Singapore Writers Festival – In the Beginning, there was the Story… Featuring Michael Cunningham

7 Nov 2012
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Photo by Richard Phibbs

The title of the lecture was In the Beginning, there was the Story…

I’d say: “In the theatre, there was a storyteller.”

In the full-house Drama Theatre of the School of the Arts, Michael Cunningham delivered a lecture to the crowd with history, facts and analyses intertwined and packaged with a moving tone of an award-winning writer and a Yale University professor of creative writing.

Cunningham illustrated the origins of fiction writing, going through ‘cheap’ stages of serving to boost newspaper sales to a highly regarded (and popular) status in bookstores today. The driving force might have been ‘cheap’ but it singled out one critical aspect: you have to keep readers reading.

The titles on the book shelves were all created by the masters of storytelling who never failed to plant an undying thought in the minds of all readers: “What happens next?” And to this particular master on the stage, the healing effect that sounded something like “No matter what, the world goes on” has always been an intrinsic factor causing fictional works so attractive.

The idea that fiction serves as records of shared experiences, attainments and feelings of a community coincided with the response Cunningham gave us in our previous interview. “Writers in Singapore are, among their other functions, writing about what it’s like to be in Singapore. No one else can be expected to accomplish that.” I think his remark actually comforted us that our identity will not be lost if we keep our writers alive.

At the end of the 1-hour session, apart from the fact that Cunningham likes the iPad, and he actually still doesn’t understand why there isn’t a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year although he sat on the jury, I’ve learnt that our lives are preserved in the books. And, if we want more life, read more!


Event details:
Date: 4 Nov 2012, Sun
Time: 4:00 – 5:00pm
Venue: Drama Theatre, School of the Arts