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Crowning glory of a great novelist

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Crowning glory of a great novelist | Thaiger

PHUKET: Once a decade, Donna Tartt produces a hefty, great novel. At age 28, she published The Secret History, a murder mystery centered on a clique of young classical scholars at Bennington. A decade later, she returned to her Mississippi childhood for The Little Friend. And now she has just won the Pulitzer Prize for her third and best novel, The Goldfinch (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 771pp, 2013).

The title refers to a small masterpiece by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, student of Rembrandt, teacher of Vermeer. In 1654, when he was just 32, the huge explosion of a gunpowder arsenal in Delft would not only take his life, but destroy almost all of his work. A rare survivor, “The Goldfinch”, painted on wood, the size of A4 paper, shows a bird held captive by a chain at its foot. It is a great favorite of the mother of 13-year-old Theo Docker, a half-Irish, half-Cherokee beauty from Kansas who worked as a catalog model in New York before getting her art history degree from Columbia. Her husband, a failed actor turned alcoholic, has abandoned her and she lives with their only son in an apartment on Sutton Place, facing the East River, where she struggles on her salary at an advertising company.

The novel opens as Theo, writing in an Amsterdam hotel room 14 years later, recalls the last day of her life. On their way to his private school on the West Side, mother and son are caught in a rainstorm and duck for shelter into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Theo takes notice of an elfin girl – bright red hair, golden brown eyes – accompanied by an elderly misshapen little man. That’s when a terrorist bomb rips through the museum.

When Theo returns to consciousness, “The Goldfinch” in its busted frame lies on the floor next to him. Dying nearby, the little old man exhorts him to save the painting and entrusts him with a ring to deliver to his partner at an antique furniture store in Greenwich Village.

In the aftermath of the bombing, Theo learns that the elfin red-headed girl, Pippa, the old man’s niece, is badly injured. Theo’s mother is dead. Plunged into devastating grief, Theo now dates his life into Before and After. This is all told by Theo in the first 50-page chapter.

So complex is the story of his next 14 years, so compelling and intricate and surprising the plot, that it would be criminal to reveal any more of it. Suffice it to say that the action moves from New York to Las Vegas, back to New York and on to Amsterdam. In high school Theo Docker finds the great friend of his life, Boris, a sly Russian rogue with an Australian accent, overly fond of liquor, drugs and shoplifting. Boris is Huck Finn to Theo’s Tom Sawyer, the Artful Dodger to his Oliver Twist. The pair will be accomplices in the novel’s last desperate caper involving “The Goldfinch”.

Through the years, Theo has kept the painting, worth many millions, as a talisman of his mother. Here he describes the joy of taking the painting out of hiding:
“Quickly I slid it out, and almost immediately its glow enveloped me, something almost musical, an internal sweetness that was inexplicable beyond a deep, blood-rocking harmony of rightness, the way your heart beat slow and sure when you were with a person you felt safe with and loved. A power, a shine came off it, a freshness like the morning light in my old bedroom in New York which was serene yet exhilarating, a light that rendered everything more sharp-edged and lovely than it actually was because it was part of the past and irretrievable…”

So rich are her descriptions, so vivid her characters, so sweeping and majestic the scope of her novel, that Donna Tartt can only be compared to the 19th century giants Tolstoy and Dickens. At the end, when Theo experiences his dark night of the soul in an Amsterdam hotel room and emerges transcendent and redeemed, the reader shares his triumph. There is no higher order of fiction.

— James Eckardt

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Entertainment

Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws

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Sex toys popular in Thailand despite conservative laws | Thaiger
PHOTO: In Thailand, sex toys are very popular and very illegal.

While Thailand is a conservative country with conservative laws, the underground sex trade and sex toy economy is a thriving not-so-well-kept secret. Thailand is famous for its LGBTQ acceptance and red-light districts, but many don’t realise that most drugs, gambling, soliciting for prostitution, sex toys, and even vaping are against Thai law.

The customs department confiscated more than 4000 sex toys just last year, and owning or selling these toys carries a 60,000 baht fine or up to 3 years in jail. The strict laws are in place to align with the traditional Buddhist Thai society but seem very contrary to the underground sex industry Thailand is known for.

