Arts Books By The Book literature Review

★★★☆☆ Book Review: Chronicles of a Circuit Breaker by Joseph Chiang

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An on-the-nose digest of comics adding a dose of humour to Singapore’s circuit breaker. 

Thanks to the pandemic and our very own circuit breaker measures, 2020 has been a truly strange year for everyone. From masking up whenever we step outside, to working from home, or simply the heightened paranoia of unhygienic practices, the new normal seems to have firmly entrenched itself into our lives, and is here to stay.

Cartoonist Joseph Chiang certainly feels this way, and in his new book Chronicles of a Circuit Breaker, offers a light-hearted record of all the absurdities the ordinary Singaporean experiences during our lockdown, finding the humour in what many would say is the darkest period of our generation.

Depicted in comic strips, Joseph’s art style is simple yet endearing.  There’s plenty of evidence pointing to his skill in sequential arts – his characters are surprisingly expressive despite sporting almost comically rounded limbs and heads, with keen details such as getting their eyebrows arched just right to depict surprise or worry. The art style itself harkens back to an earlier time, and creates a heightened sense of nostalgia, further making the early phases of our circuit breaker feel like a lifetime ago.

In terms of its content, there’s not a lot of new ground broken, and for anyone reading it right now, the memories of the past year are still fresh enough for it to strike a chord. As much as it doesn’t offer much new insight, reading it does give a smidge of comfort, in being reminded that the stricter Phases 1 and 2 are behind us. From time to time, his work does evoke a little chuckle, from the initial panic over working from home, to references to being ‘sovereign’, to long queues at the bubble tea store.

As mundane as the subject matter is for now, one believes that in a couple of years, when future generations study this time in history books, Joseph’s Chronicles of a Circuit Breaker will be elevated to a fascinating archive of the idiosyncrasies that came about during this unprecedented time. For now though, take some relief in how it celebrates the absurdity of our one year anniversary since circuit breaker, and to remain hopeful that it won’t be long before we’re truly out of the woods.

Recommended for: Readers interested in revisiting the highlights and humour gleaned from the circuit breaker period, in short, Instagram-ready strips.

Chronicles of a Circuit Breaker is published by Epigram and available here

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