Confrontational art on a major scale! One marvels at Kiefer’s concept, enterprise and industrial skill.
It’s a long time since WiPS organized an event at an art gallery. The last (also on Hollywood Road) was to learn about antique maps, which of course embrace an element of publishing. The Anselm Kiefer event, arranged in August when WiPS is traditionally “in recess”, was primarily intended as a social gathering for members and guests left in Hong Kong and wilting in its heat.
Entered through a magnificent pair of rustic Chinese doors, the Villepin gallery was blissfully cool, a sensation accentuated by its ultra-white walls and staircase, providing a contrasting backdrop for Kiefer’s striking compositions.
Regarded as one of the most important – if polarizing – artists working today, Anselm Kiefer was born in Germany towards the end of the Second World War. He knew from childhood that he wanted to paint and after studying and working in Germany until the early 1990s, he moved to France where he established a 200-acre studio compound. Most of his works until this time deal with subjects drawn from Germany and its culture and have been referred to as “a Pandora’s box of fascist and nationalistic imagery” portraying the unrelenting cycles of history, and of creation and destruction.
The pieces displayed by Villepin are recent, produced from 2020 to 2022. The more upbeat title “Golden Age” recalls the classical peak of human civilization and the flourishing of peace and prosperity, pointing to hope for the future. The artworks themselves are certainly golden, but they are nonetheless philosophically challenging!
Supper that followed at a nearby Middle Eastern restaurant offered a convivial milieu for debate. How lucky we are in Hong Kong at times!
On 15 June 2023, seven members of WiPS gathered at 6 Chancery Lane, the proud home of Lok Man Rare Books Limited. Walking into the shop was like walking into the common room of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Solid oak bookshelves lined the premises, complemented with squashy bespoke armchairs and warm lights. Although there was no fireplace, any absence was well compensated by the free flow of wine and cheese pairings!
Founded in 1989, Lok Man Rare Books has earned a strong reputation for expertise, integrity, and professionalism in the rare book industry. Owner Mr. Lorence Johnston shared with us how he started the business, his trade secret on matching customers, and his hunting adventures around the world for unique and rare antique books. By the end of the evening, he had also shared his knowledge of bookbinding; a lavish binding adds to the desirability of a book as a collectible and to the pleasure it brings! As Lorence spoke, members could sense his excitement in displaying his several newly acquired treasures, including Ian Fleming’s (writer of the James Bond series) travel journal, and also his obsession with his finest hand-picked books collection on sports, games, and recreation, such as “The Art of Golf” by Sir W.G. Simpson. In the past 34 years, Lok Man has organized numerous successful auctions and private sales of rare books and manuscripts, including many important and highly sought-after works. Indeed, Lorence leaves his mark on the antiquarian book world!
So next time you pass by Tai Kwun, the former Central Police Station Compound, be sure to make a short detour to the lane behind and discover this hidden gem that is Lok Man Rare Books. Lorence promises there are no spells in place and there is no need to answer any riddle in order to enter!
On May 9, WIPS members (old and newly recruited!) gathered in the offices of leading Hong Kong law firm Oldham, Li & Nie to learn what NOT to do (or rather sign away!) when it comes to publishing contracts and copyright. The firm’s founding partner Gordon Oldham and Head of IP Benjamin Choi had put together a great presentation, and the subsequent discussion could have gone for hours or at least until the generously provided wine and snacks ran out! We got so many important takeaways. We now know that copyright in an original manuscript lasts 50 years after the author’s passing and can be established simply and cheaply via Hongkong Post and a sealed envelope. Book titles are not exclusive to anyone, but for marketing purposes it pays to be original. While winning a literary competition is obviously wonderful, it’s important to remember you’ll be bound by the contest organiser’s terms and conditions which you signed during your initial submission.
A discussion on libel and defamation pitfalls revealed hilariously tall (and maybe even stark-naked!) happenings in one early 20th-century colonial outpost. Unsurprisingly, that story never made it into print even after the protagonist had long departed for gin-soaked appearances on celestial balconies!
By the end of the evening, the first-time and not yet published writers amongst us were reminded that the publisher holds a lot of the contractual power and so we should only work with the reputable players. It really is important to instruct a lawyer on contractual matters, publishing related or otherwise, right from the get-go. If you are Hong Kong based and want practical and impartial advice on some not so fine print, contact Gordon and Benjamin!
