The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Jeremy Tiang

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Jeremy Tiang 8Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

It’s my attempt to make sense of the world.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I’ve been putting together a short story collection, It Never Rains On National Day, which will be launched at the Singapore Writers Festival this year. The stories are about Singaporeans overseas and non-Singaporeans in Singapore, and asks how we decide where we belong, and how these boundaries get drawn.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

I don’t think I have one. Each story demands to be told in its own particular way, and all I can do is try to find the right language.

Who are your favorite authors?

I give a different answer every time I’m asked this, because there are too many I love. Off the top of my head: Han Suyin, Claudia Rankine, Yeng Pway Ngon, Carol Shields, Li Rui, George Eliot, Barbara Trapido, Louis MacNeice, Huzir Sulaiman.

This may be a good place to quote Wendy Cope:

When they ask me, “Who’s your favourite poet?”

I’d better not mention you,

Though you certainly are my favourite poet

And I like your poems too.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

Each piece of writing is challenging in its own way, but like childbirth, you hold it in your arms afterwards and forget how much it hurt. (NB. I have never actually given birth to a child, so who knows how true this is.)

What’s your idea of bliss?

When deadlines are far enough away that I can take the day off to read without guilt.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

I don’t really get that angry. It’s not very productive. Though if you were looking for a one-word answer, then: injustice.

What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

Something big I’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t had the time to commit to. Maybe A Dance to the Music of Time, or The Avignon Quintet, or Water Margin. I was going to say Finnegans Wake, but that might take more like three years.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

The cats.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it.

Author Biography:

Jeremy Tiang’s short story collection It Never Rains on National Day

will be published by Epigram Books in 2015. His fiction has appeared

in Esquire, Brooklyn Rail, Drunken Boat, Meanjin, Ambit, Asia Literary

Review, QLRS and Best New Singaporean Short Stories, and won the

Golden Point Award. He has translated more than ten books from

Chinese, including work by Yan Geling, Zhang Yueran, Yeng Pway Ngon

and You Jin, and has received a PEN/ Heim Grant and 2016 NEA Literary

Translation Fellowship. Jeremy is also a playwright whose work has

been performed in London, New York and Singapore.