Afterwords: Some Personal Insights

by Brandon Chai

Friday, 12 September, 2014

A while ago, I attended a rather cozy, humble and informal book sharing session called “Afterwords,” at Marine Parade Library. The session was structured into two portions, each sharing revolved around one book. I suppose that made the entire experience more interesting as well, as the back-to-back sharing sessions really highlighted the different notions of what constituted Singapore Literature. I must say beforehand, that this is (ashamedly) my first book sharing session, and it was quite an eye opening experience.

So, perhaps just to give a bit of a refresher…

The first half of the “Afterwords” featured Yong Shu Hoong, Dave Chua and Wong Shu Yun on their contributions in an anthology titled Inside/Outside: Revisiting Passages. Apparently this was an initiative by the National Arts Council (if I’m not mistaken — it was a kind of governing body for sure) to give writers a kind of insight into a part of Singapore that we are not entirely used to. Inside/Outside, hence attempts to capture the experience of the inside; what Yong Shu Hoong claims to be “things that writers wouldn’t otherwise have a perspective on as they belong to the outside”. The anthology mainly revolved around writers trying to articulate the experiences of ex-convicts. The idea was to use these experiences as inspiration for short stories — to create ‘original’ literature, as opposed to any kind of greater artistic notion. “Seemed like a modest project,” I thought, and I like modest.

What I find interesting here is this dichotomy of inside and outside. At first impression, I thought the title was reflective of a kind of way to divide the world, or Singaporean society in this case, into the privileged inside and the marginalised outside. The fact that they claimed to be dealing with ex-convicts piled onto my pre-conceptions. Perhaps, I thought, the book would deal with the writers (who are supposedly inside) trying to capture the experiences of the outside — the ex-convicts who are supposedly marginalised and find difficulty reintegrating into society. Such dichotomies, I’m sure, are problematic to define. But I digress…

Listening to the experience of the writers was rather refreshing and fruitful. Dave Chua mentioned difficulties in getting the ex-convict he was assigned to share about his experiences, while Wong Shu Yun had an easier time (she was assigned to someone more talkative). Also, I really liked what Shu Yun said of her writing process. She felt like music is inherently linked to prose — that it lends a kind of rhythm to her writing and the reading of it, and so she tries to capture the melody of a song as she writes. That made a lot of sense to me, and for some reason I never thought of writing in that way before (maybe I’m just ignorant of course…I’m not listening to anything as I write this). 

However, while I appreciate the efforts of the writers to give a kind of voice (albeit secondhand) to a ‘minority group’ (I’m not sure if it’s entirely ok to call them that), I think that such a staged and forced means of producing literature makes it especially complicated for the fictional writer, as Dave Chua pointed out. He said that typically, he would have the liberty to create characters in his fictional stories, but having to ground his story on something limits his creative process. Perhaps, such a project also aims at allowing the writers to experiment with different methodologies of writing, bringing them out of their comfort zone as much as the ex-convicts.

Personally, I feel a bit divided towards the project, as the staging of writers to “articulate” the stories of ex-convicts is definitely problematic. While the stories are somewhat based on a kind of lived experience and reality, it does also limit the writer’s imagination in a certain way (I’m sure Dave will agree with me on this), and of course there were problems trying to communicate and better understand the experiences of these ex-convicts. In my perhaps very romanticised vision, I imagined this process of “telling someone else’s story” to be an intimate and symbiotic affair. Thus I think without a degree of openness on both the writer and the ex-convict (which is admittedly difficult to achieve in a short amount of time), it would be difficult to “do justice” to the experiences if you will.

Following the sharing session on Inside/Outside: Revisiting Passages, we move on to Jerrold Yam’s collection of poetry titled Travel Politics: Making Homes out of People & Places. This collection was mostly written during Jerrold’s travels around the UK, and his poetry sort of undertakes the question of whether people are in fact, “intruders” of various spaces, and whether we can be more than that. I’m not quite sure if I completely understood what he meant by that, but I suppose some semblance of it is this idea that we are all intruders — strangers to the land, yet leaving our marks and footprints as we trod through life. He talks of how everyone has their own “magnetic field” — their own unique sense of baggage and experiences, which continuous shift as we interact with other “magnetic fields”. His title is hence suggestive, as it questions the notion of “home” and its makings. Perhaps especially for someone like Jerrold, who studied in the UK for a significant period of time, this notion of home making becomes crucial in giving him a sense of belonging and identity.

A lot of Yam’s poetry appears to be very personal and intimate, which also focuses on his transition from a phase of adolescence into adulthood. Yet, Jerrold himself does not claim to be a confessional poet, perhaps in the same way that he doesn’t consider himself to be any kind of poet. I’d just prefer to think of it that way, as sometimes I feel like it’s suffocating to just throw everything into shoeboxes. He didn’t have any particular audience, just a voice waiting to be heard. A voice that tries to speak of universal, human states of being.

I’ve had some time, to think and rethink my impressions of all this. And for some time I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It was one of those surreal, impressionable moments that happened too fast for you to really think it through. I merely viewed this through my own personal keyhole, but I think I enjoyed myself.



Assaulted by Cordelia

Sarah Berry

Grace Chia’s immersed her second poetry collection, Cordelia, into the hot-plate realm of gender and writing when she alleged gender bias in the judging of the Singapore Literature Prize of 2014, in which her collection was a runner-up. Handing the award to ‘two male narratives of poetic discourse… reeks of an engendered privilege that continues to plague this nation’s literary community’.

I mention this so as to rid my review of it. Gender remains a critical and complex issue for all writers. While inequality might be said to drive the passion and force of this work, it stifles in equal measure. However, the collection itself has boxing gloves aplenty. To put these comments aside, and step into the ring denuded, is to allow ourselves to be punched by the many sets of gloves Cordelia has at its disposal. To come at this work having already decided upon our corner in the ring is to miss the various thrilling, enthralling, bloody and grey-matter rattling ways in which it can floor us.

