Servicing The Nation
Angus Whitehead goes back a decade with Andrew Koh
By Angus Whitehead
Alongside Alvin Tan, Singaporean writer Andrew Koh was a founding member of the Necessary Stage theatre company in 1987. In Singapore he is best remembered as the author of Glass Cathedral (1995), Singapore's second gay novel, which won the 1994 Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award and was subsequently shortlisted for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Novel Regional Awards. His first collection of poetry, Hybrid from the East was published in 1997. A second novel still awaits publication. After initially leaving Singapore for London in the mid-1990s he now lives in Sydney as a healthcare worker and Chinese medicine practitioner. Sixteen years after its initial publication, the novel is receiving unprecedented attention and reappraisal in the wake of Glass Cathedral's republication as a 'Singapore Classic' (alongside works such as Goh Poh Seng's The Immolation and Lloyd Fernando's Scorpion Orchid). The interview took place on 8 November 2011 on the site of Koh's alma mater St Joseph's Institution. In part 1 of the interview, Koh touches on his writing of the novel, its sexual, religious and political themes, the novel's subsequent initial neglect and its recent (partial) rediscovery.
AW: Have you been surprised at, first, Epigram's desire to republish the novel and, second, the positive response the novel is now receiving?
AK: Yes, I was actually very surprised...I mean it came out of the blue and it was just a whole series of coincidences. In April Kim Cheng, a friend of mine in Sydney, was encouraging me to get back into creative writing. And then in May I received this postcard from Robert Yeo saying that they were looking into republishing Glass Cathedralcould I get in touch? (chuckle)...it was just kind of very...Alright! The Chinese in me says this is destiny! And, that's how it happened. So, and then I found out it was going to be published as a series of 'Singapore Classics' and in many ways I felt privileged because I was lumped in with people of the other generation...not only a classic but an ancient classic because these are all pioneers of the literary scene...with Lloyd Fernandez, Robert Yeo himself, Goh Poh Seng definitely, and obviously Stella Kon so I was extremely happy. And that also became an impetus to rethink about what Kim Cheng said you know about getting back into creative writing. So, apart from Robert Yeo's practical bit about copyright, I actually do feel privileged. He felt strongly enough about the novel to want to put me in that category with the early pioneers. Maybe he recognized me as a pioneer of sorts...now I don't know if he would have chosen Peculiar Chris over this if Johann Lee had the copyright back. That's speculation. And that's for him to say, but as reality, as we would say 'Happy life, ah!'
AW: Indeed, enough to make one believe in divine providence.
AK: In terms of the response, I knew that Robert Yeo had taught the novel when he was at NIE but I never knew what impact Glass Cathedral made, because I left Singapore. It was published in 95 and at the end of 95 I rushed to the UK and emigrated because my first partner was essentially critically ill. So I never really knew the impact firsthand. All the feedback I got was through the publisher then, wasn't terribly encouraging. Straits Times was obviously the main newspaper here and doing lots of reviews of books at that point but didn't want to touch Glass Cathedral and I was also told that it was nominated for The Commonwealth Regional Best First Novel but that was never mentioned in the press here. So between coping with the fact that my partner was dying and this, I just felt really disillusioned by the whole matter. I was asked by somebody, 'when the novel was published, what sort of response did it receive?' I said, "What response?" (laughs). But in terms of reception on the ground, I wasn't sure. Now that I'm thinking about it, I did see somebody on the bus reading the first edition so I was very happy but that was about it. I think over the years it just sort of petered out and eventually after ten years when the contract ended, I was given the option of buying a few books from EPB and was told that it was going to be pulped and I thought that was the end of it all.
I did write eventually.. well not eventually, but I did write a few years after this was published, a manuscript which is still a bit rough round the edges, but I was really getting more into non-creative writing.
AW: So the lack of response here really had a negative effect on your writing?
