Capital in the 21st Century, according to Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty

Thomas Piketty

I was surprised I couldn’t find Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century when I searched the Singapore National Library catalogue online. An Amazon bestseller, it is the most talked-about economics book today. Piketty, a French economist, writes about the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.

  • Inequality is returning to pre-World War I levels, he writes, and
  • The future could look like the 19th century, when the economic elites predominantly inherited their wealth rather than working for it.

Looking at Forbes and other wealth rankings, Piketty concludes: [Read more...]

Wordsworth’s finest

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

Which is Wordsworth’s finest poem? How can one even ask such a question? He has written so many memorable poems, it seems impossible to single out any one as the very best. Yet the question has been on my mind these past two days since the birthday of Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 – April 23, 1850). And my answer?

I love Tintern Abbey and the Immortality Ode. They are great poems. And The Daffodils is one of the loveliest lyrics in the English language. But my favourite is one of the Lucy poems. [Read more...]

John Updike: Middle-aged love in Rabbit Redux

John Updike

John Updike

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite writers, John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009). Like PG Wodehouse, he is irreplaceable. No one can take his place. Lawrence Durrell and Jan Morris are the only writers I know with prose as lush and sensuous as his. And few have written of love and sex more vividly than he. [Read more...]

Updike: Music from Rabbit at Rest

John Updike

John Updike

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite writers, John Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009). Few have written so sensuously of love and sex – or anything else under the sun.

Here is Updike writing about one of my greatest loves – pop music from the Fifties and Sixties. This is from Rabbit at Rest. An ageing Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is listening to oldies but goldies on the radio as he drives through Florida. Here are also videos of some of the songs mentioned in the text.

Love Me Tender — Elvis Presley [Read more...]

Jan Morris: Both sides now

Jan Morris

Jan Morris

“It is not usually given to a man that after nearly a quarter of a century of marriage he should end up as sister-in-law to his own wife and aunt to his own children.”

Thus begins a profile of one of my favourite writers: Jan Morris, formerly James Morris. The article headlined James and Jan, and written by David Holden, appeared in the New York Times in March 1974, shortly before the publication of Conundrum, Morris’ memoir where he wrote about his sex change. [Read more...]

Happy birthday, Neil Sedaka

Happy birthday, Neil Sedaka! Born on March 13, 1939, Sedaka turns 75 today. Birthday greetings are pouring in on Twitter.

I love his songs. So here are three of my favourites: Oh Carol, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, and Calendar Girl. Neil Sedaka sounds really sweet. [Read more...]

On the Road, on Kerouac’s birthday

Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Today Is the birthday of Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969), whom I started reading again last night. I hit On the Road again, which is a joy to read. Especially the early chapters, where the narrator Sal Paradise meets Dean Moriarty and embarks on his travels, which take him all the way across America from the East Coast to the West Coast, to Mexico, and back.

You are blown away by the sheer exuberance, the references to jazz, popular culture, and the colourful writing. Here is Sal describing Dean:

My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry—trim, thin- hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent—a sideburned hero of the snowy West.

[Read more...]

Buddy Holly and The Crickets: Maybe Baby

I just read that Buddy Holly and The Crickets recorded Maybe Baby on this day (May 12) in 1957. The song entered Billboard’s Top 100 a year later, on February 25, and spent 14 weeks there, peaking at No 17. Written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty, it was credited to The Crickets, Holly’s backing band.


[Read more...]