Monday, July 06, 2015

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Had earlier wanted to buy Sonny Liew's 'The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye'. I've liked Sonny Liew's drawings for a while. However, I didn't bargain for this first print run to sell out pronto thanks to the stunt pulled by National Arts Council (NAC). I was a little too busy to hop into a bookshop to buy a copy. When I next took a look, it was all sold out. ARRRGH.

'The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye' is a graphic novel afterall, with erm 'unsavory' contents, totally not mainstream. Awesome that it's selling so well. Good on Epigram Books to take an initial hit on the print run, and did a merry second, and now a third. May all publishing costs be covered. Not going to make the same mistake. I put in pre-orders for its second print. It was delivered quickly. Hurrah.

I read it thrice, each at a sitting. First for an overall feel, a second look at the beautiful lines of the illustrations, and a third to ponder over the brilliance of satire and clever commentary, and the bravery of Sonny Liew and Epigram Books in sketching and publishing the graphic novel. It's more than entertaining. IT'S SO GOOD. It could have very well been banned or subjected to yet-to-be-implemented name and image copyright restrictions.

We ought to be slightly more than familiar with Singapore history, along with the backdrop of Malayan and regional milestones before attempting this graphic novel. Do not let anyone presume that we might, for a moment, take a satirical graphic novel as undisputed facts and a government-approved history textbook.

We should have the brains and gumption to analyze the events post-war, pre-1965, in the early years of independence, and the contentious 1970s and 1987. We should be able to discern facts from unverified assumptions, rumors and unrecorded data. Oral histories must be triple-checked and then some. Let it be said that Singaporeans have the maturity to read a non-mainstream and perhaps controversial publication and have full cognizant abilities to decide what we want to get out of it.

At the end of the day, I was not there. I wasn't born. What do I want to take away from that era? Do I know those people, do I care, and should I care? What truths, untruths and warped facts matter? We are capable of independent thought and should have our own firm answers. I suppose we just have to decide if we're thinking of 'individual expression' or 'for the greater good'.


coboypb said...

I have bought the book online too but haven't gotten to reading it. I will need to find a book to recap on Singapore history first, so that I can better appreciate Sonny Liew's book.

imp said...

Time to saunter to the library to flip a few copies of their history books. :)