AK: Certainly... there were other factors that, you know, having migrated, having coped with a dying partner then, it sort of was a soul destroying process for me. So while rationally I was saying 'can we stop being presumptuous and think that just because you published a novel that won a prize, was nominated for this or that, that you should be well-known, that you should expect a positive response'. Never mind wanting good reviews etc, and I wasn't looking for praises. I was just looking for critical response so that I could grow as a writer. I mean, you write to be read. You know, actors perform their skills to be seen. There is no point having skills if you can't get on stage and if you can't have that critical feedback from critics, because that's where you learn. And critiques not just from the audience, but critiques from fellow writers, fellow actors etc. I remember my JC tutor saying to me, 'If you have contempt for someone, no matter how deep that contempt is, you are still in a sense giving praise to that person because you're saying that they are important enough for you to react. But when you are completely indifferent, they don't exist!' And that's how I felt with Glass Cathedral, it's as if it never existed, because there was no response that I was aware of
AW: Having said that, ironically, you received a review in Malaysia in the New Straits Times...
AK: Oh yes, the New Straits Times gave a pretty good review. It wasn't on its own, it was a review of this book and another book and it was a little bit more of a critical response rather than 'oh, this is a good book'; it was a little bit more considered and I was very surprised by that. But also very sad. You know...a gay novel, Islamic Malaysia, but they still found it possible to write something about it but my own country just treated it as if it never existed.
AW: Can I ask about your life before you wrote Glass Cathedral. Where did you grow up in Singapore?
AK: Queenstown, which wasn't terribly remarkable. It's the first public housing estate that came up. It was a religious upbringing, I attended the parish church there. And the priests in charge were Dutch. So we're talking about the 70s, the 80s. This was post Vatican II. Their sermons were pretty practical, balanced, got you to see things, got you kind of engaged with society, but not radical theologically. And I think I was pretty much influenced by that, looking back. Sexuality never came into view because I've always wanted to enter the church as a Religious; so a huge struggle with that clearly as a growing up boy, you know, teenage and all that puberty stuff that came on. Always been in Catholic schools right until junior college days then went into NUS. NUS was, I still see it as one of the best times of my life. And at that time, thankfully, the university was still a little bit more of a university place where the exchange of ideas took place particularly in the English department, where you could explore concepts, ideology, etc with a (laughs) reasonable amount of freedom. And I was still very much involved in church activities then. The Young Christian Movement, The Legion of Mary up to then, but there was also a sense of awakening that was brought about by literature. As a kid, I'd never really had an interest in women as sexual beings, erm more so with men: could I possibly be gay? Then this whole struggle of coming to terms with myself, coming to terms with the fact that I still wanted to be a religious priest then particularly with the Jesuits and I think all that played into the novel. So I came out late in life. I joined the police force earlier in lieu of my national service and the story behind that was, when you start your NS, you get sent to basic military training. At that time, it was in Pulau Tekong. Within the first few days, we were introduced to the M16 gun. Within the first week, we saw this documentary of the Vietnam War. And I can still see the pictures of fourteen year old boys carrying the M16 and the whole propaganda about why we should have an army, you know defend your homeland, defend your family, etc all this emotive stuff, and I was sitting there looking at this fourteen year old carrying the M16 thinking, but that's exactly what he's fighting for too. This so called communist enemy of mine, and it's then that I felt if I had carried on with my national service in the army, I would lose something very human in me. And I started looking for a way out, and coincidentally, the police were experimenting with national service and taking would-be NUS students and they recruited quite a big group of us into the police force and that's how we got in. Never wholly resolved that issue of military and defence of the country, etc but it took the pressure off and again all that fed into the novel at some level. So after NUS I went back to the police. Couldn't function there because the whole intellectual environment had changed again and they didn't treat us very well either because of a whole lot of politics. A number of us left and I eventually left. By that time, I met my first partner, who was British, a Methodist minister. And it was a long distance relationship, but while I was in the police and had periods of time when there was nothing to do, I thought that I could write or I could at least give writing a go. Mainly because I felt that there was a story to tell so all that struggle with all that whole existential teenage angst, issues started coming back and that's when I thought I needed to tell this. But I also wanted to do it in a way, in a process that came out from being involved with setting up The Necessary Stage and struggling with language, struggling with what it meant to be Singaporean, where is our place in the world? This little tiny drop of an island.
AW:Peculiar Chris is the pioneer gay novel in Singapore. Did you read it before you wrote Glass Cathedral? If so, was it an influence?
AK: I cannot remember whether I'd read it before or while I was writing. Around that period. Did it influence me? Yes, it did. While I enjoyed reading it, in terms of the content and celebrating the fact that you know, we could publish a gay novel in Singapore, I wasn't that comfortable with the style.
AW: But even so groundbreaking in being the first...
