Books I dislike

I may dislike the following books, but I pray to (a Biblical) God that God nourishes their authors in good and perfect ways. I pray in the name of Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

At a glance

  1. Cyril Wong and Md Mukul Hossine. "Me migrant".
  2. Kishore Mahbubani. "Can Asians think".
  3. Stephen Black. "I ate Tiong Bahru".
  4. Editor: Kirpal Singh. "Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature. Volume 2: Poetry".
  5. Jee Leong Koh. "Equal to the Earth".

Cyril Wong and Md Mukul Hossine. "Me migrant".

This is a book of Cyril Wong's "transcreations" (whatever a "transcreated poem" means) of Md Mukul Hossine's poems, titled "Me migrant".

I didn't enjoy the few pages I've read.

Don't get me wrong, I am passionate about serving migrant-workers in Singapore. But I fail to appreciate the "poetry" on display in this book.

How many times can one read "poetic allusions" to the sky, in one sitting, anyway: "my mind's sky" (Page 10), "pain's blue sky" (Page 14), who-knows-how-many-more skies...

And Cyril Wong's Editorial Note led me to think that I am reading Mr. Cyril Wong's caricature of Mr. Md Mukul Hossine. ("Warm, trusting, garrulous").

Perhaps the team behind this book might find it helpful to read Edward Said's "Orientalism" and see how its elements may apply to the dynamics between the middle class of Singapore and the migrant-workers on the island.

I am off to read a play by Elfriede Jelinek, "what happened after Nora left her husband", which is related to Ibsen's "A doll's house". I enjoy that much more

- 26th October 2020

Kishore Mahbubani. "Can Asians think".

(If I remember correctly, I read its fourth edition.)

In the chapter titled "Bridging the divide: The Singapore experience", Mr. Mahbubani claims, "there are no homeless, destitute or starving people in Singapore".

But Mr. Mahbubani fails to substantiate such a bold claim with any statistics, studies or such like.

Clearly I have to think critically about whatever else Mr. Mahbubani claims.

- 29th October 2020

Stephen Black. "I ate Tiong Bahru".

Gave up reading after a few pages. Some may laud Mr. Black's words as a "stream of consciousness", but I felt as if facts were being stuffed down my throat. An off-putting experience (for me, at least).

And I recall someone writing elsewhere: "given the weight of facts, it is very difficult to avoid reporting the facts. This calls for astuteness of means, and a distillation of materials."

Does Mr. Black come across as astute, through the pages of this book? I leave it to another (new) reader to discover for himself/herself/themselves.

- 14th February 2021.

Editor: Kirpal Singh. "Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature. Volume 2: Poetry".

I felt turned off by the Introduction. (And stopped reading shortly after that).

I take issue with how the (un-identified) writer of the Introduction - whom I guess to be Mr. Kirpal Singh - focused on the "what should" instead of "what is". A sentence like "we must set our standards as any genuinely independent nation must and it is by these standards that we should judge ourselves" seems to be more appropriate for a book titled "Mr. Kirpal Singh's Opinions" instead of a book titled "Studies in Singapore Literature: Volume 2: Poetry".

A reader with an interest in delightful poetry may be better served by reading Jane Hirshfield's book, "Nine gates: Entering the mind of poetry". Ms. Hirshfield talks engagingly about the "what is" instead of "what should", as I fondly recall.

And a reader with a curiosity towards poetry from Singapore may be better served by reading the selection at:

Please let me conclude by saying this book seems to be crying out for a healthy dose of humour. May I quote from Eric Linklater's lovely 1929 work, "Poet's pub"? The fictional character of Sir Philip Betts, a professor, remarks (on Page 33 of my copy, published by The Penguin Group): "I'm sick of scholarship and the graveyard way we go to work explaining what Shakespeare meant in places where all he meant, probably, was a billiard-room joke."

- 24th May 2021.

Jee Leong Koh. "Equal to the Earth".

Just a little too opinionated - and/or sarcastic - for my liking. I provide a couple of examples.

"Some things should leave us: a sigh like your father," Jee Leong writes on Page 29. (Jee Leong addresses the poem to Jee Leong's father). In other words, Jee Leong's grandfather is like a sigh and he - our grandfather - should leave us. Ouch.

"What a hoot to find out adults are like old cartoons. There slinks Mrs. Divorce. Here comes smiling Mr. Knifeinyourback." (Page 27). Ironically enough, Jee Leong himself comes across as Mr. Angry Young Man.

Why do I read poetry? I read poetry to have a little more light with which to walk this meandering path in these dark woods. But Jee Leong's words seem to say: "Look at how dark these woods are."

Not my cup of tea.

(I had more joy while reading the collection of poems titled "Poems on The Underground", edited by Gerard Benson.)

(By the way, Jee Leong's photo, which appears on the back cover of my copy of this book, seems a little too pixellated (for my liking), and thus lends a slightly shoddy quality to this book).

(Also, by the way, I think Jee Leong's words - or a few of them, at least - might work better as prose, instead of verse.)

- 1st June 2021.