Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Paul Tan Kim Liang
By Yeow Kai Chai
All eyes are on Paul Tan who took on the inaugural post of festival director for the Singapore Writers Festival this year. With the festival taking place this month, high hopes are placed on the poet who has won Singapore Literature Prize accolades for his first two books, Curious Roads (1994) and Driving Into Rain (1998).
He took time off from his busy schedule to answer the very first QLRS Proust Questionnaire.
1) What are you reading right now?
I am alternating between Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and the posthumously-published memoir A Daughter Remembers by Li Lienfung. Both books are part of the SWF2011 programming.
2) If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play or poem, what would you be and why?
There are days when I feel like Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman)! Maybe it is the tragic reality of modern working life that we sometimes feel so besieged! On better days, the open-minded and thoughtful protagonist Hector (Hector and the Search for Happiness) is inspiring.
3) What is the greatest misconception about you?
I can fly.
4) Name one living author and one dead author you most identify with, and tell us why.
Not sure I want to "identify" with any one specific author. I certainly admire the fact that William Shakespeare was prodigiously talented, wrote both plays and verse and yet we know very little about him. That distance between a writer's biography and creative oeuvre is very appealing in its mystery. It is certainly not so readily available for contemporary writers in this over-connected age.
5) Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Yes, but no idea how to beat it. Maybe go and live life a bit more?
6) What qualities do you most admire in a writer?
Linguistic nimbleness, tenacity and humility.
7) What is one trait you most deplore in writing or writers?
8) Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
Nope; I would have to refer to the actual texts. I am blaming short attention spans and poor memory retention. But Ted Hughes did give wonderfully-worded advice to poets in his book Poetry in the Making.
9) Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but I.....
only read Jane Eyre this year… and it was a free e-book which I read on the iPad!
10) Over easy, or hard boiled, which?
Soft-boiled, can? Preferably with kaya toast.
11) What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
These change regularly. For today, 'sommelier' and 'input'.
12) Write a rhyming couplet that includes the following three items: lid, keychain and macaroon.
The lid, the keychain and the macaroon
Went to sea in an enamel spitoon.
(Lame, I know.)
13) What object is indispensable to you when you write?
Paper, pen, a drink. Water will do, thank you.
14) What is the best time of the day for writing?
Any time you are free.
15) If you have a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree?
Chaucer's Wife of Bath, Kazuo Ishiguro and Oscar Wilde.
16) What has been the greatest challenge in organising the Singapore Writers Festival?
Learning how to pull everything together as it is the first time for me, and making sure the programme appeals to the literary-minded but includes the man on the street too.
17) What would you write on your own tombstone?
QLRS Vol. 10 No. 4 Oct 2011
I may not have one. Better to scatter one's remains and return to the environment in a full circle…