Have you ever experienced any strange but interesting incidents? Can you share with us?
Yes, I have. My lecturer told us that snakes like her before we have had our little trip to Halong bay in Vietnam. As we wanted to get on the boat after visiting the cave and shore, we saw snakes half standing in the water. The strange thing was that they were not slithering, but looking at something straightforward like they were in a trance. So, we did what others would do. Yup, we took a lot of photos of us on the bridge with the snakes in the water and posted on Facebook.
What do you think about wild animals? Have you ever come into contact with them?
I find them quite scary. For me, even dogs are terrifying although I know they usually do no harm unless they think they are in danger.
This is a funny (read: not-so-funny) way to start a section in a story, but this is Haskell in his psychological mode, and it’s a tone he turns to frequently, which can make parts of this book sound eerily similar to the DSM-IV-TR Case Studies: A Clinical Guide to Differential Diagnosis . His exposition is dutiful and persistent, but he oddly does not seem to be using it to generate sympathy, which is what a narrative writer might hope for after disclosing details of character. Minimalism in fiction, which at its best extracted psychology purely from surfaces, would be anathema to Haskell. One of his favorite things to do, his pet point throughout the book, is to probe the interior conflicts within a character, but the effect is rather more coldly intellectual than warmly empathic:
Of course there are such things as true handedness and true hair colour. If there were not, no-one would be right-handed or left-handed, and no-one would have a hair colour. I agree, however, that the word “true”, when used in this way, is redundant. You seem to be applying it unnecessarily to heterosexuality to make your belief that it is the only “correct” form of sexuality, and that homosexuality is somehow “disordered” – a corruption, as you put it, of heterosexuality – sound more like an objective fact, which it isn’t. You are still perfectly free to believe that if you wish. I have no convincing reason to believe it, so I don’t.