Gwee Li Sui Recommends

Three Books to Read on the MRT

As Part of #BuySingLit

The MRT trains keep stalling these days! Whether it be from a track fault or a signal fault, a delay is a delay, and we busy Singaporeans don’t take well to that. But, rather than get angry, why not amuse yourself and others by reading aloud from Ng Yi-Sheng’s Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience? Maybe not. Here are three quieter books to commute with…

Here Now There After, edited by Yong Shu Hoong

Here Now There After is hands-down the book to take onto the MRT! It’s designed for travel, with short, distance-timed literary pieces, all kept to a size that fits your pocket or purse. It describes itself as a ticket book, which I used to think meant a stack of travel tickets? Anyway, did I mention that there’s an actual $5-preloaded NETS FlashPay card inside?

This fun, compact volume has wonderful stories, poems (like, ahem, mine), and comics heretofore unseen because they’re that new! Its editor Yong Shu Hoong further throws in notes that tempt you to explore places and other titles should you wish to deviate from routine more. And, if you like what a ticket book is and are usefully bilingual, check out the ones in Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil too!

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Track Faults and Other Glitches by Nicholas Yong

Train delays can fry your brain and make you imagine all kinds of mad scenarios: that was what happened to Nicholas Yong. He has gone on to write a whole book of Singapore-based stories with zombies, ghosts, gods, time leaps, world leaps, and what have you. Then there’s that MRT story hinted at in the title, which is quite lovably creepy!

Track Faults and Other Glitches is a welcome page-turner for minds that dream of other realities. It’s excitable, imaginative, and filled with all kinds of pop references from TV, film, and comics. I suspect Yong may still be trapped within those references, but he’s having too much fun to want out. So for now here are ten tales that feel like worthy lost episodes of… The Twilight Zone.

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Objects of Affection by Krishna Udayasankar

Now my surprise pick! I don’t like crowds much, and so to be in a cabin with strangers breathing on my neck isn’t my idea of a nice time. This may be why, of all types of books I’ve read while travelling, novelist Krishna Udayasankar’s one poetry book is a unique pleasure. Objects of Affection is her collection of verse focusing on mere things.

You read that right: this book celebrates things and only things. They’re the everyday inanimate sort like a door, a book, glasses, a lipstick, a hairclip, a mirror, and shoes. For each, Udayasankar makes it speak and reveal dark secrets it alone knows. As you explore further, you feel yourself slowly changing in mind and physique too. How perverse, infernal, and – should I say it? – anti-human. Perfect!

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About the Author

Gwee Li Sui is a poet, graphic artist, and a literary critic. His published works include Myth of the StoneWho Wants to Buy a Book of Poems?, One Thousand and One NightsWho Wants to Buy an Expanded Book of Poems?The Other Merlion and Friendsand Haikuku.