Monday, February 04, 2013

Ann Ang's Bang My Car

Local writer Ann Ang's first collection, "Bang My Car", is a literary form defined as micro-fiction. I must confess I haven't read any of such books or pieces before then. The closest, I guess, would be Yasunari Kawabata's "Palm-of-the-Hand" stories, where less is more. Going by my reflective disposition, I found that intriguing, where mind-wandering is rewarded, and most things are suggested.

A first for me is this: it is written in an exotic language. For the uninitiated, there is a now-famous local vernacular called "Singlish",  a local version of the English language. Yes, you read it right the first time: it's written in Singlish - well, a noticeable portion of it. But why Singlish, you may ask. Well, I am no linguistics expert, but my guess would be that it's for "one-half authenticity and one-half tongue-in-cheek". But, I must say, this is risky business using language to flesh out a character. So, is the author successful in her portrayal? My verdict has to be a resounding "YES!"

It isn't difficult to notice how the book can be read both as a whole and in its each individual story - I think that takes considerable craft. The main subject of our discourse: Uncle. To have a better grasp of the author's definition of "Uncle", kindly refer to the second piece in the collection aptly titled "Uncle (n.)" - not a word more or less, pure and simple. And through the eyes and mouths of "uncle", the readers would navigate or "topo" (Singlish? I can't help it.) the psyche of the typical Singaporeans like a road map, their heartlanders' attitudes ranging from our island's short history, to the future, on family, western culture, crowded space, and even social politics. Some of the pieces, like "Imaginary Geographies of the Singapore Heartland", had me nodding in hearty approval. My personal favourite has to be "Drink More Water".

A largely satisfying ride indeed, of familiar sounds and sights.

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