Subhas Anandan, “The Best I Could”

The Best I Could The Best I Could by Subhas Anandan

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s clear that Subhas Anandan wants to be seen as someone who values family ties, friendships and loyalty above all. What may surprise some people are his fairly conservative views: he has strong words for drug abusers and strongly disapproves of gambling.

Most of all he believes in the Singapore justice system. Although he would be the first to point out the system’s shortcomings, he genuinely believes that it works most of the time.

Even so, readers may be unnerved by some of his insights. For example he points out that contrary to popular assumption, an acquittal does not mean that the accused is innocent, merely that his guilt was not proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Insofar as it’s possible to derive insights into a person’s character from his writing, Subhas emerges as a very private man with strong sense of loyalty, fairness and compassion. For a perceptive reader, the gaps in his narrative will provide tantalising hints to Subhas’s network of contacts and to how he actually sees the world.

But even the most dull will notice some unusual editorial choices. For example, Subhas’s description of his prison experiences are abruptly cut short and the book jumps to the section describing some of his cases, leaving the reader wanting him to finish this fascinating part of his life. Later he voluntarily includes a facsimile of a letter from one of his clients, currently detained indefinitely at the President’s pleasure. In view of his comments on the case, it seems clear that Subhas is trying to win sympathy for the boy.

His writing is concise and the tone scrupulously objective. Those looking for more lurid material (given Subhas’s career) will probably be disappointed. However the content is far from boring, and Subhas’s dry humour flashes occasionally.

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Lewis Buzbee, “The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop”

A Memoir, a History The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Buzbee’s heart is in the right place, but his writing skills and treatment of history do not quite match his love of bookshops. In trying to elevate bookshops, he falls into cliched language and clumsily executed metaphors. He also juxtaposes episodes from the history of bookselling with his own recollections. This is meant to provide reading variety while educating the lay reader, but the historical anecdotes are treated without rigour (sadly, this is what passes for “accessibility” these days). For example, at one point he expresses the price of “books” in Ancient Rome in the currency of the time and gives an equivalent dollar amount. But what the contemporary reader understands as “ten dollars” is completely different from what an Ancient Roman citizen would have understood. Such a comparison makes little sense.

The most interesting parts of Buzbee’s book occur when he recounts his experiences in book retail on the West Coast from the late 70s to the 90s. His reflections and comments are also informative and sincere. The section containing his personal bookshop recommendations is a sweet touch. This would have been a stronger book if he had devoted more space to his experiences and the people he met.

And what is the titular “yellow-lighted bookshop”? Buzbee never explains, to the reader’s puzzlement.

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Sheaffer 444

We found this Sheaffer 444 in a second-hand goods shop. The barrel was stuck, but the finish was near mint. Not a scratch and stickered too (although the lettering had faded). The section had some scuffing from the inside of the cap but nothing bad.

After a long soak and some work with section pliers, I was able to finally unscrew the barrel. My suspicions were confirmed:

Somehow, the ink cartridge had leaked into the inside of the barrel, and the result was a rusty, gummy mess.

Anyway, managed to clean up the insides as best as I could and managed to sell the pen. A happy ending for all concerned 🙂