Brooks’ heresy of the paraphrase looms when I request of my mind a distillation of Cordelia into a digestible, pithy few lines. As soon as my irises scraped along the first poem, ‘Goya under the influence of a 1998 Shiraz: Saturn II’, I recognised the vitality and energy I had loved in Pooja Nansi’s Love is an Empty Barstool, and which refuses to be corralled and reduced into words other than its own. The collection is more abrasive than Nansi, though; it sears where Nansi provides respite, and is wilder and terrifically frantic. To say it leaps subject matter is not quite right – different subjects are merely different angles from which you are punched, while Cordelia circles and freakishly laughs round your bewildered mind. It is divided into sections, the theme held aloft in title, but whose poems remain deliriously unconstrained nevertheless: “I remember the things I want and forget the rest”, “the spit of strangers”, “a nail grows through my palm” and “of lullabies and sandmen”. To say this, and to tell you that the poems hold razors in their palms, is perhaps the best means I have to convey the collection as it is felt.

To that first poem, then: Goya under the influence of a 1998 Shiraz.

last night, furiously, I dunked a chalice
of my own blood and grew heathen, hulk-like
rampaging through the radioactive streets of
a mental spell under siege

I quote to entice you (if you like this, grab the book as soon as I put it back upon the library shelf – you won’t regret it), but also because snippets of ‘phrasal thoguhts’ will dissipate the energy of the fragmented, cavorting original. There are popular culture references mixed in with sidelong glances at mythicised figures. The ‘siege’ is relentless. Not only does Chia’s willingness to employ a variety of verse forms and line constructions (perfectly accompanied by her frolicking, violent and electrifying punctuation) allow an unrivalled assault upon the reader, but it also allows her to corral a writhing mass of ideas and backdrops. We move from private domesticity, whose walls could be those of your neighbours, of yours, or a thousand miles off, to cliff-edge liminal spaces in ‘The Last Headman of Ubin’, where the last vestiges of a nearly-extinct life seem to be told to us while a bludgeon lingers slightly out of shot, to ‘Father’s House’ and intimate, forceful questioning, to London and then to ‘iCordelia’ in Singapore, taunting the visceral figure of ‘lunacy’ all the while.

These verses won’t merely let you read. The unexpected pauses, frenetic line breaks, the startlingly bold presentation such as in ‘Don Lon’, they all unseat you in their awkward purposefulness. This isn’t only poetry as ‘emotion motioned’, as Chia writes in ‘To a Virgin Poet’, it is Shklovsky’s art as disorientating-technique. Every element pulls from under you a new layer of your floor, and as you teeter, words bite into the soft, fleshy parts of your reading self. Meaning is unstable. Words hang at edges, commas scatter meaning into different corners of thought and watch you hunt, arms outreaching. The scattering of domestic Singapore, myth, foreign landmarks amongst the internal, verbalised bruises found in poems such as ‘Lunacy’ only aids the creation of a non-space. This collection lacks anchors. It takes what it wants of Singapore, as it does of London, or of movies or Shakespeare, but wrenches them into a place with so much energy, it oscillates at frightening speed without touching land.

Only when picking the collection up in the library was I struck with its incongruity. ‘Cordelia’. A daughter whose love is unheard, and whose presence, while constituting the very centre around which King Lear revolves, is invisible for the vast proportion of the play. The cover is matt black, deathly with skulls in an intricate sculpture of metalwork which seems to have wrapped itself around Greek statues. The ornaments spike outwards, weaponised. Cordelia is combative. She isn’t Shakespeare’s demure daughter. She shouts, taking on a madness greater than her father’s, and revels in it. Her poetry disembowels her, and us, but we are only too happy to be butchered in this most enthralling of boxing-ring theatres.

Sekaliwags: notes towards performing disempowerment

Natalie Tai

I’ve been meaning to blog about Sekaliwags for a while now: they’re my favourite spoken word group, and perform poetry that is by turns hilarious, critical, affective, always feminist, and often queer. At this year’s Lit Up festival, I caught their show XPOWERMENT!, a satirical take on nation-building narratives. Styled to parody the infantilising Hi 5!-esque tone of educational theatre ostensibly meant to “Xpower the next generation,” the show’s critique of national myths was performative, accessible, and funny.

Here’s a clip from the show, where they bumped up the parody of NE-performace to mimic presenters at a National Day Parade (I’m loving the snide reference to the NDP’s constant striving to duplicate the popularity of Kit Chan’s “Home”):

The polo shirt-clad quartet takes “kids” through familiar National Education messages of pragmatism, meritocracy, praise for our “forefathers,” and so on. Two themes in particular stood out for me: that of race and the censorship of criticism especially surrounding racial policies, often embodied in the character Nabilah, repeatedly misnamed “Libby” and “Nalibah” by the other characters.

This exchange between the two non-Chinese characters is a brilliant example of how Sekaliwags managed to foreground then satirize the blatantly superficial racial harmony policies that pervade the Singaporean education system, but are in fact blind to the connotative functions in their racialisation of people into artificial and poorly-accomodated ethnic categories:


I have a question Raksha — as a fellow minority, when was the first time you learnt about Racial Harmony?


What a great question! It was a colouring book in kindergarten

the first time there were three figures in a row

and the teacher said, “Look, it’s racial harmony!

What do you think it looks like? Fill in the colours yourself.”

So everyone obediently looked at each other in class

and tried to copy the exact shade in,

a Malay boy wears a songkok, probably green, Hari Raya F&N Fruitade colours,

a 5-year-old girl who looks just like me wears a bright pink and purple sari,

and the Chinese boy is in a red and white shirt and pants,

the shade of modern living watering down his happy face.




Well the first time I learnt about racial harmony

was on a field trip to Jurong Bird Park in Primary Two at Chong Zheng Primary.

I finally sat next to Valerie Chia on the school bus, for a full minute,

before she asked Mrs Tan to place her somewhere else

because I reminded her of a smelly Indian.

But never mind, because then,

Valerie Chia sat next to Nur Aidha, a full Malay!

And they became best friends in terms two and three and four

and in Primary Three when they got split streams,

they still went to recess together and held hands in the queue even,

and they started kissing each other in Primary Five.

(wistful sigh)



Racial harmony. / Lesbianism.

Nabilah’s story mocks the common citation of interracial relationships as a marker of successful multicultural indoctrination, and Raksha’s blissful takeaway from it seems to suggest that it is easier to hear about deviant sexualities in the literary scene than it is to hear critiques on race, pointing to the Singaporean censorship mechanism’s sleight of hand in distracting critics with its permissiveness and sensationalisation of one topic in a bid to draw attention away from its chokehold on other topics.    