AK: Absolutely. I would happily celebrate that. I think, looking back, it probably gave me an impetus to try and get this published. Very happy for it to be acknowledged as the first Singaporean gay novel. Not an issue with that.
AW: I was wondering if in some ways you almost feel envious about Peculiar Chris's cultural notoriety. Regardless of its literary qualities Lee's novel has become a kind of in queer legend in Singapore. I've heard that library copies were used by gay men in the pre-digital 90s to swap phone numbers, also that it initially had to be sold in a sealed brown paper bag. Glass Cathedral appears not to have entered queer local legend in quite the same way.
AK: Maybe because my sex scenes weren't sexy enough? I can't recall what I felt but I wouldn't be surprised if I had been envious about it...that somebody beat me to it. But on the other hand, I had hoped that it would have made things easier for me. But it didn't...and speaking as a gay man, fine, at least there was one gay Singaporean novel that had an impact. I'd rather that than the fact that there wasn't any. Sure to be honest, you know, I wish it had been mine or at that least mine had similar impact or some impact at all, but as you get older, you come to accept that life isn't always fair. Having said that, extremely grateful that it's been re-published and that it's getting a little bit more recognition now.
AW: On the back cover of the first edition of Glass Cathedral you are described as having been an actor, director, a teacher, and a policeman and that you look forward to an eclectic career. I'm intrigued to know, did this eclectic career actually happen?
AK: It did. I was hoping to do my PhD and teach but my partner's critical illness took me to the UK. I was a little bit of an anglophile back then, and the only way for the two of us to be together was for me to emigrate. There was no way he could come here because he didn't have skills that this country wants. And it was also easier for me to go there to adapt to the culture than for him to come over and adapt to this culture given my background and the only way we found we could do that without huge expenses was to train as a nurse.
AW: Right, and this was about 96?
AK: This was 96. And that started my nursing career. But it was very difficult because having just completed the MA and that whole sort of environment, and continuing to work with The Necessary Stage on a part-time basis, to then go back as an undergrad was intellectually challenging, one. Two, having to cope with the whole migration. I didn't know anybody there apart from my partner so I had no ties, so had to re-establish all that whole network and then cope with a different culture. You know, I studied the literature but to actually encounter the culture on a day to day basis is very different. I used the term "soul-destroying" and that's exactly how it was for me. I lost my self-confidence, I didn't know quite where I was, continually questioning myself whether this was the right way and even years down the line, I look at my peers and go 'somebody is a director of this, manager of that and what am I? I am a nursing student.' Which is the Singaporean coming out in me. But I did enjoy other sides of emigration. Nursing was useful, but I'm now moving into Chinese medicine. Eclectic, I think...(Laughs).
AW: You were a founding member of The Necessary Stage...
AK: The Necessary Stage had its beginnings when I was in my first year at NUS. There was a drama competition campus-wide. And a group of us got together Alvin and several other people - and decided to put up a play. 'God' by Woody Allen. We had great fun and after that a smaller group of us felt that we wanted to carry on. We started off as a society. And obviously being students of English, the question of language came up. And a number of us were very much interested in social issues.
AW: How long were you involved with The Necessary Stage?
AK: From 86, 87 through to the time I left, about 95? Well as time went on I wasn't really the main part of it. When you work in the police force, you work shifts so that makes it very difficult to attend rehearsals regularly until I managed to get myself transferred to the academy then I had regular hours so I got more involved. I went into drama education, did forum theatre for which The Necessary Stage was slammed by the government because it got too dangerous. It made people think, so obviously they couldn't have that; that's not what education is about! So it was an exciting time but it was a scary time too. I think it was more so for people like Alvin and Haresh than it was for the rest of us because they were at the helm of the company, as it was by then...but now they are mainstream!
AW: Your early Catholic faith clearly influences Glass Cathedral. At one stage you were considering training as a Jesuit?
AK: When I was 16, about 1981, I entered the minor seminary thinking I could start training. But I had issues with the rector. The nuns there told me, 'Your problem would not be the vow of celibacy, your problem would be the vow of obedience.' I said 'Ok...I can see why.' I was exploring whether I had a vocation or not, got in touch with the Jesuits. But it was during this time that all the pronouncements came from the Vatican, particularly from John Paul II and from the current pope as well. And the term they used to characterize a homosexual person was that 'they have an intrinsic disorder' etc. So I started writing to the Catholic press. Did not withhold my name, rebutted replies to articles and talked about why the church has got it all wrong. I think it was then that I decided after a while that I could not take up the cloth because if you join an organization it's only reasonable to expect that you accept that organization's culture and teachings and philosophy. And I did to an extent but not to that great an extent and I thought I couldn't stand up in a pulpit and agree to this because for me it wasn't just a single issue.
