Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 3 No. 3 Apr 2004

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On accommodation and accommodations

By Toh Hsien Min

One of the events I had been dreading for some time came to pass in February, when I had to move. There isn't an attractive English word for it, ‘move’ being perhaps just indefinite enough to cause perplexity, ‘move house’ being a blunt instrument and ‘shift’ being something you do on your computer keyboard, which perhaps parallels the actual event (the French do have a reasonably pretty word, ‘déménager’, but then you see how Cédric Klapisch makes it look like fun and it somehow fits together). Moving house is the apex of bother in the universe of domestic chores. In fact, it combines some of the other chores into one complex mélange: sorting, throwing out, packing, unpacking, cleaning, washing. There are the few days when you live without stuff because the hole-puncher is in the bottom corner of that box. Even though I had nominally moved four times since 2000, this was the first time I was taking charge of moving a full household. By all accounts, we were very efficient packers and unpackers – I was fully unpacked on the evening of the Thursday, fully packed by 3am on the Saturday, and fully unpacked in the new domain by the evening of the Sunday – it was still a massive pain in the neck, and we kept making wry jokes about not being able to afford Crown Relo. To top it all off, as readers of past editorials will know, the place I was moving from, on Wilkie Road, was for me a dream home that I can’t imagine ever being matched on this island.

Yet after the burst of efficiency came the usual laissez-faire. Things that went in one corner during the move tended to stay in that corner. It’s one of those scientific precepts that everyone knows: an object that is at rest tends to remain at rest and an object that is in motion tends to remain in motion unless a force is applied onto it. And the past quarter has reinforced for me how this not only applies in physics but also in our attitudes to life. It’s not easy moving, or being moved. Besides the home move, I had to deal with a couple of lateral moves at work (coincidentally, so did the housemate). The long on-off-on-again server move for QLRS came up again, and this time it appears as though we will be moving in cyberspace. And with the momentum of the various ongoing projects keeping me busy, it was hard to gather up energy to set about on new ideas and projects. I would say a balance has to be struck, between the old and the new, the everyday and long-term projects, but balance itself seems like an accommodation in this context.


Some concepts of balance may have been in play in this issue of QLRS, but if so that has been precisely because the editorial team has been unaccommodating. The issue was, nonetheless and in spite of the usual challenges (which, to address a query recently put to me, includes dashing off this editorial in an hour or two before the issue goes ‘live’), quite a fun one to put together. We had the largest crop of submissions for some time, and it was difficult to try to make selections for the creative sections. I was mildly surprised by Kai Chai’s choices on the short stories, but they were all fun to read and I could see the direction he was setting with these. For poetry, I’ve selected with a slightly stricter eye than usual, and as ever without reference to factors external to the poem in question, but was pleased with the flow that has resulted – and in particular must single out the ambition and technical experiment of Koh Tsin Yen’s poem. We were disappointed not to receive a publishable essay this time round, but have two interviews, with Frieda Hughes and Adam Williams, to make up.

For me it is the criticism section that is most interesting in this issue, because it illuminates the ideals behind QLRS. Heng Siok Tian, our stalwart Essays editor, released her third collection of poems in February, and Yueh Chin, who is leading the line in Criticism, placed it with Cyril for review. Cyril’s review was candid, without softening or changing his line on account of his friendship with Siok and their both being editors at this journal. Of course, Cyril’s response is only one point of view, and I do know of a quite opposite review by Ong Sor Fern in Life!, but what comes across, I think, is how much this is a space for impartial literary thought. As Paul Tan has identified in his review of new writer Eunice Chew, “As much as one wants to support Singaporean literature”, one really serves it with a level playing field. And that’s the direction in which we hope Singapore literature will keep moving.

Does Newton's law apply to literature? Discuss in the Forum.

QLRS Vol. 3 No. 3 Apr 2004


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  Related Links

Cédric Klapisch official site
External link. En français.

Crown Relo
External link.

Editorial on Wilkie Road
Vol. 2 No. 4 Jul 2003.

Newton's Laws of Motion
External link to NASA.

Tsin Yen's poem

Interview with Frieda Hughes

Interview with Adam Williams

Cyril Wong's review of Heng Siok Tian

Paul Tan's review of Eunice Chew


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