Ethics and Writing

We spent our final afternoon at the book festival in Ubud yesterday with a diverse group of writers talking about questions of ethics. I’ve been interested in the relationship between ethics and writing for a long time, and I am often puzzled by the way that creative writing programmes – unlike, for example, journalism programmes – pay such scant regard to matters of ethics. Sometimes, perhaps even frequently, I have encountered the view that the writer’s job is simply to …

That Which Blossoms in the Dark

Here in Ubud, I’m getting ready for the opening night of the Writers and Readers festival. It’s going to be a busy few days, and I’m already excited. Last night was the informal reception for the writers involved in the festival, and for the people covering the events over the coming few days. It was a wonderful evening of fun and of stimulating conversations – about everything from poetry to LGBT rights, and from mental health arts project to the …

Raining Trees, Faraway Isles

I don’t know quite how long ago it was that I ran into the writer and journalist Grace Tan-Johannes (Grace Susetyo) online. I think it was around seven years, although I can’t be sure. Grace got in touch with me as she had read my first novel Cargo Fever (perhaps the only person in Indonesia who has ever done so), and we shared an interest in the Eastern part of the archipelago. We’ve been sporadically in touch ever since – Grace sent …

The Zhouyi – a Tool for Invention

A couple of weeks back, I said I would post the text of my talk at the Third Annual World Yijing Summit Forum in Wuxi, as it might be interesting or at least entertaining for visitors to this blog. Since then, I’ve been in touch with my translator Junxia Pu 浦军霞, who has very generously given me permission to simultaneously publish her Chinese translation of the text. So here it is, in its entirety, with parallel text in Chinese. I …

Under the radar, close to the ground…

At the end of this year, I will be leaving my long-standing permanent academic post, and I will be setting out for more uncertain territory. This has been a decision that has been a long time coming, but in the light of all the changes that have taken place this year, — all of the difficulty, uncertainty, upheaval and sheer, raw grief and sadness — it seems timely to move on to something new. In January, I will be taking …

The Satyr’s Skin, or, Why I Flayed Marsyas

I’m not sure precisely when I came across the story of Marsyas, the satyr who was flayed by the god Apollo. It was perhaps when I was an art student, immersing myself in the iconography of the Renaissance. Or perhaps it was before then (because there’s still this curious notion that Greek myths are charming tales fit for children). But from the first, it was a story that filled me with horror. The tale, for those who are unfamiliar with …

Optimally Empty

是以陶鈞文思,貴在虛靜,疏瀹五藏,澡雪精神。 ‘Thus, to use the potter’s wheel of literary thought — treasure empty stillness, cleanse the five viscera and wash clean the vital spirits.’ — Liu Xie, Wenxin Diaolong A few days ago, slightly overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork I have to get through here, I took refuge in my new favourite coffee house, San Kafei 叁咖啡 or 3Coffee, which is just outside of the campus. There are many things to commend San Kafei as a coffee shop. There …