AW: Right.. you are no longer a practicing Catholic, but are you still interested in theology?
AK: Oh god, yeah.. James Joyce, Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.
AW: Could it be argued that there's something Jesuitical about Glass Cathedral?
AK: [Laughs] I'm always interested in things spiritual and in religious institutions because, like it or not, they exercise tremendous power and it affects people's lives. As humans we seem to have a tendency to want to get in touch with something beyond ourselves, and that gives religion a tremendous hold, a tremendous influence in terms of shaping the values of people and therefore, guiding how people respond to the environment and how people respond to one another.
AW: What about the intertextuality in Glass Cathedral? Right at the beginning when Colin first meets James at a literature seminar at NUS we encounter Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. Later there seem disingenuous references to Persuasion, a Harold Robins novel, David Leavitt's The Lost Language of Cranes and E.M. Forster's Maurice. These texts I assume are strategically placed, resonant?
AK: Calvino: unless you're doing Literature, chances of you knowing him are next to zero. Invisible Cities, I used that more for its title. And it's at the beginning to set the framework. That whole concept of the invisible city (or cities) is constantly working in the background throughout the novel. That's why I looped it back to hint that that first line is important; you need to read between the lines, go beyond the text. Harold Robbins definitely points towards the pervasiveness of heterosexual stories and the invariably heterosexual popular romanticism that goes along with that. And that, for gay people, that can be terribly oppressive.. And yet, nobody acknowledges that. That's where the 'invisible city' comes in.
AW: Its telling then that we encounter that Harold Robins novel on James' bookshelf so early in the novel.
AK: Indeed. If I can give an analogy, if racism is out there, pure and simple, people are making remarks. It's overt. In many ways, it is easier to deal with because you know where people are coming from. But when you become overly politically correct, when you pretend and racism goes underground, which I suspect it has in Britain, then it becomes harder to deal with because you can't see it and yet it's operating you like windows in the background, you don't know what viruses are out there or what information they're collecting on you. So the subtle oppressions that go on with the constant image, the constant socialization into a particular way of relating as a sexual person is the sort of thing that James faces. I don't know if many readers pick up how quickly he seems to have changed towards the end. The end of the novel almost feels rushed and we never see the transition in James. And that's the point! We don't. We don't because it's hidden, people don't deal with it overtly. They just do it. And that's the invisible bit, the bit that is not acknowledged. If you don't see a problem, then you can never deal with the problem.
Persuasion, everybody knows Persuasion because it's such a lovely story. I'm a sucker for Jane Austen's romances. And why not? But also Persuasion because of Anne Elliot. Making judgments based on somebody else's opinion. All that comes into play. Like Singapore campaigns, you get told long enough you start to believe in the myth. And therefore there's no self-acceptance, you're easily persuaded by anything that goes on. Even though your gut instinct might tell you something, even though you don't stop looking at cute guys or guys that turn you on, you pretend that that doesn't exist. Now I'm thinking of all the so-called conversion programmes by The Exodus Movement, etc...It hasn't stopped. For all the progress we've made, it hasn't stopped. So those texts are important. We happily accept soft pornography like Harold Robins and yet we scream murder if any of these books are read in secondary schools. Where's the perspective? We accept scantily clad women but not men. It goes back to what I'm saying, homophobia is not about men who love men or have sex with men. It's about misogynism.. And Harold Robins is part of that.
AW: How did you come to write Glass Cathedral? Was the Singapore Literature Prize competition an incentive?
AK: Actually no, no, I'm grateful to say that. No. The book came out before I thought about the competition. I can't be sure if I sent it to a couple of publishers, and if I did Times was one of them and Cannon who published Peculiar Chris. Neither were interested. And then I came across information about the competition I thought "oh what the hell, just send it in" not thinking it would win anything. When it did I was quite thrilled, obviously on a personal level, but also because it was a gay novel during the period of entrapment winning a national prize in an official contest. So this was a middle finger up to the authorities and for me at that point naively thinking 'right I've inserted a little wedge into this homophobic edifice' (laughs) I don't think they felt it.
