Jean Tay graduated in 1997 with a double-degree in creative writing and economics from Brown University, USA. For her fiction, she was awarded Weston Prize for Fiction from Brown, as well as the 1st and 3rd prizes for NAC’s Golden Point Short Story competition in 1995 and 2001 respectively.
Plays produced include “Water from the Well” (1998), “The Knot” (1999), “Hopper’s Women” (co-written with Cindy Koh, 2000), “Plunge” (2000), “Everything but the Brain” (2005, 2007) and “Boom” (2008). Jean has also written the books for the musicals “The Admiral’s Odyssey” (2005), and “Man of Letters” (2006).
In July 2007, Jean was selected to attend the prestigious month-long International Playwriting Residency organised by the Royal Court Theatre in London, where the concept for the play “Boom” was developed. The play was first staged in 2008 by SRT, and has been selected as an ‘O’ and ‘N’ Level literature text for 2010.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading “Frog under a Coconut Shell” by Josephine Chia, and enjoying it very much. It’s a very well-written and touching piece of local fiction, which weaves together stories of her youth growing up in a kampong and her mother’s peranakan heritage, as well as her mother’s current struggle with Alzheimer’s. I’ve also just been watching a couple of Jane Austen movie adaptations, and have been inspired to revisit some of my dog-eared Jane Austen novels (Emma, Mansfield Park).
How many books do you currently own?
I’m not sure exactly….Maybe around 300? Although this includes my husband’s books, old Economics textbooks and outdated travel guides. I’ve probably read most of them over the years, although I have most likely forgotten about half of what I’ve read. (That’s certainly true for my Economics textbooks!)
What’s unique about your own library?
It’s a pretty eclectic mix, although mostly fiction. Somehow I’m not a big non-fiction or poetry reader. But over the years, I realise that I’ve been accumulating more and more plays. It’s a nice way to relive the plays that I’ve really enjoyed, as well as to appreciate those plays that I will never get a chance to see in person. I think that reading a play also gives one a clearer sense of the writer’s craft and attention to detail, that you might sometimes miss in a live performance.
In the event of a fire (touch wood), what is/are the book(s) that you will save?
Definitely the Bible, I couldn’t live without it. But if I have time, I’d probably try to grab a couple of my favourite fantasy novelists too, for some escapist reading, like JRR Tolkein or Guy Gavriel Kay. And of course, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.