A small glimpse of Singapore’s literary scene

A couple of posts ago I told you about Books Actually (see: “Bookish Adventures in Singapore, part 3: Books Actually”) a bookstore I visited in Singapore, which is also a small press publisher under the imprint name of Math Paper Press. While there I bought a couple of their publications — a chapbook called My Suit and an issue of their literary journal Ceriph.

What these two publications have in common with everything else published by Math Paper Press is that they are beautifully produced. The texture of the paper, the feel of the publication, the look of the cover, the design of the interior… even the way they are presented, with a little plastic or paper sheath. They are a joy to behold.

My Suit, by Jason Wee, is the first chapbook in a series called Babette’s Feast, which publishes poetry and essays. I chose it, not knowing anything about the contents, simply because it was the first. So I came to it with no expectations or preconceptions. My Suit is a fascinating essay about life, seen through clothing. It meanders in interesting ways down unexpected paths, skipping to different points in the author’s history. It has a gentle humour and keen insight.

Writing about wearing hand-me-downs as a teenager, the author observes…

I on the other hand had the more direct (and more sceptical) intuition that teenagers are less likely to recognize the sophistication of retro and see only a boy in anachronistic clothing sent to the present future from the ridiculous past.

But there is more to this essay than just clothing. There are observations on many things, from the way Starbucks can complicate your choice of coffee, to explorations of cultural slang. He explains how, as a Chinese boy, he came to be lumbered with the epithet ‘banana’…

… someone who internalized enough Western habits and manners to be yellow on the outside, white on the inside.

Of course, it’s all brought back to clothes in the end, with an amusing story about pyjamas…

I thought that if I play it with the right sensibility, I would pass off a set of pyjamas in a dark, lightly patterned fabric for a deconstructed, unlined summer suit.

Issue three of Ceriph was a very different reading experience. Often a little too experimental for my tastes, in contained much difficult to interpret poetry and surreal micro-fiction. But there were also a couple of pieces that I really enjoyed. While Ceriph is not my cup of tea, I think it’s great that an avenue such as this exists for Singaporean authors. This issue came with two fold-out additions — one photographic, the other illustrative.

I’m pleased I picked up these two publications. They will remain in my library as souvenirs of my time in Singapore. More importantly, they have provided me with a little glimpse into that country’s literary scene.

Catch ya later,  George

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George Ivanoff

LITERARY CLUTTER: Bookish bloggings from the cluttered mind and bookshelf of Melbourne author, George Ivanoff. George is the author of the YOU CHOOSE books, the OTHER WORLDS series, the RFDS Adventures and the GAMERS trilogy.