On 9 March, our community came together to celebrate the launch of the 21st issue of Imprint, WiPS’ annual anthology. Held in the gorgeous Hughes Room of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the evening was part of the Hong Kong Literary Festival. Picture this: a large group of women (and one man!) finally gathered in person after three years of virtual events to celebrate the written word, hear some inspiring read-alouds, enjoy a glass (or two), mingle, and even try their luck at a Lit Quiz. The room was full of energy, laughter, and uplifting camaraderie. Gillian Kew and Rinkoo Ramchandani were our hosts for the evening; they eventually did away with the microphones and opted for the natural energy of their voices to keep us on track with the entertainment of the night.
We were all enthralled by Sadie Kaye’s hilarious reading of “Bake Fail” (an account of her disastrous Covid attempts at baking with her children) and moved by Susan Lavender’s outstanding performance of her poem “Concrete Cloud”, depicting the solitude of modern urban life. We travelled to India and back as Ritu Hemnani read an excerpt from her energetic piece, “Rickshaw”. Deborah Mannas recited “Cry”, an emotional poem about the stoic strength of people with relatives battling mental health problems.
Lesley Hobbs and Andy Lowe made us laugh and think with their performance of a skit about the absurd contradictions of ChatGPT and what it means for contemporary literature.
We were captivated by “Positive!”, a piece by Connie Lee Hamelin about the complex logistical and administrative realities of a Covid-stricken family in Hong Kong, which was adapted as a short play in a dynamic duo with Susan Lavender. The challenging years of Covid restrictions that have only just been lifted have undoubtedly left a mark among us all. However, Shiksha Bansal’s reading of her piece, “The Spirit of Hong Kong”, was a poignant reminder of the unique beauty of the city we call home.
Jennifer Eagleton’s challenging literary quiz had us searching our minds for memories of the classics we once read. The three English teachers who teamed up and won the grand prize together – nothing less than a bottle of Peninsula Champagne! – showed us how literature and community are intricately connected.
None of this would have been possible without the tremendous work of Carol Dyer, the editor of Imprint, who supported all the contributors throughout the year leading to the publication of the book.
After many long months of Zoom meetings and solitary evenings, WiPS was finally able to offer our members a chance to gather, in person, for a casual evening of drinks and snacks at the Dada Lounge in Tsim Sha Tsui. Although we were a small group, Dada did not disappoint! Their extended happy hour meant that we all enjoyed two-for-one drinks until 9pm, along with lively, interesting conversation, anecdotes, and laughter. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the Dada deep fat fryer was out of commission, so food choices were limited. But we thoroughly enjoyed their excellent pizza and prawn and feta crispy treats!
As the evening wore on, our wide ranging discussions included books (of course), the British Royal Family, Art courses, and ideas for future WiPS events. Our upcoming Imprintlaunch created quite a buzz! It was a lovely evening of new and renewed friendships, and everyone agreed that we should do it again!
Fiction can be a powerful healer, and on 22 November 2022 twenty members and friends of WiPS joined an interview with our international guest, bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud who co-authored The Novel Cure, and moderator, Bhakti Mathur, to learn what bibliotherapy is and how fiction can help us cure life’s ailments.
Neuroscientists suggest that reading for six minutes a day is as beneficial as one hour of meditation. During reading our heart rate stills and our brain waves change and, in short, we de-stress. By implication then, bibliotherapy can play an important role in mental health. We heard fascinating examples of this, such as the WW2 doctors who recommended Jane Austin to soldiers suffering from shellshock. Since good, well-written, fiction can be immersive it offers its reader an opportunity for catharsis, reflection, perspective-taking, or escape – all of which can be healing.
Bibliotherapists work to understand their client’s reading preferences and life circumstances then write “prescriptions” recommending three of four specific books for them to read. Prescriptions are dependent on the unique needs, tastes and preferred choices of each client, and writing them is an evolving, artful and intuitive process. Having said that, three common ailments that Ella encounters and her related recommended reads are: Motherhood (becoming a mother for the first time): The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt; Retirement: The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul; and Bereavement: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
Ella finished her talk by offering recommendations on how to increase reading, which included listening to audio books (while multi-tasking); creating a “reading nook”; reading aloud with someone you live with (i.e. adult to adult); creating a reading-aloud reading group; and joining a book club. Although bibliotherapy sessions are typically one-on-one, Ella advised that group sessions are also gaining in popularity in social services settings.