“Undesirable knowledge,” as defined by the state, is literally confined to an external, restricted space, a library on Pulau Bahaya Jangan Dekat (a reference to the multilingual warning signs on construction sites and other restricted areas, for those who’ve never thought to read past the first couple of lines on them). The island is eventually destroyed for the sake of the nation’s Harmony and Survival. When Nabilah questions racialised truisms, she is set aside by ostensibly calm, rational voices and angry shouting from Chinese folks and other minorities alike (“STATS STATS GIVE ME STATS” / “we know that if we go into war with Malaysia, you’ll go on their side!”). The final scene finds Nabilah written out of the national narrative altogether

The criticism of state rhetoric and policy is clear, but the Sekaliwags aren’t above satirising themselves, either, as Nabilah launches into a poem “about like, racism and liberalism and Marxism and plagiarism and prisms when I lived in Europe for two weeks.” All the same, even when the audience hears Nabilah’s self-conscious move to lighten or discount her viewpoint as informed by stereotypical “isms” of the same discourses she calls out, we also hear the parts of her critique which, in the course of the performance, has been dramatised for us through other characters talking over and diminishing Nabilah’s critique:

This is for my sisters.

This is for the sisters who never found their sisters.

This is for the woman whom I called a sister but turns out she was my second cousin.

If you’ve ever been hurt by the status quo,

if you’re an F in a world of Ts in this national scale of Myers Briggs duo,

if you’ve ever been told you don’t fit,

that even the time machine don’t know where to land when you’re in it,

this is for you.

This is for me too

but this is mostly for you.

You’re an oddity weirdo nincompoop

for being in the wrong class or ethnic group.


As a satirical take on NE programmes, some jokes made on stage were painfully obvious, and some jabs at frequent responses to critical voices cut close to the bone (some were taken directly from the recent Internet discussions on race and Chinese privilege in Singapore, and was a bitter reminder to the audience that Sekaliwag’s mocking of the ignorance and entitlement of self-styled liberal Chinese was nothing compared to the racist hate speech and offline consequences suffered by some of the racial minorities involved in the debate. But it was deeply gratifying and energising nonetheless to hear them being made and to be among people who are laughing or crying along too, especially when dealing with heavy topics that would otherwise be draining and isolating. It’s also worth remembering how poetry has historically been taken less seriously by state regulatory bodies than say, theatre, TV or movies, and it may have evolved as a key site of resistance, consciousness-raising and solidarity for the dissident and the disenfranchised.

The government’s systemic racism and paternalist censorship policies are not news to the Singapore literary scene, of course, and XPOWERMENT!’s over-the-top satire might be bewildering to some. (No more than annual NDPs are, though!) But it’s worth considering the role of spoken word in Singapore literature as a whole: because of their directly performance-based style, spoken word performances can bring crowds in through visceral emotion, humour and anger, which politer, more circumscribed readings at places like BooksActually might lack. It seems that the spoken word scene gives particular solace to those at the margins: women, queers, ethnic minorities, and this may be due in part to its relatively low barriers to entry. The Sekaliwags folk may be fairly seasoned performers in the spoken word scene, but I felt enlivened and encouraged by their show’s self-aware satire of the stories we tell ourselves (and those we don’t let others tell) about race in Singapore.

Natalie Tai, with thanks to the Sekaliwags for help with the script extracts

ps, as a treat, here’s another video of a very fun part of the show, set to the tune of “Samoga Bahagia”.

Globalization and its discontents: Narrating change and continuity in Claire Tham’s The Inlet

By Ang Jia Jin

The Inlet  is constituted of complexly interwoven narratives that accrete into the story of how the naked body of Wang Ling, a young, educated and attractive woman from a small Chinese village, came to be found in a swimming pool in a bungalow situated in an ultra-exclusive neighbourhood. The tragedy of her drowning implicates the inhabitant of the house, and the novel explores how the histories of the victim, the suspect, the case’s investigators and their associates contribute to unravelling the mystery surrounding the death of Wang Ling. Claire Tham thus limns a fascinating illustration of the psychic condition of contemporary Singapore, in the textual rendering of the existential uprootedness that attends globalization and its related contrivances to cosmopolitanism and social mobility, and I find the novel to be a highly instructive text in connection with the broader themes of this class.

The text effectively captures the irrevocable changes in Singapore society. Markers of selfhood are remarkably fluid in the novel, enabling the never-ending evolution of characters’ identities. Characters continually define and re-define themselves, jettisoning and embodying new structures of existence. Working-class figures within the novel possess the impressive capacity for social mobility, and in their pursuit of socioeconomic betterment become entirely different people, with radically changed lived experiences. The novel is unequivocal about the totality of this change: Winston, the head of the investigations and an Oxbridge scholar, abandons his identification as a person of very humble origins, his localized accent and his birth name, for an Anglicized name and the clipped tones of the educated class. Kristie, the housing agent who facilitates the sale of the Inlet, carefully constructs an image of “glossy perfection” through a laborious daily regime of makeup and grooming, while Willy Gan, the very wealthy owner of the bungalow, retains his unostentatious, modest office only as an affectation towards working-class unpretentiousness. Sociological typologies thus fail to contain and organize existences. This fluidity is propounded by the novel’s shifting, non-linear spatial and temporal boundaries, and its allusion to the variegated places of origin and inhabitation (such as Hong Kong, New York, India, the UK, and China’s rural and urban spaces) among the complex cast of characters, and the overall effect is to blur the demarcation of Them and Us, and our sense of rootedness in class identities, time and place.

The sense of a protean narrative space emerging out of the absence of fixity is supported by the motif of movement in the novel. Homes are deserted, indicative of how they are just physical spaces devoid of permanent personal attachment. The text alludes to the rapid succession with which homes are built, inhabited, evacuated and sold, then re-inhabited and renovated. The transience of space, the discarding of place, suggests that the land on which homes are built and existences are lived out is essentially developmental tabula rasa. The title of the novel, and the name of the enclave within which Wang Ling met her tragic end, also takes on symbolic value in this aspect. Inlets are apertures to the flux of the sea, and it is in this opening of possibilities that attends hyper-globality that characters of the novel are thrown into the psychic condition of transitory instability.

