In the summer of 2014 I travelled with Mashiat Rabbani and Jeffrey Wong to Dunedin, New Zealand for what would be a mostly unremarkable debate tournament. We didn't come first and we didn't end up last. A day of rest was scheduled mid-way through the competition, and as our team would proceed no further, we had the luxury to do whatever we wanted. Mashiat said she wanted to hike up to Larnach Castle, on a mountainside overlooking the city, and I agreed to go with her.
On the first days of 2017 I was alone in a cabin in upstate New York trying my hardest to write. I had not yet disabused myself of the Walden fantasy, and I wanted a quiet place where I could see stars. The sun rose at seven and set at five: I took short excursions in the morning, and in the afternoon I would lie on my back, peering out the window at an odd angle, and read. My retreat was meant to last five days. I made generous estimates for food and drink, and most of the time I wanted for nothing. Much to my disappointment the neighbourhood was not deserted; many had put up “no trespassing” signs, and although I didn’t see anybody I felt cheated of my solitude. It occurred to me that I had perhaps not paid enough. What I wanted in truth was some sort of secluded mountain temple, and to be fair, if I owned one I wouldn’t put it up for rent.
Xu Xi, Dear Hong Kong (Penguin, 2017), 144pp.
As I was reading Xu Xi’s latest book, Dear Hong Kong, I recalled an episode from my youth. When I was in primary two, about eight years old, I was introduced to a group of children two years my senior. They were by a large margin the best kids in my school, and my mother had hoped I would tag along and learn something. The best among that circle was John, obviously, since he was perfect. When he graduated primary school, his mother sent him to Dulwich.
In the line-up for this year's Art Basel, nothing is more provocative—and downright subversive—than a mixed-media collage by newcomer Justin Bergman titled “Beyond Art Basel: a Guide for Wanderers.”
A month ago I went to a flamenco performance in New York knowing nothing about anything. It was after Christmas and not a lot was happening dance-wise, but I trawled the listings on NYT and there was a reference to Noche Flamenca. They were doing a piece called “La Ronde” and another called “Creación.”