Friday, November 20, 2009

What the Singapore media said

Trust the timing of these things to happen when neither Mark nor I was in Singapore. The day after I took off to Vietnam on a short work-and-play trip, the Straits Times ran its coverage of our book, side by side with another new release Chronicles of Singapore.


(The article ran over two pages in the Life! section; to read it, click on part 1 or part 2.)

We'd been interviewed by the journalist Akshita Nanda a couple of weeks earlier, over coffee just before the reading at Books Actually. I think the report neatly highlights some of the stories that got us excited about writing the book (as you've no doubt heard us mention on this blog). Mark also got to use his soundbite about Singapore being a 'testosterone-laden system' before the 20th century and about the intensity of war accounts meaning that the war section 'practically wrote itself'.

The only blip was that another of Mark's lines was mistakenly attributed to me:
The audio recordings and written texts were so powerful that Balasingamchow found herself recreating ancient history while walking the modern streets of Chinatown.
I did find the various historical sources powerful and compelling, but the mystical Chinatown walkabout moment was Mark's and Mark's alone. (Ask him about it some time.) On his part, he doesn't quite recall the line about Mrs Siraj – it might've been me waxing lyrical about her. But that's the thing about a joint interview, perhaps: that two excited co-authors might start talking over each other's lines, and it gets a little hard to separate who said what.

(Click here to embiggen)

Just this past weekend, Singapore: A Biography got mentioned in Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore's main Chinese broadsheet), in an article about the recent surge in books about Singapore history and interest in the subject. The journalist Cindy Chia had contacted us when we were both not in Singapore, so I wound up writing her a quote while I was sipping Vietnamese coffee in Hoi An.
Q: Can you tell me what sort of approach did you adopt while writing the book? What went thru your thoughts in trying to make history digestible and approachable to the public? Who are your targeted readers?

A: The book is targeted at the general reader – not a specialist but someone who's simply curious to find out more about the stories and personalities in Singapore's history. At the same time, academics or specialists will find the book is substantive and rigorous. We generally tried to let the voices of the different historical personalities speak for themselves, whether it's a quote from Raffles's personal letters, or an oral history interview or radio broadcast by David Marshall. We tried to let readers step into the shoes of the various people throughout history and see events through their eyes.
It made it, more or less, into the last paragraph of the story.

We'll still waiting on a couple other media that have expressed interest in our book, so we'll keep you posted as other articles and reviews appear.

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