Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Thorn of Lion City

Reading Lucy Lum's memoir The Thorn of Lion City is not exactly pleasant, though the book is pretty well-written.  The fact is, the time represented in the book just wasn't pleasant in Asia, and so reading about it can be pretty uncomfortable.

However, very little of Lum's account of WWII Singapore has to do with the Japanese occupation, to be honest.  The Japanese do appear now and again as the "bad guys," but overall the Japanese occupation is pretty much just the background for the horror that Lum did know in her childhood — the horror of being abused by her mother and grandmother.  Those two actually make the Japanese soldiers look docile and almost kind by comparison.

Stories such as these are never fun to read in the sense that an "escape novel" is — they, instead, depict things even more horrible than those we often hope to escape from in the first place.  That doesn't mean that they should be avoided though.  There is certainly some value in reading books that turn the stomach a little, if for no other reason than for the fact that they remind us that (at least most of us) don't have it so bad after all.  They can make us grateful for things we often take for granted.  And they can give us a picture of the sort of mental toughness required to handle the worst sorts of things that life can throw at us.

At least, that's why I return to books like Lum's — along with the fact that I like reading any depiction of my chosen home(s) that I can.  I can't say I exactly like reading books about common folks during the war, but I do find them useful for these and other reasons.  This is one of several memoirs on my Fill in the Gaps list, and I suspect the others aren't necessarily going to be easier to read than Lum's.  I'll probably put off reading the others for a while, just to get a bit of a breather before encountering another disturbing piece.  But I'll get around to them... eventually.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Um... I doubt that

I have to acknowledge myself as someone who thinks that former Singaporean Prime Ministers (not a long list there...) can be pretty bold in their public statements — sometimes overly so.  Still, I am pretty sure that the lines attributed to a former Singaporean Prime Minister in this video must have been said by someone else, if they were said at all.  Given the recent death of Madame  Lee (the first prime minister's wife) after suffering from a series of strokes, I doubt that any high-ranking Singaporean would have been so insensitive as to have said this.

Just another reason to shake my head at the irresponsibility of the media.

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