Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A lesson from Woodstock

It took me quite some months to finish this compendium volume of P.G. Wodehouse's stories but yes, I'm finally done with it. As of last Wednesday, I turned Page 682 over and put aside the book.

You know, I never expected to take this long to finish a book but beside its thickness, the only other reason was because I read it as a bedside novel. Hilarious though it was, I could only manage perhaps three or four pages before the sandman came a-calling.

Initially, I thought the whole book was all about Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, but it turned out that there were only two Jeeves stories among the five in this volume. A bit of disappointment. Nonetheless, the other three stories were equally absorbing, all written in the inimitable Wodehouse style.

So what's my next reading adventure now that all my Wodehouse books have been read and reread?

It's this: Back To The Garden, a book by Pete Fornatale, published in 2009 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Fornatale is an award-winning American broadcaster and his book celebrates the spirit of this music festival in the words of those who played or participated there.

I had not intended to read this book but my trip to the island last Friday also took me to the Penang Botanic Garden. Much inspired by the greenery and flowers there, I had posted in facebook that I felt like a flower child that was back in the garden. It was just a wishful feeling but Jeffrey said it sounded like I was at Woodstock.

Well, I've never been to Woodstock or for that matter, haven't stepped foot onto any American soil in my life. In late 1969, I had already heard about this music festival from a pen friend in Australia. It opened my eyes to the world at large. I was beginning to understand some of the issues going on in the world around me. Then one day, I entered Wing Hing Records, a record shop in Campbell Street, George Town and saw this triple album record set. The music was a revelation and it created a deep impression but more importantly, there was this unmistakable message that half a million people can come together and co-exist together with little incident.

Rock and roll culture is often maligned with violence but Woodstock showed that when people were not provoked and they showed respect towards one another, public gatherings need not descend into chaos and violence. That, to me, was the lesson from the festival.

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