Heart of the Matter

To the Bibliophile, if you wanted your book cravings satisfied, you’d go down to Kinokuniya in town. Soft-eyed, you would wander down the organized aisles and glance at the books by the hundreds. It is quite the dreamy pasture.

bookshop2.jpgIf however, you wanted to leave a bookshop red-eyed, and wanted books glistening and brimmingly full, (and I don’t just mean being saturated by the truckful or the plane-load, but a continent, a calvacade of books) you would head to Foyles at Charing Cross in London. Which is exactly what I did. I mean I splurged before on books, but this was ridiculous. Loving books but also aware that I don’t command a 5-figure salary, I knew I was in trouble when my friend casually quipped:

“Oh did you know Foyles claims to have every book published?”
“It’s just a claim. Hmmpf…”

I kept silent when I saw the building directory. I cannot shape the magnitude, the inchoateness, the abundance and absolute all-inclusiveness of Foyles, with enough superlatives. It really is a gem of a place.

This is a very bad place to be in, Cohen” I muttered despondently. I kept to my resolve and concentrated on the areas of interest for the fastest half-hour of my life. Literary Biographies. Check. Poetry. Check. Lesbian Studies?! Wondering how this topic became sui generis I had to investigate, however nonchalantly I tried to appear in a crowded London bookshop.

Back in Singapore, I’ve had time to ponder this: why Lesbian or gay studies for that matter? And why five shelves dedicated to this topic? Passionate love or whatever its variant, it has been suggested, requires taboos, obstacles and barriers; so that the great love stories naturally dwell on frustrated yearnings and clandestine embraces rather than contented fulfillment. Why be artificial like the Admiral and Mrs Croft in Persuasion when you can suffer so deliciously with Tristan and Isolde, or Paolo and Francesca in the third circle of Hell? “My spine tingles with little white flames…

And writing about homosexuals now, and the kind of futility or impossibility of desire that is associated in their context, I’m always awed to recall Rupert Halselden’s words in the left/liberal newspaper The Guardian:

There is an inbuilt fatalism to being gay. Biologically maladaptive, unable to reproduce, our futures are limited to individual existence and what the individual makes out of it. Without the continuity of children, we are self-destructive, living for today because we have no tomorrow.

And does this fatalism then explain why love is made as ardent and relentless as quicksand? Or why the Library’s Dewey decimal classification has to carve a difficult niche for them? 😉



2 Responses to “Heart of the Matter”

  1. “Life is a mystery
    Everyone must stand alone
    I hear you call my name
    And it feels like home
    Like a Prayer.”

    Louise Ciccone
    (aka Madonna)

  2. ah? what tokking?

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