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.
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.