AW: And the person who presented the prize was a government minister?
AK: Yes, he was, I believe he was the Minister of Defence then. And one of the very interesting things he said in his speech was words to the effect that we don't need disasters to write good literature. And I just thought 'you don't understand! You don't understand the literary process. Not that I'm saying you need disasters to write good literature, but you just don't understand what good literature is...the whole process of it, that need to go through a struggle, to separate - to use a biblical image - the wheat from the weed. You need to go through that because this is what a writing process does to you. And that's the beauty of the humanities: that you are always self reflecting even as you're looking outwards and this is why I think the humanities and the social sciences are so dangerous to any government that wants to continue to retain power beyond its natural life. Not the hard sciences, those are the ones that could create the technology that could decimate an entire nation they are tools to be used, but to quote 'V for Vendetta', "ideas are dangerous" and the ones who generate these ideas are the people in the arts and social sciences.
AW: You've also mentioned elsewhere that boredom was a reason for writing the novel.
AK: Yes, I was bored when I was in the police force. There were interesting things, but at the end of the day it wasn't my cup of tea so...I needed an intellectual outlet and I wasn't getting it there.
AW: And you were reacting to the death narrative in many previous gay novels as well?
AW: But while Colin doesn't die, the end of the novel seems rather bleak....
AK: You can read it that way or you can read it in an open ended way. I was rereading it the other day and I thought that if you look at it on a bigger scale, Colin is reminiscing the whole thing, the narrative that we read in this text. Was it really what happened, or...we don't know. All we have are his memories or his ordering of memories and ordering of memories is in a sense working through issues as well even as we are reading it the character is also working through that issue. Going back to that whole idea of the invisible influence we can read it as a story as we would any other story and leave it at that, but we can also read it as functioning on three different levels. Here is a story teller who is working though issues from the past that may or may not be relevant now we don't know but at the end having worked through all that, has it opened the future for him? Or is it shut? We don't know. Its left open, you know. But the fact that it loops back, means that we can talk about intertextuality, the fact that we can revisit the events of the story and reinterpret certain symbols, seem to us that maybe he's broken through certain things maybe he's recognizing certain things in himself. So there's that level and then there's the third level of the reader. What are you working through? Whether you're gay, straight or bisexual, what are you working through? Whether your politics are liberal or not, whether you're catholic or not, whether you are religious or not, what are you working through? Because all those issues are there. But what you want to work through or are at a stage you can work through is entirely in your hands. But the constant looping back if you like, that constant reordering of history, of memory that Colin seems to be doing right from the beginning right through to the end...we do that all the time. Its what Catholics call self-examination Ignatius of Loyola, first thing he says in Spiritual Exercises 'look at yourself', self examination and it's a psychological truism: if you don't accept yourself the chance of you accepting other people is next to zilch. Modern psychology doesn't run away from that.
I think, with my non-biased stance, of course, that you can read it at those three levels and obviously if you want to add the fourth, it's a story. Full stop!
AW: To return to your state of mind when you wrote 'Glass Cathedral'. Quite early on in the novel the narrator says, 'National Service counted as working experience and, in this economic miracle of an island, work is the raison d'κtre of one's patriotism.' I wondered if such sentences in the novel suggest a mediated anger at and mockery of aspects of the nation state during the late 1980s, early 1990s?
AK: At that time and now. That line rings very true for me, and all you have to do is look around, look at some of the policies that go on. Here we are yapping on about family values, family this that and the other as well as so-called 'Asian values' and on the other hand we are putting more pressure on people to work. And the often trotted out argument, 'we're a small nation' etc etc is getting very jaded. You think 'there are no other alternatives', and heigh ho its self fulfilling: you don't allow any exploration. I've seen my friends go to work, come back, go to work come back, tired...they get called when they are on holidays about work related stuff. As if they've never left work. And therefore work becomes the defining purpose of their lives. And it makes me question, what's the point of living? You're always working for someone else - unless you're a millionaire or whatever - but even then, what's the point of living? It's as if there's nothing else outside your work. And constantly we are being told otherwise.
AW: So Glass Cathedral remains relevant 16 years on, in the Singaporean issues it engages with?
AK: Well I see it as relevant. People might think otherwise.
AW: So you wrote the novel - or novella - which do you prefer?
