Nov 12, 2009

Strange Tales From Cyril Wong

After publishing half a dozen poetry books, Cyril Wong must have grown bored and decided to try his hand at writing short stories instead. Let Me Tell You Something About That Night is the result.

I must confess that when someone described the book to me as a collection of "modern-day fairy tales", I was a little skeptical that this book was going to be worth reading. Happily, I overcame that initial skepticism enough to pick up the book at Kinokuniya.

I'm about halfway through the book now, and quite enjoying it. Gerrie Lim has a little blurb on it which goes: "Cyril Wong is proving himself to be a prose stylist of a calibre that threatens to outdo his poetry, with words so poignant and heartfelt, and a narrative drive that's often direct and bold yet breathtaking in its fragile beauty." I think that those words sum the book up pretty well.

Cyril Wong is writing fairy tales, but these are not fairy tales for children (maybe for young adults and older). The stories do not quite end with a "happily ever after" and the characters are much more complex than the usual handsome prince or big bad wolf. A subtle gay theme runs through several stories, and that will put off the Thio Su Miens and the like-minded, but the stories themselves are not sexually explicit.

Several of these fairy tales are set in a recognisably modern, and even Singaporean, context. For example, one story is about a condominium security guard on night duty. Using his CCTV cameras, he spies on two women who have entered into the lift, only to discover that they are not quite human. In another story, a Malay schoolboy discovers that he has the ability to see how each person will eventually die.

Let Me Tell Something About That Night is something fresh and different. It's a welcome new addition into the existing body of Singapore literature. Do yourself a favour, go and get the book.


hansolo said...

"There's a subtle gay theme that runs through several stories, which is going to put some Christians off."

It could put some people off, regardless of their religion. This statement is really uncalled for.

Anonymous said...

Well I like Cyril Wong more than your poetry but his book a bit too expernsive leh. More than most books.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Why are you offended, Han Solo? Are you an anti-gay non-Christian, or a non-anti-gay Christian, or a defensive anti-gay Christian?

Wow, that was a little ... confusing.

alf said...

I enjoyed the prose stylistics in LMTYSALN but felt oddly let down at the end of it. Still trying to figure out why. Certainly I think CW is capable of more/better, but then a publication always lags a writer's current leading edge of ability.

Looking forward to the next one, for sure.

Unknown said...

I got the book and I enjoyed it. I still prefer his poetry though. :)

Where can I find yours? I understand it was out in June? I'll have more free time once this last show is done.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Hello molepunch:

What show are you doing now?

Two Baby Hands is available at Kinokuniya, Books Actually, Select Books and direct online from the publisher Ethos.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Wang, I think hansolo has raised a perfectly legitimate point, and doesn't deserve the sarcasm you gave it. His/Her personal beliefs have nothing to do with the point raised.

Not all homophobes are Christian (or have a religion, for that matter); likewise, not all Christians are homophobes. One doesn't have to be Christian or anti-gay to make this point.

There will be people of all leanings who would take issue with associating Christianity with homophobia, whether it was intentional or not. Why say Christians when you could have just written, "which is going to put some people off" instead?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I wasn't being sarcastic. I was genuinely curious about his stance.

I am trying to see how the comment (pre-edit) could possibly be viewed as offensive.

An anti-gay non-Christian might conceivably be offended, because he WANTS to be counted among the people who would be put off by the book, but my phraseology does not allow him to be counted.

A non-anti-gay Christian might conceivably be offended, because he identifies with Christianity, is anti anti-gay, and dislikes my comment, for omitting to mention that there are anti-gay people who are non-Christian.

Finally, a defensive anti-gay Christian might conceivably be offended, because he sees in my comment a criticism of anti-gay Christians, and wants to challenge my comment by pointing out that there are non-Christians who would support an anti-gay stance too.

Anonymous said...

"anti anti-gay"

You are getting more convoluted in your writing. A better expression would be pro-gay.

Well it is DEEMED as offensive to him because by in that statement, you seem to infer that Christians are the most discriminatory towards gays. I mean, you could have just said "There's a subtle gay theme that runs through several stories, which is going to put some PEOPLE off." By using the word "Christians", there is an underlying meaning that Christians have a tendency to be discriminatory.

Haha, but I dont blame you for writing like that. I mean, even though homophobes are everywhere, it is the Christian fundementalists that makes the loudest noise and poses as the strongest threat towards gay equality. Pointed out in Yawning Bread too.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Haha, there is a difference between anti anti-gay, and being pro-gay.

Being against one side doesn't necessarily mean that you're pro the other side.

Eg disliking the PAP doesn't necessarily mean that you support the opposition.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Why say Christians when you could have just written, "which is going to put some people off" instead?"

I said "some Christians".

Thinking of the ones who recently made history by mounting covert operations to infiltrate and invade a civil society group which actually dared to suggest that we might take a neutral stance towards homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

How about instead of "anti anti gay" we call it "anti-discrimination"?

Then the "anti-gay" movement would be more properly termed "pro-discrimination" movement.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang,

Thanks very much for your interesting blog. It's always nice to see how people on the other side of the globe live, how they share the same joys and sorrows, what they do in their free time, etc.

I actually have a question about your blog. Would you mind helping us with a linguistic research project? We're compiling data from various Singaporean weblogs. All it requires is checking a few boxes. If you want to take part and/or have more questions, drop me a note ( RE: Question ) so that I can then send you the 'official' project eMail. We'd really appreciate your help.

Thanks very much in advance!
Best regards,
- Fran

PS: You know, I'm not familiar with Singaporean literature at all, so thanks for your recommendation!