The articulation of the national condition of flux is the value of the text to this module. I do, however, have a few reservations. Tham, in an interview, stated that she set out to write a novel that enunciates the “change”, “tensions” and “ferment” of contemporary Singapore, and I reckon that the first goal has been adequately expressed in the text. I am less convinced of the success with which she has achieved the latter set of concerns. Despite the focus on class tensions in the novel, the discontentment of the 99% is not adequately represented, much less those of the economically disadvantaged: Wang Ling’s peasant family is represented through the vantage point of Willy Gan’s quasi-socialite wife. Additionally, the heavy-handed, belabored explication of the rather specific criticisms that have been volleyed at the establishment sits jarringly and uncomfortably with the fluid, intimate tenor of Tham’s prose, and gives the narratives within the novel a somewhat uneven quality. Tham has remarkable facility in expressing middle-class disaffection, and has in her previous works effectively limned the interiorized condition of restlessness and anomie of urban characters. (Her earlier short story collections are especially strong.) The Inlet is a marked departure from Tham’s usual approach to displacement within the sociopolitical entity, and I am not entirely convinced that this change is successful.

In all, the novel is a text in that contributes to the debate over what national literature might look like. It documents the changes to the composition of the national body and the nation-space in its construction of amorphous identities and senses of place, and is for the most part a nuanced, sensitive representation of the modern Singaporean condition.

Crazy Rich Asians

By Hilary Fong

The blurb of Crazy Rich Asians gives a sense of what it is about:

“Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season. When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Kevin Kwan, (the author of Crazy Rich Asians), was born and raised in Singapore. He is currently living in Manhattan. Crazy Rich Asians is his first novel. ”

My friend recommended this book when she learnt that I was taking a Singapore Literature module this semester. When I was researching on this book, I was surprised to find that it is a rather popular book which has gained many online reviews. Most of the copies at the public libraries were also on loan. Indeed, the first chapter of the book has a very Singaporean Style that can be found in most of the texts in our module. This novel showcases the multilingualism of Singapore and uses Singlish, with translation in the footnotes, explaining what “lah”, “leh”, “hor” and various dialects, like “ang mor”, mean. Most online reviews praise the humour and fresh perspective the book has to offer. However, personally, I felt that the form of this book is very similar to Lydia Kwa’s “The Place Called Absence”, and is a little hard to get through due to the various things it tries to play up.

A review on The Guardian comments on how Crazy Rich Asians presents a whole new wave of stereotypes in Asian texts today. [Read more here] The author of the review compares this book to past Asian texts which tend to exoticize the Chinese culture such as Kungfu and Confucius values while Kwan presents Asians with highly westernized lifestyles, names and education in his book, giving a fresh perspective to Asian texts and culture. I would agree with the author as Kwan gives a different side of Asians and plays on current stereotypes, such as Asians queuing at the stores of luxury brands when they visit places like Paris and Milan, and businessmen engaging in golf and buying over hotels. Kwan’s novel is not only set within the landscapes of Singapore, but also in other Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. His choice of these cities seem very deliberate as these cities have very similar characteristics as Singapore. They have a small geographical area and a prosperous economy, with Chinese as the dominant ethnic group. More importantly, the dramatic plot of the novel parallels the popular Hong Kong and Taiwanese family drama TV series. Despite portraying all these cities as cosmopolitan and globalized, the sense of exoticization of Asia remains as Kwan throws in numerous names of streets and prominent sights of these Asian cities. In one of the chapters, the narrator describes, “the setting sun refracted its rays through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the recently completed penthouse apartment atop Cairnhill Road, bathing the atrium-like living room in a deep orange glow. Eleanor gazed at the early evening sky, taking in the colonnade of buildings clustering around Scotts Road and the expansive views all the way past the Singapore River to the Keppel Shipyard, the world’s busiest commercial port” (p 44). If the reader is familiar with Singapore’s landscape, he or she would know that a person has to be of a certain social class and affluence to be living in a penthouse apartment in that district. Hence, if the reader is unfamiliar with Singapore, the above-mentioned quote would just be a romantic picture of the city and he or she would miss out on the underlying implication of excess and luxury that Kwan is portraying.

Another example of Kwan playing up the idea of excess and decadence is his use of naming. In fact, naming is a problem for me as I was reading this text. In the first chapter of the book, Kwan dedicates a page for the naming of his characters (which reminds me of the biblical reference to the name roll found in the book of John):

“Celine Lim (Parsons School of Design fashion major) e-mailed her sister Charlotte Lim (recently engaged to venture capitalist Henry Chiu) in California, Charlotte called her best friend Daphne Ma (Sir Benedict Ma’s youngest daughter) in Singapore and breathlessly filled her in. Daphne texted eight friends, including Carmen Kwek (granddaughter of Robert “Sugar King” Kwek) in Shanghai, whose cousin Amelia Kwek had gone to Oxford with Nicholas Young. Amelia simply had to IM her friend Justina Wei (the Instant Noodle heiress) in Hong Kong, and Justina, whose Office at Hutchison Whampoa was right across the hall from Roderick Liang’s (of the Liang Finance Group Liangs), simply had to interrupt his conference call to share this juicy tidbit…” (and the list goes on) (p 15)

Kwan presents this as a way of showing how the identities of the rich are attached to their qualifications and family assets that are contained in the parentheses. On the surface, what is contained in the parentheses seems very glamorous and desirable. Yet, this overwhelming spam of names and identities becomes a very superficial and meaningless list on the page. The readers cannot identify and cannot identify with any of the characters, which could be Kwan’s way of metaphorizing the excess and decadence of the rich and the divide between the rich and the poor. The identification of the characters becomes problematic for me (possibly also because I am not a member of the high society) because of the way the narrative is structured. Similar to Lydia Kwa’s novel, the chapters speak about the different experiences of different people. In Kwan’s text, he uses a third person narration and tags every chapter with a name such as “Chapter 1- Nicholas Young” and “Chapter 2- Eleanor Young”. In doing so, he gives a focus to the chapter which is based on the story of a particular character, but on the other hand, as a reader who has a problem with identifying the characters, I got confused with who this character is and how he or she is related to the other characters. Similar to the sense of confusion I get while reading “The Place Called Absence”, I thought it would be better if such narrative structures are used in a film instead. In a film, the audience would be able see who is speaking and draw links to the overlaps in the characters and in the narratives (if Lydia Kwa or Kevin Kwan have intended for these overlaps).

