So there was this bowl of prawn noodle soup that someone bought. Said person exclaims that it tastes nasty, asks adjacent person if he wants a taste. Adjacent person says all right, hand it over, agrees it is indeed nasty. Then asks next person down the row if he wants to try it too. Next person says, OK, why not. And so it goes. This actually happened with a bunch of folks I was having dinner with. No, I was not involved in the said tasting of nasty prawn noodle soup. But was henceforth fascinated by this willingness to attempt the decidedly derided in the face of all available evidence.
Now, giving the lucidly lauded a go — that I understand. But the results might be just as lamentable. I’m tokkin’ about books here. Yes, books can be dangerous. I shall now regale you with a chronological list of books that somehow rose to prominence within my social circles, past and present.
This was passed round surreptitiously by a classmate in primary school. One of those books that primary school children should not read. Result: for the first but not the last time, I find myself both grossed out and intrigued by the same bit of reading matter. Don’t think I had much by way of morals as a child, though, as I didn’t pay much mind to the serious and rampant wrongdoing in the story. But was definitely haunted by the exposure to insanity. Other books with the same effect, read in the same era: anything to do with the supernatural, like the True Singapore Ghost Stories series and that book about gruesome Adrian Lim, both killer and killed.
This was passed round class by my primary six form teacher! Maybe not this exact rendering of the sorry history of Henry VIII and his wives, but one with all the details, if you know what I mean. I guess our teacher wanted us to know about English history more than she wanted to … protect us from it? Or maybe she thought it was time to grow up a little. Anyway, my abiding memory of this book (other than it being very thick but easy to get through — I might be guilty of flipping to the ‘good bits’) is its description of the king’s corpulent body crushing the lithe whiteness of Anne Boleyn. I wonder what subconscious lessons I learnt about the right and proper manner of conducting lasting relationships …
This is not something I actually read — if I recall correctly, it was hot property in a neighbouring class (um, 96A13) during the (Hwa Chong) junior college days. For some reason, just about everyone taking English (literature) for the ‘A’ levels from that class read the book, which wasn’t a set text. Didn’t make me want to read it though. I thought the phenomenon was two parts amusing, one part pretentious, but it failed to interest me in the tome at all. Maybe I was busy being pretentious myself. Or maybe I heard much more about people reading the book than why it was such a compelling read. Or were people compelled to read it? It was also in 1997 that I rejected watching Titanic, hence establishing a pattern of forgoing social currency for the sake of not being bothered by it. (Maybe I can trace this back to not caring about Michael Jackson performing in Singapore back in ’93, not being fussed about what the heck NKOTB meant, and not knowing whether it was 97.8 or 98.7 FM I should be listening to. Of course, I later fell prey to the wiley wiles of Take That!)
A right and proper craze that recently hit my environs — a good one-third of the staff in my department has read this, I think. It’s about how what you’re eating probably didn’t have a very good or comfortable life. In fact, it was probably driven half-mad with frustration (deformed turkeys!) or itchy bits (salmon lice!). It’s good to evaluate your habits now and then, and the way you eat is just as easily conditioned as other aspects of the everyday. Foer is known for his lucid prose, so you shouldn’t have trouble … I haven’t actually read the book, though … watching Foer’s appearance on the Colbert Report, and hearing a summary of the choice bits from a colleague pretty much did me in for a while. Michael Pollan’s books, especially The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a WMY recommendation), might also move you to assess your culinary customs.