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Noon at Five O'Clock

The Short Stories of Arthur Yap

Arthur Yap

Publication Year: 2014

The volume marks the recovery and first combined publication of the stories of Arthur Yap, one of Singapore's most accomplished and important writers. A hitherto neglected facet of Yap’s opus, his eight short stories are deceptive in their simplicity, housing within their sparse prose a complex engagement with Singapore society that he wrote in and within. With his signature minimalistic style, Yap simultaneously perplexes readers with stories of seemingly plotless ambiguity, yet draws them in with familiar characters playing out situations that still resonate in twenty-first century Singapore today. Angus Whitehead’s introduction highlights literary nuances in the stories and frames the stories within the wider backdrop of social change of Singapore at the time of Yap’s writing. The meticulous critical apparatus make this book of interest to not only the general reader but also students of Singapore and Southeast Asian literature in English.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Endorsements, Half title, full title, copyright and dedication page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Being a writer is not quite the same thing as being a poet, a dramatist, or a fictionist. When the creative impulse can sidestep genre and elide convention, writing declares itself attentive to the naked interface between language and perception where words and experiences try to shape one another in a context relatively—though of course never completely—bare of preconceptions. The resulting tension, if sustained rather than...

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pp. xv-xviii

T his book includes all of Arthur Yap’s published short stories. Three of these eight stories were included in Robert Yeo’s Singapore Short Stories (1978) and reprinted several times subsequently, most recently by Pearson Longman in 2002. The remaining five stories, originally appearing in less well-known anthologies and journals, had been by the time of Yap’s death in 2006 to a large extent forgotten.1...


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pp. xix-xx


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pp. xxi-xxii

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An Introduction to the Short Stories of Arthur Yap

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pp. 1-20

While Arthur Yap is now indisputably considered one of Singapore’s most accomplished and significant poets, such recognition has been slow in coming. Since the early 1960s until his death in 2006, Yap, never a proactive promoter of his own work, was overshadowed by contemporaries such as Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo, Kirpal Singh and other more proactively...

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Noon at Five O'clock

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pp. 21-23

The sun seems to dazzle everything it touches. And however acclimatised, no one can be impervious to its seeping heat. He was going home, and suddenly he felt sick. Perhaps it wasn’t very wise to have walked that distance under the noon sun. But this is one of the things one does. Without having to see if it’s wise or otherwise, that is....

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A 5-Year Plan

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pp. 24-25

He was a young man when he met her; and she, though not exactly pretty, was quite presentable in their circle of friends. Neither of them was, in any sense, well-off. He was drawing a pretty meagre salary; and, as his wife, it was only expected that she had to make-do with the meagre salary. However, they were by no means poverty-stricken....

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A Silly Little Story

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pp. 26-28

Wong Loo was one of those persons who could not possibly have lived anywhere else except in Singapore. He was from China, speaking only the Cantonese dialect, but gradually he acquired a few words of English. Those few words he used in a well-meaning sort of way, but with some nonchalance as he was not very bothered about what they exactly meant. If one of his sons were to remark that a pop...

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Soo Meng

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pp. 29-31

Every person in the neighbourhood knew that the Lims have three children. I am not sure why this was often mentioned in a manner that appeared to be like a verdict of some sort. Perhaps this was the problem: only two of the children are seen. Soo Eng and Soo Kong are often seen trotting alongside their mother on the way to the market and, like all other children who are too young to attend school, they...

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The Effect of a Good Dinner

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pp. 32-36

Custom and tradition are the easiest things to kill; even if they are not killed, they are easily jolted into a haemorrhage. Sometimes, they appear comical or ludicrous, or they are grim. When you cease to believe in them, you would seem to have come a long way. Sometimes, you may ask yourself: a long way from what? Then you may want to assert that, now, you do not have to tip-toe or kneel...

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None the Wiser

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pp. 37-41

Mei Ching went towards the window and pushed the glasspanes back. She stretched out her arm to find the catch. Teng Soo, sitting behind her, thought for one amusing moment that his wife was extending her arms into the sky to help the weather....

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The Story of a Mask

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pp. 42-46

Chinese opera had, of course, its origin in China. Its progression and fruition were also in China, but waves of this particular operatic influence radiated outwards and hung up its curtains in other countries. Occasionally, a few actors who were not eking out an adequate living, decided to come to the Nanyang30 (Malaya and Singapore) and start afresh....

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A Beginning and a Middle Without an Ending

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pp. 47-51

When it got to about ten o’clock, the incessant chatter started to peter off.39 Leng Eng turned to Elaine and asked if her sister would sing a song. Even in asking, Leng Eng was not herself convinced that it was a good idea. It was a dull gathering, a gaggle of girls who, like herself, had completed school a few years back.40 Similarly, if Jimmy had been free, why would she, Leng Eng, be with them?...


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pp. 52-57

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"His Little Area of Animation": An Essay

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pp. 58-68

Readers and scholars of twentieth-century Singapore, Southeast Asian and postcolonial writing in English will be served well by this collection of Arthur Yap’s eight short stories, published here together for the first time. Before this publication, these works remained under the radar of literary reception. Yet three of these eight stories appeared in...

Appendix One: Arthur Yap on the Short Story

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pp. 69-72

Appendix Two: Timeline

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pp. 73-82

Appendix Three: Articles and Mentions in Press

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pp. 83-86

Appendix Four: Publications

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pp. 87-88


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p. 89-89

E-ISBN-13: 9789971698058
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971697914

Page Count: 104
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: New