Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) 2020 is slated to take place from 30 October to 8 November and it will be an all-digital affair. But that’s not to say it will be any less power-packed. The line-up features an extensive list of global and local literary giants, such as English novelist Zadie Smith, American poet Sharon Olds, American young adult fiction author Judith Lewis (pen name Cassandra Clare), and Singaporean authors and poets Balli Kaur Jaswal, Jeremy Tiang and Cyril Wong, to name a few.
Wong, who is involved in two sessions for SWF, acknowledges that online events do have their drawbacks. “It’s never the same as interacting in real life. Doing things online is the opposite of challenging—they are far too easy,” he shares. The problem, he adds, is that this might result in the audience not feeling invested compared to if they were physically in attendance. “Audiences can feel particularly alienated from being unable to have more intimate conversations with writers and each other in the literal space of a physical venue,” he explains.
“My hope for the audience is that they might expend more energy on getting to know the authors better through their work and to not feel afraid to reach out and ask burning questions.” He also hopes that people read extensively to prepare for SWF’s events – and to read with an open mind and an even more open heart.
Below, Wong shares some of his “favourite books by favourite authors of mine”, which coincidentally, happen to be works produced by local publishers.
1. Tender Delirium by Tania De Rozario (Math Paper Press, 2013)
A searing first collection of poems by Tania De Rozario that cuts to the quick of dysfunctional family life and estranged lovers, even evoking the voices of murdered women to speak on loss and longing. Few poets in Singapore are as unflinching or as brave.
2. Impractical Uses of Cake by Yeoh Jo-Ann (Epigram Books, 2019)
A teacher meets a homeless person in Yeoh’s debut novel and an usual relationship ensues, involving cake and touching on matters of class-division and existential self-awareness that transform this understated narrative into a serenely Singaporean work of art.
3. These Foolish Things and Other Stories by Yeo Wei Wei (Ethos Books 2015)
Yeo Wei Wei’s exacting short stories are full of surprising and haunted characters: a ghost hiding in an umbrella, a singing bird, women and men caught in intricate webs of guilt and desire. Each story is a cinematic and emotional glimpse into the heart of intimate relationships.
4. Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins (Ethos Books 2019)
A mother recounts her 17-year-old daughter’s suicide in this heartbreaking memoir, which is by turns insightful and poignantly fragmented, reflecting a survivor’s inward and outward recovery in the face of insurmountable loss.