AK: Lets call it a novel, sounds grander (laughs).
AW: So you wrote it around 93, 94?
AK: More 92, 93.
AW: How long did it take to write?
AK: I really couldn't tell you. Probably several months.
AW: And that was working on the manuscript on and off as you were working full time in the police force?
AK: Yes. And it was during writing that I finally understood when authors say 'the characters took on a life of their own' we say 'yeah, yeah; yeah, yeah, what pretension is that all about', but it did. Norbert was not meant to be in there except tangentially, a completely minor character like Sister Acid Tongue but when I started to write him in with that first encounter with Colin he just grew and he became the third party and the story took a different slant. And I didn't really mean to get so much into that whole Catholic theology stuff until Norbert came and it took on a life of its own.
AW: At your reading last week, Robert Yeo raised the issue of the state preserving its material, topographical literary heritage: homes, where key Singapore texts were written. Where did you write 'Glass Cathedral'?
AK: The old police academy.
AW: So you were writing it at your place of work?
AK: Yes. I didn't have a word processor at home. We're talking about the late eighties early nineties. It wasn't the norm then. So I wrote it all at work.
AW: There seems a kind of irony about a queer novel being composed in a Singapore police headquarters.
AK: See what I mean about 'Invisible Cities'?
AW: I don't know if its so much about detail, but one thing I like about this novel is the fact that it really does seem to authentically engage with Singapore, particularly its local topography and its voices.
AK: You know I talk about being authentic to oneself, self acceptance, etc, and that was the basis for starting out with this novel. You can't deny the visceral response to things you've seen, you've heard, to your reflections of where you are, where you think you are going, 'could you actually have a life as a gay man here?', for instance. You know, to that sort of deep pain when I see a man and a woman holding hands, knowing that we, gay men and gay women, can't do that in Singapore without potentially provoking a very adverse reaction. And that's where I wrote from. Now maybe that's why you find it a little bit more authentic, I don't know. But that's where I was coming from.
AW: Immediately before my first reading of 'Glass Cathedral' I had read Peculiar Chris. In Lee's novel, there seems to be no substantial engagement with Singapore: the city state is a vague back drop and we never encounter any of its minute particulars. However, when Chris first visits Australia the novel veers into travel guide style and a close engagement with Sydney's queer and non-queer urban spaces and quotidian.
AK: Maybe my advantage over Johann Lee was being engaged with literary issues, with that whole to use a Catholic term inculturation of literary studies here, the engagement with language not just as a form of expression but also as a form of power and therefore, whose language do we take on board? Do we take on the language of our ex colonial masters or do we reclaim it for our own, you know the sort of stuff, the sort of issues that the Necessary Stage was grappling with and we experimented with some of it worked some of it didn't. And I know for myself as well I have a bastardised accent, clipped when I'm in an argument or in a debate, and when I speak to certain people, but I would lapse into Singlish when I'm with friends. But at the same time if I'm trying to pontificate with them (laughs) my accent automatically switches and I know why it switches, it switches because it's a power play, you know? And yet, you know, being able to switch back to the local vernacular, means that I'm still rooted, and there are so many things that can be conveyed in Singlish that you can't quite capture the nuance of in 'proper' English. You speak in full sentences and you can't quite capture it. It's difficult to explain to somebody who has never encountered that here.
AW: There is an amusing example of that in Glass Cathedral. In a Catholic school classroom a teacher is talking about 'carnal relations'. When one student isn't clear what this means another shouts out exasperatedly 'fucked in the backside, lah!' The contrast in language is very arresting.
AK: Yes and that kind of contrast shows how we sanitise sex. Its clinical, the way we talk about sex, officially. Its something that's so intimate and yet we're so scared of it, precisely because we've sanitized it. And being a sexual health nurse, its fascinating. Looking at the language we have to use, not to put people off, trying not to be judgemental and yet trying to elicit a whole sexual history which we have to do in clinic. When I reread Glass Cathedral and particularly that bit about 'carnal knowledge' and 'fucked in the backside' I thought 'that's what it is'. You talk about 'carnal knowledge' to people they don't know what the hell you are on about. But when you become graphic without being offensive they grasp it straight away, they don't have to go through all this intellectualization, to try and say 'what are you on about?' Because its not something that's closed, and that kind of graphic language gets to that emotional truth for me.QLRS Vol. 11 No. 1 Jan 2012