Poet, journalist and playwright Ng Yi-Sheng recommends local lit and titles on depression, South Africa and sexuality in Hindu lore
Ng Yi-Sheng's going to be a very busy man this November. He'll be on the panel of two events at the Singapore Writers Festival, hosting a queer art history tour, Painted Shadows, at the National Gallery Singapore and will be part of Neon Lights 2016's arts lineup. As part of the festival's house of spoken word, The Rocking Horse, Ng's set will include works spanning over two decades, as well as those written this year.
"It's mostly going to be my good old angry queer and political poems," he shares. In addition to that, he'll be selling copies of his new title, Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience. Ahead of his appearances, we pick his brain on what to read this month.
Marina Bay Sins by Neil Humphreys "I'm working on my fiction now, and one book I found really remarkable was Neil Humphreys' Marina Bay Sins! Like many crime thrillers, it actively exposes the abuses of the society in which it's set, which means we get an examination of our rich/poor divide, our mistreatment of foreign workers and our misplaced nationalism — all in one fast-paced, mass-market package. I really think it should be given respect as a work of Singaporean literature."
Let Me Tell You Something About That Night by Cyril Wong "So many authors whom I love are also my friends and contemporaries, like Cyril Wong, Alfian Sa'at, Tania De Rozario, Pooja Nansi — and naming any one of them feels like pure nepotism. That being said, I think Wong's Let Me Tell You Something About That Night is phenomenal."
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh "I have been clinically depressed in the past, but I don't recall reading a lot of depictions of it in literature that really captured what I've experienced. I'd recommend Allie Brosh's webcomic Hyperbole and a Half for a great illustration of what it feels like."
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela "I started reading Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom before I went to South Africa, and it taught me many deep and inspiring things, such as the existence of biltong (South African meat jerky). Get a book that's written by an author of the country you're visiting. It'll give you a deeper insight into that place."
The Seduction of Shiva: Tales of Light and Love by Kshemendra and A.N.D. Haksar "My partner Mohan's gift of The Seduction of Shiva: Tales of Light and Love was entertaining and informative about elements of sexuality in Hindu lore, though a bit superficially so. Weirdly enough a journalism student from India contacted me about it on Facebook recently, just because I'd mentioned online that I'd read it. We ended up chatting about how the British colonial legacy of prudishness influences our perceptions of our own cultures today. Pretty cool."
Ng Yi-Sheng will be performing at Neon Lights from 26 to 27 November at Fort Canning Park. For tickets, click here.