Nonetheless, Crazy Rich Asians is a book that the readers can relate to very easily as it plays on very modern stereotypes and contemporary issues. Amongst the glamour and westernization of rich Asian families, Kwan has shown that traditional Asian culture is something that cannot be removed from Asian families, such as the belief that the family background of a girl has to match the family background of the boy in order for them to be suited for marriage. The dramatic plot and the simple language make this book a very readable and accessible one. This would be a good book for entertainment and a twist to the usual Singaporean/Asian texts, but its literary value has to take a back seat in my opinion.

Jerrold Yam: Secrets from a Poet

By Fu Xuanwen

Being one of the ‘bookstore elves’ as my boss likes to call us at BooksActually, I have had the privilege to attend a talk by Jerrold Yam at Anglican High School (AHS) sometime back in September. He had titled the talk ‘Secrets from a Poet’, indicating the objective of his talk and the direction it was to follow. Yam was going to share with the students of AHS his ‘secret’ to becoming a published poet in Singapore.

He began by introducing himself, just as I will now start off with a brief introduction of the young poet. Jerrold Yam is a law undergraduate at University College London, and at the age of 23, has already published three poetry collections: Chasing Curtained Suns (2012), Scattered Vertebrae (2013) and Intruder (2014). He has won many prizes and at the age of twenty, became the youngest Singaporean to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize in America. He has also been featured in numerous literary festivals and has spoken at several educational institutions, including NUS. In 2014, he was listed by the National Arts Council as one of the “New Voices of Singapore” – according to Khor Kok Wah, this puts Yam amongst “some of the youngest and most promising writers in Singapore”. You can find out more about him at his website:

After briefly introducing his three poetry collections, Yam went on to talk about the compatibility of school and writing. Having published all of his poetry collections while schooling, Yam was the right person for providing advice to students on writing. He shared with us how he manages to find time to write in spite of the hectic schedule of a student. These were his ‘secrets’:
1. Time management
2. Making a list of his inspirations – he shares that during times when he finds inspiration but lacks the time to develop the idea, he will simply jot down the inspirations and return to them again when he has time
3. Setting goals for himself
4. His conviction that “writing is a process, not a destination”
I found his last point especially striking. The idea that writing is a process and not a “destination” to be aimed for suggests that anyone can begin writing. This is encouraging to any aspiring young writers who may be afraid to write for fear of inadequacy – such inhibition being the result of viewing writing as a destination, an enterprise for the elite. This is especially relevant to our society today as emphasis is often placed on results. Singapore’s pragmatic and competitive culture sees its people being too focused on success and achievements. Yam’s statement then reminds us not to view writing as yet another certificate to be attained. Instead, he encourages us to write as long as one feels compelled to, for writing is a process—to be enjoyed, to learn from—and not an end in itself.

Yam then discussed the concept of “Inspiration”, describing it as the “external manifestation of an internal state of mind”. In other words, the inspiration one gets from perceiving an object manifests the person’s internal state of mind. I thought this was a very interesting way of viewing and describing inspiration, as it highlights the importance and prominence of the poet’s “state of mind” in his poetry.

He used two poems, “Visitor” and “Inheritance”, from his poetry collection, Chasing Curtained Suns, to demonstrate the presence of such an “internal state of mind” in his works, and how it surfaces in his poems. For example, in both poems, you can get a sense of his skepticism, which translates into his uncertainties and fears of growing up. This surfaces in “Visitor” through his consideration of the possibility of being “too long in love”, such that the death of a lover becomes something only “heard not seen”. This reflects the poet’s skepticism of love’s ability to withstand the test of time. This overarching sense of skepticism is also evident in “Inheritance”, as the speaker refers to “happiness” as a “strange liability”. Happiness then becomes a burden that the poet seems not to be able to fully comprehend. Thus, we can see one out of the many aspects of the poet’s “internal state of mind” within his poems.

What Yam hopes to achieve out of this discussion on inspiration and the “internal state of mind” is perhaps, once again, to shed light on his process of writing. Yam’s ideas are especially relevant in a hectic and progress-driven Singapore, where the government and citizens alike are so focused on success and achievements. It is heartening to see how poets like Yam can reach out to the youth, encouraging them to write in spite of the competitive environment of school. In this way, Yam is also encouraging the emergence of a new generation of writers in Singapore and the growth of Singapore literature. Oh, such exciting times for our local literary scene!


After You By Cyril Wong
by Shakespeare Sim

Often recognized as Singapore’s first confessional poet, mainly because of the wistful, introspective quality in his poems, I have always been attracted to the poignant vulnerability and reflectiveness in Cyril Wong’s poetry. After You is Cyril Wong’s latest collection of poems, which discusses same-sex love, inevitable loss, and the fragility of testimony. What I find most delightful about this collection of love poetry is that it isn’t full of cloying sweetness, whiny lamentations or disconcerting cynicism. While the collection ruminates about death and focuses on the inevitable loss and eventual parting of lovers, a heartening sense of acceptance and joyful resilience permeates the narratives of loss and heartache. It is almost as if the poet’s focus on death and loss accentuates gratitude for present happiness.

In the poems Fire and Last Line, the theme of loss and parting due to the passage of time is outlined in the first few stanzas before the poem ends with a final stanza capturing the preciousness of the present moment of togetherness. The persona in Fire notes the decaying properties of time,

soon there will be
nothing to shave
our razers will burn
to rust beside the sink

and he ruminates about “dying alone is the worst thing on my mind”. Yet just as the poem appears to embark on this mournful trajectory of unavoidable loss and decay, the poem wrestles away from the linearity of a predictable end and celebrates the joy of the present moment:

the fire everywhere
we stand touch kiss
nothing we ask for
could be better than this

Similarly in the poem Last Line, the persona discusses the temporary daily partings and departure from their shared dream in the past:

that we might retire in time
you would read books on religion
I would write poetry full time

Even though the reader initially suspects that their shared dream of retiring in time and literary indulgence was unachievably impractical in the monotonous bustle of everyday commitments, “how impossible in Singapore although we hunt for time”, the poem undercuts this expectation of inevitable loss due to the insufficiency of time and the poem ends with a twist; the couple achieves their past dreams despite the time constraints of the present:

in a quickening dream of now
we turn away from the fringes of time
you read while stroking my nape
I slow your hand in my poem’s last line

This pattern of loss intertwined with an unexpected gratitude for the ordinariness is what I enjoy most in this collection of poems.

