A Man Called Ove

A couple of months ago, a friend recommended the book, A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. I had not been able to get my hands on it and thought it must be a really good book, so popular that it was always on loan at all the libraries I visited. Then, last week, I saw it squeezed tight between two larger books on a shelf. I pulled it out, not without some difficulty, and somewhat to my disappointment, found that the font was miniscule. I considered putting it back, but decided otherwise.

This book is translated from the Swedish. I usually do not like reading translated works as there is always something (which I can’t describe) missing. I’ve experienced this many times, reading English books translated into Chinese or vice versa. Since A Man Called Ove came highly recommended, I decided to read it (though I did not enjoy Backman’s Britt-Marie Was Here, which I read last month).

To my chagrin, I found that each chapter in the book is an individually crafted short story, so the book is basically a series of interlinked short stories and not one lengthy novel of the kind I prefer. Still, I must say some of them are humorous and comic while others are warm and tender. There is also a certain charm amidst the wry descriptions and heartwarming tale.

Because my friend had sent me an excerpt (a typed copy of Chapter 1), and I loved what I read, I had high expectations of the book. Hence I felt quite let-down after all. Two things I didn’t enjoy in the book are the cat (a stray that would have died if not for Ove’s neighbours) and a chap called Jimmy (an overweight neighbour). Some parts are repetitive and not quite as funny as they should have been; but maybe I’m just as curmudgeonly as Ove?

Original Compositions by YSTCM Students

Within a fortnight, I witnessed seven talented students from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) performing their original compositions on various instruments.

Yesterday, I was at the Asian Civilisations Museum for a lunchtime concert:

A project for the students who did this module of Jazz with Dr Tony Makarome was to compose jazz music for a live performance. Of the six, two are Piano majors, one doing a new major in Music Collaboration, one a Communications major and one a Business major. One performer (the flautist) is from an earlier batch but now taking a secondary jazz module and requested to be part of the concert. I was very impressed by the students’ compositions and performance.

Lau’s “Colonial Blues” is reminiscent of colonial golf clubs, Victor’s “Javanese Batik” is pleasant, rhythmic and intricate (and got me tapping my feet), Chiew’s “Shades of Srivijaya” is in a Bossa Nova style that suits the beach/resort atmosphere, Cui’s “Accidental Independence” is jovial and inspiring, Ong’s “East India Company” is in a swinging style with wonderful chords and chord progression , and Mok’s “Raffles’ Dream” is romantic, dreamy and smoky.

The performance also includes standards like Romberg & Hammerstein’s “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”, Churchill & Morey’s “Someday My Prince will Come”, Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Roger & Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones?” (not listed in the programme).

Two Sundays ago, I attended a piano recital by Mervyn Lee ( a Piano Major at YSTCM). The only time I spoke to Mervyn was more than half his lifetime ago, when he was about 9 years old, when I happened to sit next to him at the YSTCM for an evening performance and he was there with his teacher (Dr Thomas Hecht). I was already in awe when he performed as a soloist with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra the following year as he had written his own cadenza for the concerto that he was playing.

That Mervyn is a talented and outstanding performer is without question (having won several competitions); I was most eager to listen to his “In Flux” (for which he also won an award).

The programme for the day:

The Haydn piece is way more difficult than any of his sonatas, with zany virtuosity; the only thing I can say about the Beethoven is that there’s difficulty and then there’s difficulty; the passage work for the LH and the RH in mostly octaves in the Liszt etude is particularly difficult; the Massiaen is rhythmic, animated and hints of Jazz; and the final Liszt piece is a really formidable piece, executed with remarkable aplomb and mastery.

I look forward to more such performances by young local talents.

Crazy Rich Trilogy

More than two months after library@harbourfront opened its doors, I finally made my first visit. To my delight, I found a much sought-after book at the Singapore Collection: Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. I devoured it in two days.

The next day, I visited my usual haunts (two public libraries that I frequent in my neighborhood) and got hold of the other two books in the Crazy Rich Trilogy: namely, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.

All three books are mesmerising. They are truly well-written, satirical and delectable. Crazy Rich Asians the movie was a good adaptation but the book is definitely better, with all the details. The final scene in the book would probably serve as the opening scene in the Trilogy’s second installment on celluloid (I’m hoping there’s one).

I look forward to the sequels as I would like to see how they are going to be adapted for the big screen and how much the Singapore actors and actresses (in particular Pierre Png and Fiona Xie) are going to shine.

I am also curious if pianist Lang Lang and singers like Cyndi Lauper would have cameos in the film adaptation of China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, and how Hollywood is going to get Rich People Problems rated PG instead of M18 or R21.