The Billion Shop by Stephanie Ye
We Rose Up Slowly by Jon Gresham
In our first edition of Booksellers’ Battle, we ask Kenny Leck and Renée Ting from BooksActually for their thoughts on their favourite authors in Singapore.
Stephanie Ye vs. Jon Gresham
(Kenny) The clarity of Stephanie’s writing is the first thing that captures me whenever I read anything from her.
Some would say it’s the quality of her prose, her ideas, her plot lines but it is the subtle but immense clarity of how she create her characters, and how her characters interact with one another, live our their perfunctory lives that is so absorbing for me.
She is like the Greek gods where humans were just clay figurines in the gladiator’s arena, and at the flick of their godly fingers, the hapless human is under their every whim and control.
(Renée) I definitely don’t doubt the quality of Stephanie’s prose, I am a huuuuuge fan of her story in Ceriph #02, titled ‘Bons and Sirius A’.
The stories in We Rose Up Slowly are intimate and real, yet it delicately embodies the lives of the characters in very succinct ways. My favourite, though, was the title story, where the fantastical melds with the everyday. I do wish that more of his stories were like that.
(Kenny) I think what is at stake when I contrast Stephanie’s to Jon’s stories is that her stories is devoid of any make-believe which is an anti-thesis to what a storyteller is. Her stories that she weaves are too close for comfort. But yet, they are so good, or too personal, too Carver-esque that I believe her words in its entirety.
(Renée) I have to say, Stephanie’s craft is incomparable to any Singaporean short story writer. Her language is remarkable, and she has a way of drawing you into her world, living an experience that you otherwise would never have known. Jon’s content is unique, given his own hybrid origins. What I love is that his stories defy the idealistic perceptions of perfection, and how nothing is ever what it seems.
Seeing as both are debut collection of short stories from Stephanie Ye and Jon Gresham, what do you think these two writers can dwell on in common, in terms of room for improvement?
(Kenny) Overall, if these two writers can’t handle both (craft and content) well enough in their storytelling, it will be flat in one sense or another. And it would be most telling when they continue deeper into their writing careers. The great writers are the ones who consistently “affect” their readers – not necessarily always good for one’s well-being – but as readers would keep on turning back to them, just like an addiction.
I won’t exactly say improvement but what do they see their writing journey to be. Their “storytelling” has to more or less, feel similar – for a lack of better word – for their readers but at the same time, they need to break new ground. Murakami achieves that. In fact, most good writers, especially the prolific ones does this thing where they write the things they are most familiar with, and which their readers would identify. But there has to be slight changes through the years so that new ground can be broken as a writer. I think this is essential for all writers to bear in mind, So perhaps, this is the thing that both Stephanie, and Jon could dwell upon.