Another charming quality in this collection of poetry would be a humbling and pervasive relatability in the poems. There is something charmingly universal and relatable about the collection’s account of same-sex relationships, depicting a familiar intimacy (“every night our brows meet before we fall apart in sleep”), anxiety (“should we say goodbye now or when it is too late”), heartache (“with you gone we become almost inseparable now”) and joyful resilience (“another day to love would do us just fine”) that we know of relationships. This is perhaps best encapsulated in an excerpt from the poem, Sameness:

let’s go deeper
what about love

little difference
or comfort

Indeed, once we peel away the identity markers of sexuality or even race, gender or class, love is a universal human quality that brings the same vulnerabilities of “anxiousness”, “despair” and that at the end of the day, there is “little difference”. I believe this collection can make significant headway for LGBT discourse in Singapore. After all, if one can identify with the love, belonging and vulnerability in a same-sex relationship depicted in the poetry (that is no different from a heterosexual one), what can there be left of irrational homophobia?

Cyril Wong is undoubtedly one of my favourite local poets. In light of the recent NLB decable over the unwise pulping of And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s in My Family, Wong had announced his frustration in a Straits Times article:

“As a queer writer, I think I have reached a limit of some sort, in the light or dark of recent events. I don’t know why I’m bothering anymore. By sometime next year, I’m just going to stop; yes, stop publishing, stop working with governmental organisations, even stop writing.”

I certainly hope that that is not the case, fingers crossed for future works from him anyway. In my humble opinion, NLB’s pulping of the books was ultimately a beneficial move for LGBT discourse in Singapore (even though it might not have been their intention haha). Rather than maintaining the status quo of apathy towards the LGBT community that we see today, NLB’s book-censoring decision sparked off indignance and created awareness. Honestly, I would not have known about the above 3 books if not for the banning decision and I am sure that is the same for many others.


In Molly Roffey’s Irish Pub, Beauty’s Newest and Brightest Beholders Gather to Talk Poetry.

by Samuel Lee

Who says that poetry is dead? Going by the crowd that turned up for The Beholder Has Many Eyes—a free fringe event at the Singapore Writers Festival, held last Wednesday at a lively (and rowdy) Irish-themed pub a short walk away from the main festival grounds—poetry is alive and well in Singapore, and could do with a stiff drink or two. Featuring the work of new and unpublished poets from the Image-Symbol Department and the Ministry of Noise (two cheekily-named groups of writers, which started after Singapore Poetry Writing Month in April), the evening saw the theme of beauty being taken up, stripped apart, challenged, and re-consolidated into visions that entertained, provoked thought, and gave the public an inkling of SingLit’s bright and shiny future.

Jennifer Anne Champion, a poet familiar to those keeping a tab on the local spoken-word scene, opened the evening with a stripped-down rendition of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City“—where “the grass is green and the girls are pretty.” Launching into poems such as ‘Unicorn Dreams,’ in which the speaker describes herself as a kind of mythical and misunderstood creature, Champion maps ideas of physical beauty onto questions of personal identity through music and spoken word in ways that never seem monotonous or trite. Here, the poetic form, brought to life on stage, seems to avail itself to the confessional “I”, who engages in monologues that disclose the contents of the inner life (for even the inner life of a unicorn yields cutting insight into the life of the individual in modern society).

Keith Tong, who took to the stage immediately after Champion, provided another illustration of the form’s predisposition to the confessional mode. “Fuck your goddamned hashtags”—hisses the speaker in a poem titled ‘Zing’—“a social mercenary I am not … I move and breath and dance in my own way.” Tong explained that the poem was written in response to the circulation and reception of hyper-aestheticized images on social media platforms such as Instagram, and it is interesting that he chooses to articulate his critique through the figure of the Facebook-weary subject: the “I” who desires to preserve the “authentic” self over the beautiful, though bland, images he condemns as “scripted drama” and a “tableau of forgery”. For a generally-youthful crowd of 20- and 30-somethings, the melodrama employed by Tong is apt, and reflects in no ambiguous terms the experience of encountering “curated” online personalities.

As the evening went along, and as the after-work crowd began filling the venue, the pieces that stood out had witty and subversive things to say about beauty, and bridged questions of physical appearances with larger themes of transcendent beauty found in landscapes and lived experiences. Perhaps the most memorable line of the night was delivered by Muslim Sahib, who, in a poem about body hair removal, asked: “Do you want to fight ideology with pink wax or blue wax?” This fight was taken up by Teh Su Ching, who wryly concludes a sonnet about beauty regiments: “chained daily to my dressing table/ in the eighth ring of Dante’s fable.” Indeed, images of the body prove time and time again to be a productive resource for poets, and one recalls Cyril Wong’s “Calm Embrace of Bone” from the end of his orbit (2001) and Jollin Tan’s excellent debut, Bursting Seams (2013), as examples of presentations of the body in Singapore poetry. Rounding off the night, David Wong’s ‘Seoul: Three Scenes’ returns the body to its context. Stating that “behind fake eyelids/ are real eyes;/ behind composite breasts/ first breasts of fat” the speaker calls attention to the body as a site of constant renovation, and where socially-constructed standards of beauty meet embodied subjectivities, who negotiate the urban spaces of Seoul. It is quite remarkable that Tan managed to encapsulate the constellations of desire, love, beauty, subjectivity, pain, popular culture (and so on) that unfolded throughout the evening—evidence, perhaps, of a line-up planned carefully in advance, and certainly of a serious commitment to developing the craft of poetry in Singapore.

