Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me, by Cyril Wong
[Image courtesy of Epigram Books]
Another book of short stories! And a local one too.
Cyril Wong’s books have always caught my attention with their curious titles, but I have never gotten round to any of them. Until now, that is. The bookstore in town had a members’ sale and feeling particularly lavish (and very starved for good books), I grabbed any book that caught my eye while I was there. This happened to be one of them. I rationalized to myself that this was one of those books that had been in my mental TBR list anyway, and the recent read-local campaign was still fresh in my mind.
Ironically, the title story wasn’t one of my favourite ones in the book. It could even be one of my least favourite, despite it reading like the author’s autobiography, maybe even a creative one. Perhaps it’s got to do with the somewhat melancholic tone I detected. I was kind of disturbed at the end of the story. Well, some people might think that’s good, but I sure didn’t like it.
The story that managed to draw me in was the one about a boy who could see spirits. It actually managed to send a chill down my spine. It not only took me a while to shake off the eerie feeling, but also brought to mind how lonely and desperate for companionship we city dwellers sometimes are.
What I got from the stories are probably derived from my own experiences, emotional baggage and perspectives, and may not be what Wong had tried to paint. But I suppose that is the magic of literature.
VERDICT: You will either hate this collection, or love it. But other than a few references to local places, attitudes and slang, you might not even realize the stories came from a Singaporean writer.