We studied the extensive menu, which listed both international as well as local cuisine. Joe and I were fast decision makers when it came to selecting our dishes. Joe settled on rice with Crispy Catfish in Chili Paste and a side order of the ubiquitous tangy Green Mango Salad to share, while I chose rice with Red Curry of Roasted Duck, a dish Joe had suggested after describing it as a bracing Thai classic combining tender roasted duck with a perfect blend of spices, coconut milk, and pineapple. The food arrived within ten minutes of ordering, and was excellent in both presentation and taste. My duck curry surpassed Joe’s mouth-watering description. I complimented Joe on his recommendation. His quiet response was “I’m happy you liked the duck.”

Food aside, what do you talk about with a charming Thai man whom you have just met on his home turf? A lot, apparently. I told Joe about my job, and he pressed me to tell him more about the documentaries I had shot from Singapore to Bangkok. As I had at least a dozen documentaries under my belt in Singapore but only one in Bangkok, I gave Joe capsule highlights of my work. He seemed impressed. It was now Joe’s turn to talk about himself. His voice was even and fluid as he told me about his student days majoring in

Review of The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

catThe story is that of a couple in their mid- to late-30s, both freelancers working at home, in a small house on the grounds of a grander main house full of antiques and surrounded by a garden. Their neighbors, in another small house on a crooked lane (“Lightning Alley”) that prevents the two households from meeting or even seeing each other very often, have acquired a cat who begins to drift over to the first couple’s garden and house, making it her second home. The husband is not a cat-lover to begin with, and admits to “feeling absolutely disgusted” by the cloying manner of certain cat-loving friends. Over time, we observe the cat making herself at home with the couple, and their subtle interactions with this new-found guest. Chibi (Little One), is “a jewel of a cat.” (Perhaps the word is tama [jewel, bead] in the Japanese version? If so, a possible reference to Kanai’s work?) She is white with black splotches varied with light brown. She likes human company, seeing off her owners’ little boy each morning as he goes to school, and gradually making herself at home in the couple’s house as well. But she has a wild side, and will not be picked up or held. She is slender, swift and silent. Hiraide’s descriptions of her as she plays with a rubber ball, hunts birds or cicadas and sleeps on the sofa (“like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a comma and dug up from a prehistoric archaeological site”) are vivid and true-to-life.