It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least in creative writing classes) that a writer in search of a good story must first invent a lifelike, interesting character. The commonly held wisdom is that once such a character has been imagined, the story then shapes itself, dependent on the character’s desires and decisions.
Singaporean writer Dave Chua won a Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award in 1996 for his novel Gone Case, which he recently adapted into a two-volume graphic novel in collaboration with artist and writer Koh Hong Teng. The second volume was released in October 2011. Mr.
Dave Chua’s award-winning Gone Case takes a familiar literary genre, the bildungsroman, and sets it in late 20th-century Singapore, with poignant results. Twelve-year-old Yong struggles with schoolwork, develops a crush on a friend’s older sister, weathers threats of violence from a bully, and takes care of his younger brother, all while watching his parents’ marriage fall apart.
GASPP: A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose (2010) comes with a breath of the sensational, from its title to its cheeky cover, exploiting the contradiction of a celebration of homosexual culture in staid Singapore. It’s both warranted and unnecessary at once—while homosexual sex acts (specifically man to man) continue to be criminalized by Singapore law, homosexuality seems to be condoned or tolerated by law enforcement and much of the citizenry, though not by more conservative and traditional segments of society.
The FX TV series American Horror Story presents an intriguing portrait of America in the new millennium through the distorting lens of the Gothic mode. Essentially a haunted house story, the series (now 2/3 into its first season) refuses to play by the rules or adhere to the mythology of the sub-genre.
In a 2010 roundtable discussion here at the Mantle, I wrote about the responsibilities of a writer in a time or place of conflict. While my opinions on the subject continue to inform my writing and the creative decisions I make, two encounters with nonfiction writing classes during the 2011 Writers in Motion study tour of America occasion a coda of sorts.
I made my way to my aisle seat in a row of three and groaned inwardly. The center seat, which had been empty when I checked online the night before, was now occupied by a tall young man, stocky enough to necessitate raising the armrest that separated my space from his. I reassured myself that this wasn’t going to be a problem—this was the short leg of my trip, from DC to Minneapolis, from which there would be a long haul to Tokyo before the final push to Manila. I could handle a few crowded hours.
Because the study tour was pre-planned, it was inevitable that these very different cities would thread together in predictable ways: “Fall and Recovery.” However, as I and the other writers on the tour discovered, there were other themes that arose, all related to issues that extended beyond specific regions of the United States. Here, I identify the three most predominant.