Noel wanted to go someplace fabulous and bleeding with local color, but I really am the most boring guest. I wanted to go to temple immediately, i.e. Kinokuniya. To my credit, I was in and out in just over an hour. I found:
– Sweet Caress, which is not a romance novel, and Armadillo by William Boyd, who creates characters I would like to meet. Any Human Heart is one of my favorite books. If you are glum and in despair over how you’ve spent your life, I recommend it highly.
– The Mark and the Void, a comedy about banking by Paul Murray, who wrote Skippy Dies.
– Public Library, short stories about libraries by Ali Smith, who is wonderful. I have two copies of How To Be Both and cannot bring myself to part with one.
– Suspended Sentences, three novels by Patrick Modiano. The French are allowed to publish very short novels. Reading Modiano teleports me to Paris, where one is happy being melancholy.
On the weekend I went to chapel, a shop in Tiong Bahru called Books Actually, which last time I was there was patrolled by a large cat. There are three cats now, they know they are crowd-drawers, and they barely deign to be patted.
In the day Noel went to the office while I wrote. At night we went out to dinner. In two days I finished my second draft, leaving the weekend free. If you have to write fast, I recommend getting out of Manila for a bit. Not entirely, because what would we have to write about?
I had told Noel that I wasn’t interested in seeing the sights, which of course did not stop him from producing lists of things to do and restaurants to try. It is hotter in Singapore than it is back home, but it is clean and orderly so at no time do you feel like you’ve been spritzed with eau de Pasig River. Also there are plenty of well-fed, glossy cats on the streets and in the shops. Could I live here? Probably not, but it makes a great contrast. We all need a little antiseptic sometimes.