Ubud? Slept and missed it.

Fell asleep (a small death) on the bed after returning from my morning of hot and sweaty golf. By 9am I was drenched in sweat and ready to quit golf for ever... I had lost four balls in the first three holes and carded an 11 on a par 4.

It was gorgeous course at Le Merdien, designed by Greg Norman (another surfer turned golfer); rice-terraces all through it, holes right up on the cliffs overlooking vast rocky beaches where pounding unsurfable - shifting peaks, long close-outs- waves churned the black sand. The Shark had certainly made the most of those views. Fantastic work Greggy!

A lady was doing a sort of aerobics version of Tai-Chi on a promentary near one of the tees, by the villas. She was whirling her arms backwards to suck in the power of the ocean, to draw its energy into her body.

I used to surf at a beach in Australia where there was a links-style course adjacent to the best waves (Barwon Heads GC and 13th Beach) and we would scorn the old-farts who would rather hit a little white ball into the salt-bushes for fun than take on the power and rhythm of the ocean, a moving, pulsing potentially deadly opponent. But like golf, in surfing you are only really competing against, or challenging rather, yourself; it's your own limitations against the environment - one static, one living. Neither golf nor surfing are team sports, is what I'm trying to say.

The villages we passed through on the way to the resort were bright and alive at 7am on this Sunday. Lots and lots of people up and about. Sunrise over terraced rice-paddies from the vantage of the taxi window. Nice scenery. Country Bali? - done, tick.

So why bother going to Ubud now? Don't really want bargains. Don't really want things. I am not the contents of my apartment. Don't really have much desire for anything except to 3-putt one hell of a lot less and to get rid of this damn slice - couldn't get a tee-shot onto to the fairway until the 10 hole. Score? After the shocking start, I managed 5 pars and came in with a total 102.

And the taxi-driver took the last of my cash. Will have to do Ubik next remembered life-time.


Just finished the Anthony Burgess biography today. Two very different writers there: Philip K Dick & Anthony Burgess. Yet surprisingly I found so much of worth in both of these books - the way a writer's life is transformed into his books - only minimally! By placing his adventures on other planets and in other times or other universes PKD seems to have avoided the libel problems that occassionally hit Burgess.

Burgess I relate to because of the Catholicism and the Joycean obsession, the love of words that I used to have before my memory was fried by lead-based paints (long story) taking my vocabulary with it. I just revel in his unashamedly elitist word-play contrasting with the seediness of the setting of the Enderby novels. The struggling unappreciated poet, scratching at chill-blains on his shins as he composes his verses on the toilet before a three-bar electric heater. I can feel myself stratching at those scratchings, I sense the burning of that limited topical heat in the otherwise chilly toilet... Also he hates radiographers, which is a sign of a man with an astute ability to judge the human race IMHO. And he drinks gins like an alcoholic gin-drinking fish - something I miss from all my sozzled Hong Kong evenings on the E@L rooftop on Bowen Rd are those gin-and-tonic evenings, joking about cartoons and work, and firing imaginary rockets across the Wanchai Gap into the Hopewell Centre. Gee, I'd never put those evenings into my stories... Yeah, right.

But even the fantasies of PKD have one-to-one correlations of what he was doing and living.
And for the record, despite what you may have been told, though he scoffed pills by the handful and smoked truckloads of dope, he only took LSD once, had a bad trip so never took it again. Reality was a buzz enough for him.

The PhilDickian conversations of my hysterical drug-addled surfie mates certainly have resonances with some of Dick's experiences.


After eating several hash cookies and smoking a few joints one Christmas party, E@L and friends were sitting one evening looking across the backyard of someone's Uncle's (though he was younger than his nephew, strangely) farm:

Uncle (pointing to a tree): See that? What do you think that is?

E@L (seeing the patterns of bark peeling from the tree, but is unfocussed, maybe it a lizard on the tree he is pointing to): A ghecko?

Uncle (silent for a few seconds, then giggles): Some people could call it a ghecko.

Nephew ( takes a puff): You mean the tree is a ghecko?

E@L: Oh you mean the tree?

Uncle: No, I mean the ghecko.

Everybody falls over laughing... Another joint passes around. Life as harmless paranoia.



Posted by: expat@large on Mar 26, 06 | 4:43 pm | Profile


The Roger (?) Lewis bio of Burgess is well worth a look also. It has a wonderful Molly Bloom last few pages as a sign off and it really contrasts his first wife (forgotten her name now) and the scary signora in the mobile home of his last few years. I loved the story of his gin-drinking first wife launching a sozzled harangue at the Duke of Edinburgh during one of his Malayan visits. 'Welsh is she ?' was his response. She also delighted in trotting out at odd occasions 'Mr Burgess does not amuse', a line from an early review. Not just a good woman, a great one, certainly great company. Lewis makes Burgess into a braggart, over compensating for his childhood, vain, meretricious, pompous, untalented (in music anyway), but hey, we've all got faults.

Posted by: paul on Mar 27, 06 | 11:16 am

Yes, I knew of the Lewis bio but ignored it as it didn't speak to my prejudices... Also haven't read that much of Burgess from the times after "Earthly Powers" - "1985" was such a flop, "Dead Man in Deptford" almost unreadable...

Burgess certainly set himself up for such accusations all the time - he certainly goes overboard with the language and the opinion on occasion - but who's perfect? He played the devil's advocate often, of course.

The 1st wife Lynne seemed a perfect mix of harpy and muse...

The Biswell biography sticks closer to the inspiritation for his books rather than taking easy shots at character assassination. Maybe it is a bit of answer to the earlier biography. But there is a great bit from Joseph Heller about Burgess teaching in a free school in New York, was it?, saying what a generous and committed educator he was, even against a brick wall of prejudice (the black, poor students). Heller was most impressed.

Sinner or Saint? Left-leaning Pelegian like me or conservative Augustinian as he claimed? Overrated or underappreciated?

Interesting and entertaining nevertheless.

Posted by: expat@large on Mar 27, 06 | 5:22 pm

The twin barreled autobiography is better than many of his novels, though Nothing Like the Sun is his best, I think. The Dark Lady as Malayan princess - you know it makes sense !

Posted by: paul on Mar 27, 06 | 6:59 pm

yes yes... dark lady of Malaya, must have been acutely ironic for Burgess to create such a lady (as Biswell points out...)

But I have not delved into the autobiographies for some reason. Lack of editions for sale in HK or Singapore? I think I went quite flat on AB for a while, just as I went flat on Joyce, on Beckett, on Kafka, on Patricia Cornwell...

I think if I had met Burgess, I would have been MOST impressed. He would have blown most of my simplistic and illconceived ideas about everything literary right out of the water. Isn't that enough? Jesus, whachew say Lewis?, does every writer have to be Christ Immaculate to be a worthy candidate for some literary apotheosis into The Greatest Authors Who Ever Lived? What's wrong with Better Than Most Totally Incompetent Scribblers Who Earn Far More?

& Get back in your seat Dan Brown...

Posted by: expat@large on Mar 27, 06 | 9:04 pm

Not that Burgess wasn't extremely well off from ACO...

Posted by: expat@large on Mar 27, 06 | 9:05 pm

Well I'm just for Phil K Dick. I think read all his books, but might be missing some early novels published in US papers. He is a bloody great writer and told the future much before his time. OK now theres been many Phil movies and like (do I need to mention blade runner) but phil. k. dicks foresight went much farther

Posted by: north on Apr 06, 06 | 7:27 am

My regret/stupidity is that I never really got into PKD until recently -- surprisingly Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all...

Posted by: expat@large on Apr 06, 06 | 3:33 pm


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