Monday, February 24, 2014

Singapore Siu Dai by Felix Cheong

This is such an AWESOME read! I bought this book yesterday just before the author did a reading at Toast Box. I arrived at the branch in Esplanade Mall, expecting to find someone selling it, but I was too early. However, I caught sight of a giant Toast Box poster saying that if I spent $11.80 at that outlet, I'd get a complimentary copy! 

Excited, I asked the cashier just to double check that that was for real. Unfortunately, he had not been briefed, and neither had his other colleagues. Fortunately, the agent or representative from the publisher was there to clear things up. The deal was on. 

There was only one problem, there was nothing that cost $11.80 or even close to that at Toast Box. Having just had lunch, I only wanted a cup of iced tea, which costs only $2. I was $9.80 short. But being the enterprising Singaporean that I am, I asked the guy next in line if we could combine receipts. He agreed, rather amused. I decided to order a set of Nasi Lemak + Iced Barley that cost $6 to make up for the difference. What a great deal! A book, a meal and a reading all for the price of $6! I ended up taking away the rice. 

Now enough about me, on to the book. 

As I sat down to read it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that each short story really lived up to its name. They were all a page or two in length, the longest was probably three pages. When I later chatted with the author, he explained that he wanted it to be an easy read where the average commuter could finish it on the commute either on the bus or train. Brilliant idea that. 

I went through it pretty quickly before the reading began, covering about a third of the book in that time. I quickly found my favorite story. It was the one titled " A Day at Toast Box" and I'll take a chance to post the excerpt here, hoping the author wouldn't mind. 

Of course, you have to be Singaporean, or at least someone familiar with the coffee shop lingo to appreciate this piece. It is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS! I loved it and so did all my friends whom I shared this with over Whatsapp and Facebook. (Whoops, hope I didn't infringe on any copyright laws there.)

I enjoyed the pieces on the schoolboy named Rex with his kiasu parents, the series on SDU, Singapore's official matchmaking agency and Captain Obvious too. They all brought a smile to my face. 

I must add however, that the book does not lend itself to book readings very kindly. I found that the puns were all funnier on paper than during the reading. During the reading at Esplanade's Toast Box yesterday, I was the only one laughing when they finished telling the stories, probably because I was the only customer that had a copy of the book and could understand the humour behind it. But that is probably just me. You tell me.

All in all, I think the tie up with Toast Box is a pretty clever idea. Better book readings at easily accessible locations like kopitiams than at places like Books Actually (a place I've wanted to visit for the longest time but have never found time to.) 

The book ends on a slightly darker note and made me ponder on the cost of the rapid development in this little island of ours. I loved the part where Gini was an adviser to the Prime Minister. I must say the Felix did a pretty good job at ending on a sombre note to balance things out a little. It helps the average citizen reflect on how healthy progress is for the nation. 

All in all, this is a BRILLIANT book. I would recommend all Singaporeans to grab a copy today. For $13.90, it gives you more entertainment than the latest blockbuster in theaters and you can even share it with your friends and laugh over the jokes together. I did. At on the very same day, I met at least 5 other people and showed them "A Day at Toast Box" which had all of them in stitches. That was excluding those I shared with on social media. Haha. The power of technology these days. 

I truly enjoyed the book, thank you Felix, we definitely needed this. I eagerly await the arrival of "Singapore Ka Dai"!

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