I’ve been a hermit lately, but today I want to talk about an event I was recently invited to, one which featured one of my favorite Singaporean authors, Suchen Christine Lim.
You’ve heard from her on this blog before (here and here). I’ve learned much from her workshops, her novels, and the wisdom she has shared with me during the occasional encounters in the past few years.
Even with an audience of about forty, it felt like an intimate affair, because the venue was someone’s home, one of Singapore’s ‘elite’ as Mr. R Ramachandran, the affable Executive Director of NBDCS, jokingly put it.
Suchen took over, and despite having admired her for years now, I felt in her thrall as if for the first time when she began to read from her latest novel: The River’s Song.
She’s pixyish in build and demeanor– vibrant, kind, wise. But when she reads, she transforms into an oracle, who demands your entire attention and wouldn’t settle for less. She seems to grow taller, her voice alternately rings with conviction and rage, and then caresses with softness and laughter. I enjoyed this part of Twilight Tales very much indeed– and would have loved it if she kept reading the entire evening. The audience chorused with her, and clapped their hands off.
She answered questions from the floor, and the moderator, Jane Wong Yeang Chui. The questions from the audience ranged from the usual queries like how many of her stories are true to life, where does she find inspiration from, how does she get inside the head of a character. Though Suchen must have fielded these kind of questions ad nauseam, she answered with grace and playful humor, and even responded to someone who asked her if she felt ‘lonely’ as a writer!
Jane Wong asked interesting questions, for instance, the role of a writer in creating (alternative) history (I long for the times when history was still written by crazy professors and not by committee, was Suchen’s candid response) and whether the author felt the need for self-censorship (I make sure I get my facts right, Suchen said).
From his earlier experiences heading the National Library of Singapore, Mr. R Ramachandran spoke briefly about the initiatives by Lee Kuan Yew, the recently deceased and much-revered first prime minister of Singapore.
“Without LKY’s support and vision, libraries in Singapore would’nt have developed this far – to be one of the best in the world. LKY opened the first Branch Library in Singapore, the Queenstown Library in 1969. He believed in the significance of libraries at a time when no head of state of a developing country gave it any importance. I’m proud to say that I’ve served our PM a couple of times when he came to the library to borrow books. Today, if he’d walked into this room he would’ve been very proud to see so many of you here to listen to an author. In those days it was difficult to have even a couple of people attend a literary evening.”
The evening continued. Author copies were signed, snacks were eaten and wine was drunk– authors, aspiring writers, book lovers and Book Council officials exchanged cards and smiles.
All in all, a lovely literary evening. I left, quite eager to attend the next edition, which I’m told would be held in July. The only question: how do they plan to top Suchen Christine Lim’s act?
Have you been to a literary event recently? Ever listened to a beloved author read? Does the author have the same voice as the book when you read it yourself? Does the Literary or Book Council in your country support literary events like this one?
If you live in Singapore, have you been to Twilight Tales? What sort of literary event do you like the most?
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