Friday, October 16, 2009

What book would you like to snuggle under covers with, and why?

“What book would you like to snuggle under covers with, and why?” A number of writers appearing at the 2009 Singapore Writers Festival in Singapore on October 24-November 1, 2009, disclose what they read for pleasure

JOHN BOYNE ((Mutiny, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas): “I’d snuggle under the covers with Emily Bronte! As a teenager my first introduction to a great love affair wasn’t a personal experience, but in the pages of Wuthering Heights. Although I’d like to think that I am a much nicer person than Heathcliff.”

MEIRA CHAND (A Different Sky, A Far Horizon): “I am soon hoping to get under covers with Jonathan Black’s (The Secret History of the World. This history of human consciousness promises a view of the world previously hidden, and as I find anything to do with the labyrinth of human thought seductive, I am looking forward to its revelations.”

NEEL CHOWDHURY (The Inheritors): “I’d snuggle under the covers with V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, one of my favourite novels, and J.G. Farrell’s wonderful The Singapore Grip. I’d also include almost any fiction written by George Eliot, Thomas Hardy or Henry James.”

MAREE DAWES (Women of the Minotaur): “I cannot choose just one book! At the moment I have a whole basket of books by my bed so I can have the one I want for any occasion. Of course, there are lots of poetry collections—some of them are Over There, Indigo Journal, White Clay (Lucy Dougan), some Dorothy Hewett, Barbara Temperton’s Southern Edge, and of course my own journal so I can scribble away when I am inspired. The latest novels by David Malouf (Ransom) and Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin). I also like to have the latest Delicious magazine and some New Scientist magazines.”

IMTIAZ DHARKER (The Terrorist at My Table): “Staying Alive, the anthology of poems edited by Neil Astley. A wonderful collection of poems for our times: thought-provoking, inspiring and challenging. A treasure of a book, it makes me feel connected to a whole family of poets across the world.”

SHAMINI FLINT (Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul): “Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, of course! Or Gregory Peck who played Atticus in the film version—unfortunately he’s no longer with us …. Atticus is the ultimate hero—good-looking, unassuming and capable of great feats of bravery and sacrifice. Who could ask for more?”

MOHAMMED HANIF (A Case of Exploding Mangoes): “J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World as it hovers between a dream and the real world.”

HYEJIN KIM (Jia): “Once on a Moonless Night, the new book by Dai Sijie, is one that I look forward to reading. I recently read his book, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. I enjoyed his casual but careful portrayal of a difficult time in China. I liked how he described the period and its people. The ending of the book was the best part. Since I learned of his new book, I have been looking forward to reading it.”

CATHERINE LIM (The Song of Silver Frond, The Bondmaid): “For the generous ‘undercovers’ treat of close, warm, snuggling intimacy with a favourite book or writer, I’ll simply have to be greedy and ask for my entire zoo to be accommodated! They are long-time favourite novelists as diverse in their penetrating vision, creative energy and masterful use of the language as Jane Austen, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, William Golding, Anthony Burgess, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Penelope Fitzgerald, Kazuo Ishiguro and J.M. Coetzee. I would ask each of these marvellous writers in breathless, wide-eyed wonder: Just how do you do it?”

SUCHEN CHRISTINE LIM (The Lies That Build a Marriage, Rice Bowl): “I would snuggle under covers with two, not one, authors. Keep awake with Ma Jian’s epic novel, Beijing Coma, his remembrance of Tiananmen, a significant moment in Chinese history, which the state seeks to erase. Then let John Banville’s The Sea lull and disturb me gently as the sea always does with his beautifully crafted sentences and evocation of a childhood love.”

JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST (Handling the Undead, Let the Right One In): “Right now probably one of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. I live in the same archipelago as Tove Jansson did, and it can be quite cold. We need the warmth from the Moomin world.”

MA JIAN (Beijing Coma, The Noodle Maker, Stick Out Your Tongue, Red Dust: A Path Through China): “The book I return to again and again is Franz Kafka’s The Castle. I don’t tend to ‘snuggle under the covers’ to read. I prefer to read sitting on my sofa, or best of all at a window seat on a long train journey.”

K.S. MANIAM (Between Lives, In a Far Country, The Return): “The books I like to read are books that take me into the inner man or woman. This is because I’ve always been fascinated by that space within us which I feel, as a writer, as almost infinite. It’s in this inner space of the individual that we find the imagination living to its fullest and most expressive form. A book that puts you on to this imagination is a book worth taking trouble over. I can’t mention specific books but list the authors who’ve written such imagination-expanding works: Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Jose Saramago, W.G. Sebald, Patrick White, Kenzaburo Oe, to name a few.”

KATE McCAFFREY: “When I was fourteen I read Gone With the Wind; I remember feeling quite empty once I finished it. It was a novel that traced a huge part of history and of course had the interesting, yet dysfunctional relationships throughout the story. It was a novel you could get under the covers with on a rainy day and not want to emerge from until it was over.”

O THIAM CHIN (Never Been Better): “Definitely Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From, which is the de facto anthology of 37 of his best short stories, a brilliant culling of his works that spanned his illustrious writing career. His stories might appear deceptively sparse, stylistically simple but each of them possesses a strong, taut finesse that keeps different, and differing, moods, emotions and characters in balance, without over-elaboration or being redundantly lengthy. I have read, and re-read each story, and always discover something new each time.”

WENA POON (The Proper Care of Foxes, Lions in Winter): “I read widely and go highbrow or lowbrow depending on mood. Most recently I found Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, an encyclopedic graphic novel surprisingly grounded in London architectural myths, a rollicking good read. It inspired me to potter about London looking at monuments and led me to write a new story about cenotaphs and Singapore’s colonial past. And people thought graphic novels were ‘just comics’!”

MIGUEL SYJUCO (Ilustrado): “The book I am dying to snuggle under covers with is Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. The idea of ‘being under the covers’ hints at time stolen from daily life, of hiding out, and reading to my heart’s content. Bolaño’s massive tome demands a huge amount of attention and commitment in a world where attentions are too short and commitment pertains to the things we do to make a living. I’m smitten by Bolaño’s work because he holds many clues for contemporary writers from developing countries. He eschews self-exoticisation, finds the humour of daily absurdities, and rejects the staid traditions while at the same time learning from the wisdom of past ages. As a Filipino who, like millions of my countrymen, is at home in the broader world, Bolaño’s life and work resonates with me.”

ROBERT YEO (The Adventures of Holden Heng, And Napalm Does Not Help): “I would like to snuggle up with Jane Austen’s last novel, Persuasion. It has been sometime since I read an Austen book and her understanding of love and marriage is profound and her style, for what she writes about, is peerless. I watched the movie, Becoming Jane Austen, and Ann Hathaway made her desirable.”


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