Yesteryears by Sean Cham

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Sean Cham is an undergraduate at Yale-NUS College, with an Urban Studies major and an Arts and Humanities minor. He is also the author of Yesteryears, a photobook showcasing 50 places in Singapore that were culturally and historically significant.

“The series was taken when Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence, and there was an increasing wave of nostalgia across the nation. However, many buildings and places were left abandoned and forgotten amidst the country’s race for progress. Places are vessels of memories for the people; places are where relationships are forged, stories are created, history is made. From hidden palaces to crumbling neighbourhoods, these places are long past its halcyon days as they descend into mere brick and mortar.”

Sean started working on Yesteryears at the end of 2014, and completed the series mid 2015. “I told myself the series needed a closure; leaving the photographs in the deep recesses of the World Wide Web will only lead to its ruins like the buildings the series depict. So early 2016 I decided to pitch my book to the team at BooksActually. Kenny Leck was on board but he told me the book needed something more. So I spent the entirety of 2016 figuring out how best to package the series, consulted practitioners in London, wrote an essay for the book, and early 2017 I had it figured out.”

The process that took Sean nearly three years from start to end will be launched at the Singapore Art Book Fair 2017 which opens tomorrow and runs until 30 April at Gillman Barracks.

 

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The Never-Ending Search for the Edge of the Universe

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Visual Artist Aida – aka Yellow Mushmellow – and architectural graduate Frederick Low have collaborated on a self-published art book titled The Never-Ending Search for the Edge of the Universe. The book, launching on 17 March, is a collection of comic-style illustrations, accompanied by poetic musings about the Universe.

“The book follows a spaceman’s adventures on a never-ending search. It uses fantastical imagery inspired by the ‘experiences of the Universe’ to articulate introspective and very personal themes such as the complexities of human emotion (“very much like the incomprehensible nature of space, the heart travels to places the mind cannot fathom”).  As the spaceman navigates his way through the vast expanse of the Universe, coming to terms with its twists and bumps or even grappling with the possible futility of his explorations, the audience is also brought on his own journey of self-discovery, making his experience with the book a personal, or even cathartic, one.”

For Aida, the decision to embark on this project follows the questions and the infinite “what’s-next?-ness” that she and Frederick were confronted with while dealing with a tragic experience. “As an artist, a lot of my ideas draw from everyday encounters — whether unfortunate, delightful or even mundane — and the drawings in the book are expressions that stem from a desperate attempt at making sense of the workings of the Universe, forces way beyond our mind’s grasp. I’ve always believed that art and poetry are a dreamer’s coping mechanism for the perplexing realities of life, and I hope that its universality and human-ness can be appreciated in a society like Singapore that prides itself on pragmatism.”

The book launches the week of 17 March 2017 online and in selected bookstores.

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Booksellers’ Battle! Ye vs. Gresham

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The Billion Shop by Stephanie Ye

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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.

Math Paper Press is known for publishing various contemporary prose and poetry from young Singaporean writers over the years. Follow them on Facebook.

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A Month In Seoul by Cherine Wee

Cherine Wee is a communication designer working in the marketing/creative sector. Last year she put together a self-initiated publication that documents her one month travel in Seoul.

“A Month in Seoul is designed in the form of a photo travelogue diary, and acts as a memento that records my experience living and getting around Seoul like a local. Through my eyes, I share photographs and personal thoughts on my time spent there, on the places I went to, the culture, sights, aesthetic details and mood I’ve experienced.”

Behind the publication: “What started out as an ‘escape’ travel stint ended up as one that allowed me to rediscover myself in my 20 something years, to get lost in a foreign city– both physically and metaphorically, and to find myself through losing myself. It was the resolve to go wherever and do whatever my heart desired. The inspiration and decision to produce this publication was born out of the thought to share my personal experience, to encourage someone out there to take time for rest from the busyness of everyday life and a constant reminder to never lose your sense of wonder and wander. This goes out to all the seekers and dreamers alike.”

Available for purchase at  Actually, Basheer and BooksActually.
A Month in Seoul including 1x publication, 1x set of yours to keep notecards is available only at stuffofsoul.bigcartel.com. That Summer in Seoul [postcard diary pack] is available only at stuffofsoul.bigcartel.com

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《Wake Me Up At HappyLand》by Josef Lee

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“《Wake Me Up At HappyLand》is a story about a man traveling the world in search of the HappyLand. Afraid of missing it, he carried a sign with him, reminding others to wake him up at the Happy Land. But no one did, and he continued his wanderings until …”

Josef Lee is a hero at creating freely available adult bedtime stories. This month he is back with a crowdfunding campaign, featuring a new story that varies massively from his last two projects.

“The last two stories that I wrote were both dark and sad, and it was also a period where I constantly saw a lot of negative news in the media. Around the same time, I switched to taking the subway to work. That’s when I came across an online video of an experiment whereby a person pretends to fall sleep on the train. He is holding a piece of paper indicating his destination, and wonders if anyone will wake him up. The idea stuck in my mind and soon evolved into the core idea of this story – a person on a journey to HappyLand, but sleeping throughout the journey with no one waking him up.

Initially, I wanted to keep my previous style of storytelling-incorporating the use of words and rhymes- so I did many writing drafts in various approaches, but none of them seemed right. I was stuck in the scripts for quite some time until I attended a presentation by a publisher of Children’s Picture-Books. That stimulated my interest in this area, so I did some further research and reading related to Children’s Picture-Books. Eventually, I tried to make a wordless picture-story with this idea. I found that the minute I threw away the words, all the ideas became more easily conveyed through a visual way.”

The project has reached 32% of it’s US$ 20000 target still with 47 days to go.

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