Besides questions of content, the event called to attention questions of a “literary audience” and what might constitute a “literary venue”—where should poetry be read/performed/heard, and who might be affected by these decisions? Poetry readings in Singapore have been held in the most diverse spaces and environments, for example, in smaller intimate spaces such as independent bookshop BooksActually, or Artistry Café’s Speakeasy series curated by Pooja Nansi, to larger venues like The Arts House, and unconventional ones such as Lai Chee Kien’s installation National Theatre@50How might this proliferation of venues affect the development of a literary community (or, indeed, culture) in Singapore, and what can we expect the literary scene to look like in the future? The upshot, though, is that this reading was held in an Irish-themed pub to large and bustling audiences both eager and accidental, and gave these up-and-coming voices in Singaporean poetry the attention they deserve and will probably remember for a long time.

But is the book better? : Utter 2014

Lee Jia Min

The event I will be reviewing is Utter organised by The Arts House, held on 6th September 2014.

It is an event initiated by The Singapore Writers Festival, which showcases four short films that have been adapted from books. Each film employs one of the four main languages in Singapore. As such, each film presents a snippet of the ideologies and lifestyles of varying racial communities. Together, they present a fuller picture of the multicultural Singaporean society. The film screening took place in a small auditorium in The Arts House. Each of us were presented with a book at the entrance of the auditorium, containing both the original short story taken from the book, and the treatment of the film, written in the form of a play. Since three out of four stories were originally written in Chinese, Malay and Tamil, the translated version of these texts were also included in the book. Before the screening, the audience were encouraged to read the original stories and subsequently reflect on whether the book is better than its film adaptation. Indeed, the event was a celebration of the best of Singapore writing and also its potential in being adapted into different media and across languages.

The story I will be focusing on the film “At Your Doorstep”, whereby the original story (from the Tamil book) was written by Kamaladevi Aravindhan. It is a 12 minute film adaptation directed by Don Aravind about a widowed elderly woman, Kamatchi, whose declining mental and physical health causes much tension between her and her son’s nuclear family, whom she is living with. As such, she feels isolated and grieved.

I found 3 areas in which the book differed from the film. One would be the difference in pace and mood. The pace of the written story is fast within a rather densely packed narrative. It chronicles not only Kamatchi’s loneliness in her son’s house, but also her life of newfound liberation as she independently moves into a studio apartment. The story ends with her arrest by the police upon unwittingly keeping an immigrant offender as a tenant. On the other hand, the pace of the film is much slower, whereby the melancholic inner emotions of Kamatchi takes centre stage. Even as her sorrow turns into relief when she passes away, this element of desolation continues in her family’s mourning. As such, the film sustains a much gloomier mood as compared to the book, in which Kamatchi’s diversity of emotions, both positive and negative, change the story’s mood from time to time.

Next, while the book seemed to place equal blame on both Kamatchi and her son’s family for the discord amongst them, the film portrays Kamatchi as a pitiful victim. For example, in the book, the narrator asked “who wouldn’t be angry if you asked the same question over and over again?”, suggesting that it was Kamatchi who incurred the legitimate anger of her family members. The narrator also points to her “senseless actions” as the reason for the disruptions in the family’s daily routine. Her stubborn nature also portrays her as an active agent in the conflict. For example, the beginning of the tale started with a soliloquy of melodramatic complaints against her children. There was also a sense of rebellion as she revels in her new found freedom in the studio apartment. On the other hand, Kamatchi in the film is seen as a silent, long-suffering character, the recipient of harsh scolding and disrespect. She retreats into the self for comfort, such as through her reminiscence about her late husband. While Kamatchi in the book seem like a more dynamic character, experiencing a wide range of emotions such as anger, mirth, shock and grief, Kamatchi in the film is defined by her sadness.

Thirdly, the relationship between kamatchi and the people around her seem more estranged in the film. Her isolation is also intensified in the film. In the book, her family members do express kindness in buying her an apartment of her own. Kamatchi also enjoys a close friendship built with her young tenant. However, in the film, Kamatchi lives in complete solitude. Even her grandson treats her with contempt. Upon musing about her family dynamics, I suddenly thought about the family dynamics depicted in other Indian literature that I have read. In novels such as the “Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai and Nagamandala by Girish Karnad, the wives are trapped in psychologically and physically abusive relationships with their husbands. On the other hand, in a Tamil movie “Videsh”, although the young wife is slighted by the rest of the family, there is an element of gender equality portrayed by the presence of the matriarch. However, “At Your Doorstep” subverts both these stereotypes regarding the relationship between spouses and reverence for the elderly in the family. Kamatchi shared a tender relationship with her husband, yet does not receive respect from her juniors. As such, the film gave me a refreshing perspective about familial dynamics in Indian culture, which has been a topic foreign and fascinating for me.

Indeed, the book’s adaptation is a more optimistic portrayal of the lives of the elderly in Singapore and their relationship with their family. However, I personally prefer the film’s adaptation because it portrays reality in an honest albeit depressing manner. It shows the negative effects of an aging population as not limited to the economy or workforce but occurring on a personal level. Indeed, all four stories portray strained relationships between the elderly and the younger generation, some exaggerated (Going Home), and others real and intense (At your Doorstep). Film, besides its entertainment purposes, now takes on the role of a social critique, providing a platform to discuss issues that are bleak yet pertinent. As such, topics that have often been shunned for their depressing quality are now broached on tactfully, in a manner that does not alienate the audience but instead engages with them. Also, melancholy facilitates meditation and musing, both of which are vital in reflection.

The production team did highlight the films’ segregation into distinct languages and the employment of casts of the same race in each film. This reflects upon and exposes the artificiality of mainstream television productions and its failure to represent a realistic society. Indeed, for practical reasons of catering to specific groups of audiences, television programmes of each channel (apart from those where English is the medium of communication) often use a single language and casts of the same race. Perhaps this is where Shklovsky’s theory of defamiliarization comes to play. Due to over-automatization of perception, the artificiality of this construct is hardly strikes us when we watch programs of our native language, portraying casts of our race. However, this is poignantly highlighted when we watch films of foreign languages. For me, these referred to the Malay film, “Tin Kosong”, and Tamil one, “Going Home”. An entire story in Tamil, consisting of an all Indian cast struck me as incongruent with the multiculturalism of Singapore (I do know that it portrays a home setting but yet the home can be and might be intended to be a representation of the society). It is this unfamiliarity that leads us to realise the artificiality of programmes of our own language and race, which we have accustomed to see as the “normal”. Nevertheless, the production team has countered this problem by introducing bits of cross culture, such that minor characters in each film are of a different race. As a result, the film does not fall into the small pitfall despite highlighting it. I found this method of defamiliarizing and reconciliation really clever.

