Arts Books By The Book literature Review Singapore

★★★☆☆ Book Review: Robert Yeo at Eighty – A Celebration (edited by Dr Ismail S. Talib)

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A celebration of a literary pioneer in one book. 

Birthday parties are all about making the birthday boy feel good about himself. After all, it’s his special day. And in much the same vein, Robert Yeo at Eighty is exactly that, as it collects praise, tributes, memories, and even fan fiction inspired by his work into a single volume.

Over the course of the book, you’ll read little thoughts penned by some of our most renowned local and regional literary figures, ranging from Catherine Lim to Suchen Christine Lim, A. Robert Lee to Alfred Yuson. These tributes span almost all of Robert Yeo’s works, not only his prose, poetry and drama, but even his librettos.

With local operas still being extremely niche, the writings on his librettos stand out and offer some fresh perspective and memories of working with Robert on staging them, while Frederica Hill’s Plastic Trees, Native Trees stands out as one of the few critical long form essays in the collection analysing his work. Writers like Cyril Wong and Gwee Li Sui even pen poems and short stories inspired either by his life or characters in Robert Yeo’s works, while you’ll also glimpse photos from his past.

A word of warning: if you didn’t already realise, this book is aimed primarily at the Robert Yeo fans. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that; after all, it makes its intent and purpose quite clear from the start, and serves as a good commemoration of this literary pioneer’s 80th birthday.

In essence, this entire book offers up a swathe of appreciation of Robert Yeo’s work and life. If you’re looking for a biography or critique of his work, you’re probably better off delving into academia, or reading his actual work. But if you’re looking for a party in these pages, then you’ve come to the right place.

Recommended for: Researchers looking for choice quotes about the greatness of Robert Yeo, or his biggest fans.

Robert Yeo at Eighty: A Celebration is published by Epigram and available here

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