Government authority helps graphic novel “The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” achieve cult following

Awesome publicity efforts by the National Arts Council.

By Belmont Lay | June 3, 2015

All thanks to the National Arts Council (NAC), graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold out almost all 1,000 copies of its first print run.

This after the stat board withdrew its $8,000 publishing grant for the book by artist-illustrator Sonny Liew, one day before its 30 May launch, instantly securing it widespread media coverage and public interest.

Initially, the NAC cited “sensitive content” as the reason for its decision to pull back its grant last week.

Elaborating on Tuesday, however, senior director of the council’s literary arts sector Khor Kok Wah said, “The retelling of Singapore’s history in the work potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the government and its public institutions, and thus breaches our funding guidelines. The council’s funding guidelines are published online and well known among the arts community.”

The council has spoken to the artist and the publisher on the rationale for the withdrawal, he added.

Local paper Today reports that publisher Epigram Books had to return S$6,400 that had already been disbursed and print stickers to cover the NAC logo in the book.

Books Kinokuniya Singapore reportedly also sold out its stock of 500 copies at all its branches. This includes the 270 copies that were sold at the novel’s official launch on Saturday at the bookshop chain’s main store in Ngee Ann City, Today said.

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye tells the story of a Singaporean artist who represents 60-odd years of local history through comics interspersed with biographical details. It features personalities such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and events such as 1987’s Operation Spectrum and the Hock Lee bus riots.

Here is Sonny Liew’s response to all that has happened thus far:

Charlie Chan and the Art of This and ThatIt’s been a topsy turvy last couple of weeks. I’ve been very touched by all…

Posted by Sonny Liew on Tuesday, June 2, 2015


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About Belmont Lay

Belmont can pronounce "tchotchke".

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