For more information about similar events such as Utter, keep a look out for future events organised by The Art House!:)

Reinventing English Language and Literature for the Next Generation

by MacKie

Early in October I attended the talk Reinventing English Language and Literature for the Next Generation, with sharings by Dennis Yeo, Ken Mizusawa, and Suzanne Choo. I noticed that all 3 speakers lecture at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and was curious to hear what they had to say on the subject, as I am a prospective Literature teacher (which means that I will probably be their student in a few years)!

Dennis’ part focused on expanding the scope of Literature texts to include graphic novels, and short films. We mostly associate Literature with the written word, and I suppose many would wonder how to analyse a graphic novel, for instance. When Dennis brought this up I was slightly excited, because I wrote a paper in Junior College on how the Theatre of the Absurd has endured in other media, such as the graphic novel. He also suggested that Literature could be seen as an intercourse of texts. Written work and short films that approach similar thematic concerns, for instance, could be analysed alongside each other. To illustrate, he showed us a short film, “Flats”, written and directed by Ervin Han. The animated short delves into growing up in an HDB flat, through the experiences of 2 siblings. While many of the themes and scenes were admittedly quotidian and familiar, they were presented so beautifully and evoked such tenderness. Dennis suggested that this work could be looked at next to Alfian Sa’at’s Void Deck. I suppose the intercourse of texts is already being done in schools, where we watch a BBC adaptation of a Shakespeare play, for instance, as we’re reading one of his plays.

Ken’s talk centered on teaching literature in today’s era where social media is rampant and so heavily a part of our lives. People are easily distracted by the multitude of user interfaces, and Ken posited that this is perhaps the reason why Literature is unattractive – books are lengthy, and demand quite a bit of our attention in one sitting. I found this to be the case when I taught Literature to IP students, and it is rather saddening. However, Ken’s sharing brings a hopeful outlook to this situation – he believes that the online world is not so different from the world of literature and language.

The online world is dramatic: we suspend disbelief, create different identities and project an image of ourselves that we want others to believe. We have a personal stake in the virtual landscape. Ken coins the term ‘affinity space’ to describe this world in which we desire a sense of community. If we consider the online world from this perspective, we can create this same sense of belonging and active engagement in the classroom. Ken asked us to consider how we teach literature – do we merely dictate meaning and tell students how they should interpret a text? Or do we make an effort to create an open, safe, and inviting environment that affirms rather than undermines?

I especially loved Ken’s emphasis on ‘meaning-making’, which encourages students to be actively involved in the learning process so that they feel a personal connection with the subject. Creative writing or drama as part of the course could really enhance the way we approach a text, and help us to appreciate works written so long before us. In my personal experience, using drama as a tool for learning was a wonderful way to engage with a text. I also love the idea of incorporating different kinds of performance into the teaching of literature, just like how Pooja Nansi did when she came down the other day. I understand that some students may not take to drama or creative writing well, and this may even alienate some students. I think the best thing to take away from Ken’s talk would be to find different ways of engaging students and drawing connections between the texts we read and our own lives. This also reminds me of Erin Woodford’s idea to read 17th century poetry alongside a current Singapore Literature text: putting things in perspective and contextualizing issues really helps students feel a connection with a text.

Finally, we come to Suzanne’s segment – the part of the talk that resonated with me the most, but also left me with so many questions and doubts. Her sharing revolved around the fundamental aim of teaching Literature. According to the current MOE syllabus, students of Literature should be groomed to be critical thinkers. In my years as a literature student, I have seen this on the syllabus countless times that when I read it, nothing strikes me as particularly problematic. Yet Suzanne raised a point: why do we aim to nurture critical thinkers? The most dangerous individuals in human history have been the greatest critical thinkers.

The audience all laughed at this point. Suzanne then went on to elaborate that literature is about humanity and should be grounded in ethics and in engaging the people around us. She had a slide that brought up the aim of pursuing literature according to the MOE syllabus and replaced it with: Engaging and empathizing with multiple and marginalized others.

This is a pretty big shift in focus, because it means a shift from the purview of Literature in English to that of World Literature. It is an inconspicuous fact that most of our texts fall under the category of British and American Literature (of course due largely to the fact that we take the Cambridge paper) but perhaps that is something we can change, by including more texts outside of these categories (more Singapore Literature! for example).

Suzanne also proposed several other changes that would align with this shift in focus: less aesthetic appreciation, more engagement with contemporary local and global issues. Much of literature involves close reading of the text, and while I do enjoy delving into the intricacies of a text, I realise that is precisely what turns people away from the subject, when there is really so much more to literature than that. We could spend more time talking about themes and issues that are dealt with in texts, such as violence, human rights, social problems. In orienting towards this way of teaching literature in the classroom, we need to consider texts outside of the West, in order to understand the perspectives of other groups of people around the world.

I absolutely admire this approach of teaching literature, one that brings attention to humanity and the complexities of life. I think that if we start humanizing the subject, students can identify with these issues and draw connections, and understand and appreciate different perspectives. I see, however, that this is a huge step to take in the teaching of literature. I think this is firstly because we cannot really train teachers in empathy and we need that in order to impart this to students in the classroom. It’s an abstract concept. But I think if we take a step towards changing the syllabus, it’s progress in that direction. It shows that we are trying to change the focus of teaching the subject. Baby steps.

I really enjoyed the session, and I am especially hopeful in light of the fact that these 3 speakers lecture at NIE, and can make serious changes in education policy. I have my doubts regarding the implementation of some of these suggestions, but what is great is that we’re talking about it.

I didn’t mean to write so much, but I felt that there were so many good things that emerged during this session. Shout-out to Prof Holden and Teck for their enthusiasm in this module; I have learned a lot, and there is still much that I do not know. I have also really enjoyed reading the blog posts of my fellow classmates! It’s been great learning alongside everyone.