It’s a gilded tome of intimate, wrought writings – this anthology, titled Ars Moriendi: Writings on the Art of Dying. Published by Lien Foundation and Squircle Line Press, Ars Moriendi commemorates the 600th anniversary of the original Latin work, the first of its kind in western literature to provide guidance towards dying well. The anthology has been named a finalist – all finalists being of equal merit – under the Death & Dying category at the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. The editor of the book is Singapore poet-novelist Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. Incidentally, Desmond’s novel, Singular Acts of Endearment, also placed as a finalist in two other categories, that of Multicultural Fiction and Visionary Fiction.
“I was elated when I was told my works got picked in three categories,” Desmond says. “It’s like a hat-trick, albeit it the near-miss of a win. It’s really an honour for the books to have made it this far in the awards selection, so I’m really grateful and appreciative. It’s a first mention for Ars Moriendi, so that really made my day. Also because it’s such a meaningful project.”With a limited edition print run, Ars Moriendi is a collectible tome, largely because it cannot be purchased and is only given away to readers. Its first copies were distributed free to the public at The Arts House during this year’s Singapore Writers Festival. In the anthology, contributors from around the world share their thoughts on the matter of the good death. Among the list of accomplished writers are Amy Gerstler (National Book Critics Circle Award), Forrest Gander (Villaurrutia Prize), Jane Munro (Macmillan Prize for Poetry), John Barton (Archibald Lampman Award), Karen An-Hwei Lee (Norma Farber First Book Award), Kevin Prufer (George Bogin Memorial Award), Michael Ryan (Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award), and Rae Armantrout (Pulitzer Prize), among many others. Distinguished Singapore writers include Edwin Thumboo, Eric Tinsay Valles, Isa Kamari, and Yeow Kai Chai.
Based in Los Angeles, USA Best Book Awards invites entries of published books from a vast international field, and accepts titles from both mainstream and independent presses. Jeffrey Keen, President and CEO of USA Book News, makes note of how competitive the awards are, where small presses vie for category accolades, alongside heavyweight publishers the likes of Random House, Tarcher/Penguin, HarperOne, WW Norton, Harper Collins, William Morrow, Crown Business, McGraw-Hill, and John Wiley & Sons.