Editors’ Corner: What We’re Reading

1. What are the most memorable Singlit pieces you’ve read? How have they shaped your writing?

WY: In general, discovering local speculative fiction was a turning point for me. Local presses have increasingly been putting out science fiction & fantasy titles, and starting to read those and see what other writers are doing gave me a boost of confidence in writing speculative fiction. I think Nuraliah Norasid’s The Gatekeeper stands out as the only local secondary-world fantasy I’ve read. SFF–and genre fiction more broadly–has historically been overwhelmingly white, even more so than literary or realist fiction (at least, those written in English), so it’s hugely encouraging to see a wave of diverse titles coming up in that space.

CY: For prose, it’s probably got to be Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic and Delayed Rays of a Star. ALK does such incredible work rendering these complex, hyper-realistic interiorities within her characters. MOMP in particular completely redefined the way I thought about the short story (along with Nam Le’s The Boat); I’m still haunted about that one short story about a love affair between a domestic helper and her employer sometimes. Poetry-wise, I’m a big fan of Boey Kim Cheng, Lee Tzu Pheng, and Alfian Sa’at. Reading them from around the start of secondary school shaped a lot of how I conceptualised my situatedness in Singapore.

KC: Pooja Nansi’s Love is An Empty Barstool. I picked the book up as a lower-sec student at the CAP bookstore – prior to that I’d never really read much local poetry (apart from the likes of Cyril Wong/Alfian Sa’at)  – so reading it was very much a formative experience for me. Even then I was a sucker for solid confessionalist love poetry, and the unabashed emotion and sensuality characteristic of that collection really cemented the more visceral style that I was to grow (and still am growing) into. Catherine Lim’s Or Else the Lightning God and ALK’s Ministry of Moral Panic were also watershed reads for me in a vast number of ways: aesthetic, language, but above all a distinct sense of rootedness I always endeavour to retain at the core of my writing.

2. What are you reading right now?

WY: For a class, I’ve just read Eileen Chang’s Lust/Caution, which actually bleeds quite nicely in terms of historical context into my personal reading: I’m starting Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights, a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. And I’m on a fantasy run, so after that will be The Burning God, the finale to RF Kuang’s WW2-China-inspired trilogy. Both TVD and TBG draw from and deal in varying ways with very close (sequential, even) periods in Chinese history; they examine things like 20th-century imperialism and globalisation in ways that reaffirm why we need decolonial perspectives in the genre. I’m also always really excited to read Singaporean and Malaysian speculative writers, and I’ve recently enjoyed the works of Zen Cho, Neon Yang, Cassandra Khaw, and Hanna Alkaf.

CY: Poetry-wise, I’ve just started on a collection of Robert Frost’s lifetime of works, and a collection of shorter poems by Thomas Hardy. I’d also recommend Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Jericho Brown’s The Tradition, and Louise Gluck’s The Wild Iris, which I’ve just read – they’re all utterly compelling and have quite diverse styles. For prose, I’m reading Robert MacFarlane’s Landmarks, which has a fascinating take on language and its relationship with nature.

KC: I’m in the thick of my final (uni) year, so most of my reading is dictated by what is academically required, but some of the gems I’ve recently had/ am having the fortune of reading for school include Generation X by Douglas Coupland and White Teeth by Zadie Smith – both of which have been immensely relatable and enjoyable in their respective ways. Leisure-wise, I’ve mostly been revisiting my comfort poetry when I’ve had the time: Vuong (which Chris mentioned), Duffy, Larkin, Amanda Chong’s Professions, etc. I’m also working my way through Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene, which I highly recommend. 

3. Three themes or ideas you gravitate towards in your reading or writing:

WY: Complex and monstrous girls, identity, and complicated families.

CY: Silence, performativity, and complicated pieties.

KC: Confessionalism, earthliness, and space (or the lack thereof).

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