The need for sexual privacy rights and relaxed laws governing sex has been gaining popularity for years with the juxtaposition of strict laws and hedonism creating a very profitable black market. Bangkok’s red-light district is estimated to be worth US $6.4 billion, and in districts like Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong and Silom, sex trade and sex toys are sold openly even though it violates the law. The sex industry is thought to comprise up to 10% of Thailand’s gross domestic product. Then there’s Walking Street in Pattaya, Bangla Road in Phuket, etc, etc.

Still, Thailand is a Buddhist country with traditionally conservative values so laws are unlikely to change anytime soon. Even sex education in Thailand is geared towards the negative consequences of sex and not open to sexual rights or embracing sexuality, according to a UNICEF report in 2016. Those who oppose decriminalising sex toys and the sex industry believe that embracing it legally would lead to a rash of sex-related crimes.

Others argue that decriminalisation would be liberating and empower women by reducing the stigma of being sexually free. It would allow a modernized view on sexual well-being. It would also likely reduce teen pregnancy rates, by removing the negativity towards those who need or use contraceptive.

Nisarat Jongwisan has been fighting for the destigmatisation and legalisation of sex toys since 2018 when she appeared on a TV program speaking out against the Ministry of Culture. She now intends to use the Thai parliamentary mechanism for creating a petition and gathering 50,000 signatures, which would allow her to submit a bill to the parliament for a vote.

With strict laws, the black market will continue to grow. While sex toys and the sex trade can be criminalized, sexual desires are not easily quashed, and people will find ways to satisfy them. Without any regulation, black markets can profit freely, selling sex toys with no concern over fair pricing or quality control. The global sex toy industry sold nearly US $34 billion dollars last year, and with continued lockdown and the closures of entertainment venues, these sales are set to only increase, even in the face of Thailand’s conservative laws.

SOURCE: Vice

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World

Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS

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Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS | Thaiger

2020 IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award. In the past 8 years the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award has been given to Ed Sheeran, Adele, One Direction, and Taylor Swift and Drake. BTS are backed up by ARMY, their huge fanbase.

The power of ARMY. The IFPI represents the recorded music industry worldwide. It’s not a Grammy or a popularity vote. The award is calculated according to an artist’s or group’s worldwide performance across digital and physical music formats during the past year. Everything from streams to vinyl, CDs and downloads…. and covers their entire body of work. The award was announced last week at the culmination of the IFPI Global Artist Chart, which counted down the top 10 best-selling artists of the past year.

And it’s certainly been a great year for music… not so much for going to live concerts but we’ve certainly had a lot more time to listen to our favourite artists and stream their clips on YouTube.

The group that won this year, based on their pure sales, actually came second in 2018 and 7th in 2019, so it isn’t some statistical blip on the music radar.

The win also represents somewhat of a quantum shift in world music… the sort of thing that only happens once in a generation. Rather than the popular cross-over style shift represented by the George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924, the brith of rock with Bill Haley in 1955 or the rise of British pop in the 1960s, personified by The Beatles, this year’s IFPI signals another generational milestone in tastes, method, world reach and engagement with fans.

In all the right-hand turns of the popular music genre, there has usually been a technological breakthrough that has accompanied them, or at least been a key aspect of their success.

In the case of the the Great American Songbook, the foundations of the pop music genre, it was the recorded record and the start of radio-as-entertainment in the 1920s that provided a method to reach a huge audience with the new sounds and tunes for the first time.

Then it was the 7” single that made music cheaper and easier to play, that revolutionised the radio music formats of the 1960s and provided the perfect vehicle of the British pop revolution to spread around the world.

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Tourism

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

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Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | Thaiger

There was the original Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns back in April and May in 2020, then again just before Christmas and New Year when the new clusters emerged in Samut Sakhon and the eastern coastal provinces, Patong’s nightlife was quiet enough, almost non-existent.

Now when the restrictions are lifted, Nimz will take you through Phuket’s famous nightlife spot Bangla Road, Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s quiet, but there are still clubs open and operating and ready to welcome you.

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