stall (“Home of the Real Italian Tomato Since 1942”), a guitar duo plucked and strummed a Neapolitan jingle by a low white fence. As the players painted the coda, I took a few steps backward. A woman from Tyson Foods patted my arm and said she wanted to show me how they are so much more than chicken. “Would you like to try our Hillshire Farm all-natural pepperoni?”
“I am a person who often chooses pain,” Gaitskill writes in one essay here. Yet an observer can’t help noticing that she has begun, for the first time, to smile in her dust jacket photographs.
What’s more, her most recent novel, “The Mare” (2015), was a tear-jerker at times, with an upbeat ending. Is American literature’s dark swan, its Odile, mellowing?
The news these essays bring is, I am happy to say, not at all. She continues to wield a remorseless little hammer.
In the opening chapter of his extraordinary and courageous book, the author and critic Ron Powers writes about a recurring dream in which he imagines his sanity as resting atop “a thin and fragile membrane that can easily be ripped open, plunging me into the abyss of madness, where I join the tumbling souls whose membranes have likewise been pierced over the ages.” The “horror and helplessness of the fall,” he goes on, “are intensified by an uncaring world.”
In “No One Cares About Crazy People,” he joins those tumbling souls, two of whom are his beloved schizophrenic sons. He writes with fierce hope and fierce purpose to persuade the world to pay attention.
I knew exactly why it wouldn’t work to write an essay explaining why it took me 15 years—or an exact third of my life—to complete my debut novel, Exes. Think of a map where 1 inch equals 1 inch. (“Take a left at last week, head to six months ago, and it’s just on your right, where 2004 used to be. You can’t miss it!”) Even so, I stared at a blank screen long enough for the sun to reach my side of the house and burn my left eye through the makeshift blinder of my cupped hand. (Do you start feeling glaucoma right away? Does it make your eye water and twitch?) But 15 years is a long time, and the imitative fallacy isn’t always that, plus I could’ve really used an account like this at some rocky point in year eight, say. Or seven. Six, or five even. Hell, at any point, really. Writers feel mostly alone and half-mad enough as it is, is all I’m saying.
One memorable challenge came when I was translating Lord Edgware Dies, which took me 10 years because of one almost impossible hurdle: a particular two-word clue, which to me felt inextricably bound to the English language. The words used in English sounded different in Icelandic, dissolving the clue entirely. In the end I resorted to simply referring to the English words as well, after trying dozens of alternative methods.