Goh’s last work, Tall Tales and MisAdventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman, provides intimate insights into his formative years April 14, 2015 10:00

In the upcoming Tall Tales and MisAdventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman, Singapore’s English-language literary pioneer Goh Poh Seng records the trials and tribulations of his first steps as a poet. As an impressionable young medical student in the Ireland of the 1950s, Goh struggled between his family’s expectations that he should become a doctor and his passion for writing. While it concerns his early writing career, Tall Tales was composed in Goh’s last years, and it shows in the fluency of his mature style. The book forms a poignant finale to Goh’s literary legacy – he passed away in 2010, from complications due to Parkinson’s disease, while working on the memoir.

A giant of Singapore’s literary and arts scene, Goh set up Island Press, founded the literary magazine Tumasek, and also formed Centre65 to promote the arts. He was Singapore’s third Cultural Medallion recipient for literature and the vice-chairman of the Arts Council from 1967 to 1973.

The memoir tells one of the common stories of the 20th century – the young colonial sent to the metropole for an advanced education – but in this case in the words of an uncommon young talent, whose ambitions for his own education went far beyond attending medical school. The nine chapters chart the awakening of Goh’s love of words and provide insights into his self-discovery. The book also reveals the extraordinary characters that shaped Goh’s literary journey. In particular he was deeply influenced by the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh and the Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett. Memorable encounters with these writers are recorded in the chapters “A Star-Lovely Art” and “Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?”.

Tall Tales is available through NUS Press’s Ridge Books imprint. It retails for S$25.68 including GST at Books Kinokuniya and leading bookshops in Singapore. Goh’s first novel If We Dream Too Long is also available at NUS Press.

In support of local literature, NUS Press is proud to present Tall Tales at The London Book Fair 2015 from 14 to 16 April.