QLRS: Full marks for freshman effort

My review of Philip Holden’s Heaven Has Eyes is now up on Quarterly Literary Review Singapore:

Full marks for freshman effort
Philip Holden hits the bull’s-eye with Heaven Has Eyes

Code-switching, or alternating between languages or language varieties, is never an easy feat.

But Philip Holden makes the practice look effortless with Heaven Has Eyes, his debut collection of short stories that centre on or revolve around Singapore.

Each of the 12 texts demonstrates Holden’s keen understanding of both the Singaporean condition and the linguistic oddities that characterise the nation-state.

Whether it is portraying characters that converse using a mix of English and Singlish, or shifting between English and the various Chinese language varieties in telling each of the stories, Holden is equally at ease.

“Aeroplane”, for one, utilises an intelligent interplay of English, Mandarin and Hokkien, conveying, through the symbol of flying, themes of migration, abandonment and exile.

It is done masterfully.


QLRS: Dusty Gems

Since 2011, when I reviewed Tan Tarn How’s Six Plays, I’ve made it a point to review a Singaporean literary text for each Jul issue of the Quarterly Literary Review, Singapore (QLRS).

This year, I’ve reviewed Noon at Five O’Clock: The Collected Short Stories of Arthur Yap (Edited by Angus Whitehead).

Dusty Gems
Collection highlights little-known area of Arthur Yap’s work

Edited by Angus Whitehead, an assistant professor of English literature at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, Noon at Five O’Clock: The Collected Short Stories of Arthur Yap is a volume of eight short stories that comes on the back of The Collected Poems of Arthur Yap (NUS Press, 2013). Both volumes arrive eight years after Yap’s passing — a timely reminder of the 1983 Cultural Medallion winner’s contribution to Singapore’s arts scene in a milieu currently predisposed to lauding the “pioneer generation”.

While Yap’s poetry is synonymous with the Singapore literary canon, it is the mention of his short stories that pulls the reader up short: the average literature reader in my generation, and later, is probably unaware that Yap wrote fiction. Thus, kudos must go to Whitehead for his imagination and insight in tracking down and putting together this volume, so that the breadth of Yap’s talents can be fully appreciated by a wider audience.


Summing up before moving on

"Hello, I don't have anything to print at the moment... Sorry about that."
“Hello, I don’t have anything to print at the moment… Sorry about that.”

Wow! That was a long hiatus.

Besides publicising a couple of events/articles I wrote (what’s worse: some posts are backdated D:), I haven’t posted regularly since late October.

No prizes for guessing why – I was busy with many things and I thought I’d list them briefly here for posterity:

(To be honest, I don’t really like consolidated posts like these; I feel they’re a bit of a cop-out and besides, if the moment has passed, we should just let it go.

But I know I need to sum up what’s been going on before I can move on to two very important upcoming posts I need to make.)

  1. I was stuck in deadline purgatory for quite a fair bit.

    For one, I contributed an article to Article (LOL) for the Singapore Biennale 2013.

    Singapore Biennale 2013 media preview
    Singapore Biennale 2013 media preview

    The Biennale is pretty awesome, BTW, so do check it out if you haven’t already done so.

    Spirit level; level spirits
    Spirit level; level spirits

    I also contributed a couple of theatre reviews to The Straits Times Life! section – you can read snippets of the articles here.

  2. Scooter issues… ZOMG. Read the updates here.
  3. Took a short trip up to KL to escape for a while + do some writing + take a holiday since I can’t take one until March 2014 (explained in a subsequent bullet point).

    Fierce Curry House in Kuala Lumpur
    Fierce Curry House in Kuala Lumpur
  4. Moderated New Word Order featuring Dan Koh, the Singapore Creative Writing Resident 2013.

    Me and Dan at the reading (PHOTO CREDIT: Joanna Koh)
    Me and Dan at the reading (PHOTO CREDIT: Joanna Koh)
  5. I can’t go on leave yet because… I started a new job!

    What’s it about?

    I’m not going to discuss what I’m doing because I want to devote a post to this.

    So all I’m going to say is: news embargoed until further notice.

  6. Was a groomsman and a dinner emcee for Lucas Ho’s wedding.

    Pooters got in on the act too! Unfortunately I haven't managed to repaint it.
    Pooters got in on the act too! Unfortunately I haven’t managed to repaint it.
  7. Celebrated SG Tipsy Trivia’s first anniversary! And we received some media coverage too.
    Oh – and guess who was at that evening's SG Tipsy Trivia!
    Oh – and guess who was at that evening’s SG Tipsy Trivia!

    BONUS: Surprise Siew Kum Hong.

So it was a busy but fun two months, hence the radio silence.