Mar­riage is a many- lay­ered thing

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how in the world would Tarabor­relli know ex­actly what Bey­once’s mother said at a beauty par­lour years ago? Word for word?

In the source notes, the au­thor does credit a great num­ber of peo­ple who went out of their way to as­sist with the book. In oth­er­words, the tell- tales who want their 15 min­utes of fame.

It is noted that friends, rel­a­tives, jour­nal­ists, so­cialites, lawyers, celebri­ties and busi­ness as­so­ciates of the Knowles fam­ily were con­tacted in putting the book to­gether. Tarabor­relli and his re­search team also scoured pages of ar­ti­cles per­tain­ing to the artiste who is known for her fierce stance on pri­vacy. Bey­once is one heck of a pri­vate per­son and it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to find any dirt on her.

Bey­once’s pol­icy to never air her dirty laun­dry in pub­lic was ev­i­dent dur­ing the 2014 Met Gala af­ter- party in­ci­dent that will for­ever be dubbed “El­e­va­tor- gate”.

Se­cu­rity footage from in­side an el­e­va­tor showed Bey­once’s sis­ter, Solange, vi­o­lently at­tack­ing Jay Z. In­stead of try­ing to stop her sis­ter or even pro­tect her hus­band, she just stood silently by the side, more wor­ried that the se­cu­rity guard was step­ping on the train of her dress. Google it, the video is still there for all to see.

And when the trio emerged from the el­e­va­tor to be greeted by the usual bat­tery of cam­era flashes go­ing off, Bey­once showed no signs of hav­ing un­der­gone the biz­zare scene just sec­onds ear­lier. So why did Solange kick and punch her only brother- in- law? Tarabor­relli re­veals the rea­son in this book. Like many of his other snip­pets, this nugget too is not ver­i­fied by Bey­once or her man­age­ment.

Nev­er­the­less, it is still in­ter­est­ing to read about the events that sup­pos­edly hap­pened in this pub­lic yet pri­vate per­sona’s life. The gos­sip may be stale, but the rev­e­la­tions are still pretty sur­pris­ing.

If you’re a fan of this awe­some em­bod­i­ment of fe­male power, Be­com­ing Bey­once tells you how she got there and, boy, the ride sure wasn’t easy. SMALL talk is not for ev­ery­one, al­though try­ing to spark un­nec­es­sary con­ver­sa­tions to break the ice is some­thing we Malaysians are quite good at.

While read­ing the short sto­ries in Ju­lian Lee’s book, par­tic­u­larly chap­ter 19 on “Stat­ing The Ob­vi­ous” – about how we have a pen­chant for “ob­serv­ing the glar­ingly ob­vi­ous” ( his words, not mine) – I chuck­led at how true his ob­ser­va­tions are.

In my ex­pe­ri­ence, it is like when you are tak­ing a nap or about to fall into deep slum­ber when some­one nudges you and de­cides to ex­change pleas­antries such as, “Sleep­ing, ah?”

Lee ( a se­nior lec­turer at RMIT) at­tributes this phe­nom­e­non to “par­rot chirps” or in the case of hu­mans, an “ac­knowl­edge­ment of the other’s ex­is­tence”. AE­SOP, the great fa­bler, once wrote about how “ev­ery truth has two sides”. The trou­ble is, not only does truth have more than one side, but so too do peo­ple; a fact that Fates And Fu­ries demon­strates spec­tac­u­larly, con­vinc­ingly, un­flinch­ingly. Lau­ren Groff ’ s wild, beau­ti­ful, dar­ing book opens on a drizzly, blus­tery beach in Maine, where Lotto and Mathilde have ar­rived to cel­e­brate their se­cret wed­ding. It is a fate­ful mar­riage for the both of them, and the point of con­ver­gence be­tween two peo­ple who must learn what all mar­ried peo­ple do: to live to­gether and fit two di­verse per­son­al­i­ties into one house­hold. It is also a tale about the power of truth and se­crets to shape and de­fine each one of us.

