All posts tagged: literature

Record: 雨天裡的茶

Alex and I went out for a hop-around-try-things kinda day last week. It was one of those days where the rain was on and off, going from sunny to pouring and vice versa in the span of 10 seconds throughout the day. Started the day with a cup of 絲襪奶茶, which is old school classic, HK-style milk tea. We popped into Lan Fong Yuen  (pretty famous, lots of celebrity shots stuck onto their walls) while heading through SoHo and it was the perfect kind of dingy for me. There’s HK charm about the raised sitting stools, cluttered laminate papers, and a dangerous proximity to the street on which cars are passing by which makes these places so damn lovable. I didn’t know Alex would order me a hot tea (the weather was 30degrees) but it meant we got the full flavour of HK’s tea style. It was definitely a nostalgic cup to have, full of high school memories and lunch breaks. By contrast, I dropped into an artisan tea boutique in PMQ to look at their beautiful clay …

Shelf Life: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

I first heard about Sonny Liew and this graphic novel (like many others), through the NAC grant controversy, and became interested in the book that caused such a stir amongst the ongoing conversations about censorship in Singapore. I also heard about its overwhelming popularity, its sold-out print runs and overwhelmingly positive reviews. So I decided I had to get my hands on it, and when I found a copy lying on the shelf at Page and Panel at the Toronto Reference Library, I grabbed it without hesitation. Phenomenal. Phenomenal. Phenomenal. The sheer variety of comic styles that show up in Chan Hock Chye is ridiculous, and imitated to such wonderful precision. The presentation of these strips, styles and colour splashed across the page, perfectly organized and placed page to page is itself a design feat, and such wonderful attention to storytelling. The sketch lines of pencil drawings, the creases of sketch paper, the tape used to hold down strips, the colour of strips, the texture…I could go on, but the point is, all these details are carefully …

Shelf Life: Ru by Kim Thúy

“I am lucky that I’ve learned to savour the pleasure of resting my head in a hand, and my parents are lucky to be able to capture the love of my children when the little ones drop kisses into their hair, spontaneously, with no formality, during a session of tickling in bed. I myself have touched my father’s head only once. He had ordered me to lean on it as I stepped over the handrail of the boat.”  Kim Thúy is such a masterful storyteller. The voice of her narrator meanders almost effortlessly between different space-times and histories, navigating through them through details that are often presented in breathtakingly ordinary ways: a colour, the changed tense of a word, an object, a person. There is a term for the way she writes: 細膩.       “Without writing, he wouldn’t have heard the snow melting or leaves growing or clouds sailing through the sky. Nor would he have seen the dead end of a thought, the remains of a star or the texture of a …

Shelf Life: Goliath

I could subtitle this book, “in which white space has never hurt more”, and it would still be an apt description of what the book could be about. This slim little graphic novel packs an immense visual and narrative punch, riffing off the famous biblical story of David and Goliath. Gauld takes the viewpoint of Goliath, rendering him a gentle giant who works in the Philistine army, mostly doing administration and paperwork. His massive size, however, is utilized by the army, and he is sent to keep watch for and face off against the yet unknown, enemy champion. Gauld uses this beautiful sketch aesthetic and monochrome palette to tell the story, featuring stick figures, minimal settings with clean lines, and a straightforward dialogue. It is when Gauld enlarges his panels to switch into Goliath’s perspective that you catch yourself as you are sucked into the snowballing narrative. Goliath himself never says much, we mostly see him moving in and out of frames, between his mundane army tasks, and toward his famous and impending death that is …

Shelf Life: My Chinese Life by Li KunWu and Philip Ôtié

  I finally got around to cracking open this ~700page graphic memoir, A Chinese Life, which is the collaborative brainchild of 李昆武 Li Kun Wu and Philip Ôtié. Illustrated by Li, who was/is a Communist Party member & famous graphic artist, and written by Ôtié in French through Li’s notes, I got my hands on the English translation published via SelfMadeHero, in a small bookstore, Woods in the Books in Singapore (talk about transnational! :P). Aesthetically, the emotive explosion that is Li’s work is quite breathtaking. Perhaps it is the way his character moves through the panels so effortlessly that gives this narrative memoir the sweeping pace that it has. It is a perfect complement to the time period that the novel covers, from Li’s own boyhood and induction into the Red Army, his journey into adulthood which spans the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the eventual death of Mao, and the rise of China under the direction of Deng XiaoPing, a China which a much older Li continues to move through and engage with. His …