Groff writes with a glit­ter­ing, be­witch­ing pen that is both stark and po­etic, yet in­sight­ful and bold. In the sim­ple premise of a mar­riage, she has given us a deep and in­tro­spec­tive study of the psy­che, from the in­flu­ences that a

The book is di­vided into six sec­tions: “Con­cern­ing Malaysia”, “Mak­ing The Con­nec­tion – Malaysia( ns) In The World”, “Think­ing Through The World”, “Traf­fic”, “Con­sump­tion And Re­ceived Wis­dom” and “Other Prob­a­ble Er­rors”. Within th­ese are short anec­dotes on life in­ter­ac­tions – from in­ter­group re­la­tions to strate­gic un­com­fort­able chairs at McDon­ald’s, as well as sticky traf­fic mat­ters.

Lee in­jects good hu­mour into his sto­ries ( which come com­plete with bib­li­og­ra­phy and foot­notes) with­out try­ing hard to be funny, which is re­fresh­ing.

In his four- parter in­ter­group re­la­tions chap­ters, he gives an in­ter­est­ing per­spec­tive on how peo­ple from dif­fer­ent so­cioe­co­nomic groups un­der­stand one an­other and how we can hone the art of cross- group en­gage­ment.

As a foodie and a fan of chicken rice, I liked the story about the child’s be­gin­nings can have upon his or her whole life, to the sub­tle, un­know­ing ef­fects that per­sonal choices – and those of a spouse, com­pan­ions and fam­ily – ex­ert upon each per­son’s des­tiny.

A very clever two- act de­vice is em­ployed here to mas­ter­ful ef­fect. In the first, we come to know Lancelot “Lotto” Sat­ter­white pro­foundly and in­ti­mately. Lotto, be­ing white, male and wealthy, is a win­ner of the tri­umvi­rate of ge­netic suc­cess. We learn of his parent­age, his for­ma­tive years, and come to see how fate smiles upon this for­tune’s favourite, giv­ing him a life of priv­i­lege and ig­no­rant bliss. Lotto be­gins life as an adored, golden child, then be­comes an Ado­nis at col­lege, but it isn’t un­til he finds suc­cess as a cel­e­brated play­wright that he comes into his own. He gives up his mother’s good graces and ac­cess to his riches in his im­pul­sive mar­riage, and his self­less and de­voted wife Mathilde be­comes the bedrock of his life.

In the se­cond act, we are shown Mathilde’s side of the his­tory of Hainanese chicken rice, in­clud­ing which in­cludes a re­view of one fa­mous restau­rant in Sin­ga­pore. At first glance, this seemed quite ran­dom, but on the other hand, it was one of those things that make you go, “Hmm....”

In­ter­spersed be­tween the chap­ters are graphic artist Jun Kit’s quirky il­lus­tra­tions, with those in the story about “phan­tom vibes” be­ing par­tic­u­larly no­table – if you are one of those peo­ple who of­ten feel your mo­bile phone is vi­brat­ing, only to re­alise that is not the case, you are not alone.

The last chap­ter, which ze­roes in on the mis­con­cep­tion of “be­ing happy”, had me do­ing a dou­ble take, or in this case, a dou­ble read. You might want to re­con­sider pur­chas­ing that book on “how to be happy” be­cause ac­cord­ing to Lee – and I con­cur – we need to stop pres­sur­ing our­selves to be happy and just go with the flow. story, and we come to un­der­stand her per­sonal demons and the fu­ries that drive her. Be­neath the ve­neer of the per­fect wife and con­stant help­meet, we come to un­der­stand the true com­plex­ity of her na­ture. The rose- coloured lenses through which Lotto views his wife and his life in gen­eral come off, and the rev­e­la­tions and twists come thick and fast.

Groffs’ sear­ingly hon­est lens on mar­riage is a dark, mes­mer­iz­ing jour­ney that weaves Greek myth, lan­guage, love, sex, theatre, mu­sic and art into a heady, in­tox­i­cat­ing mix. Her spare, con­cise writ­ing cou­pled with a wicked in­stinct for word play gives this novel a witty, con­tem­pla­tive, al­most con­spir­a­to­rial tone. Like the mas­ter­pieces of the­atri­cal tra­di­tion it is in equal parts a com­edy and tragedy, and draws you in to the lives of the hero and hero­ine of the piece. They are never just the shin­ing, beau­ti­ful cou­ple that are the envy of all; they have all the flaws, in­se­cu­ri­ties, tragic pasts and im­moral­ity that plague the rest of us. In short, they are af­ter all, merely hu­man.

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