What readers & the media are saying
“Gresham’s surrealism is a welcome mutation of social realist storytelling that dominates the short story market in Singapore. We Rose Up Slowlyseems to fall somewhere on a spectrum between the speculative fiction of Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, whose work is also a fusion of Borgesian fantasy and science fiction, and Amanda Lee Koe’s blend of semi-surreal social realism and folklore. To label this collection would be doing an injustice to a work that understands the sense of displacement one feels as a hybridised individual — one that ticks many boxes on administrative forms and belongs to none of them, one that finds themselves with a more expansive sense of self and art.”
“Of no tidy national identity, born in England, raised in Australia and now having lived over a decade in Singapore – Gresham provides us with a uniquely weathered and maturely distanced literary lens trained on Singapore, contrasting fertilely with much of the comparatively more instant writing generated here in the last few years. As Gresham himself suggests, his stories are as mongrel-mash-up as he is. His oddly arresting details and takes on the island-state captured in We Rose Up Slowly also suggest that the “other,” pedestrian, migrant camera and pushchair wielding “comrade” Gresham has licked his fair share – if not quite all – of Singapore pavements. These very readable stories are sprinkled judiciously with names that might beguile us, have us occasionally Googling, while allowing us into small forgotten spaces, secret corners, the persistently resistant and unwashed residual folds in Singapore and the region’s postcolonial skin.”
“I think a more cautious, Monty Python acclimatised reader will pick up on the slightly un-Singaporean humour, the nuances, as well as the uncanny interconnecting echoes between the stories. Anyway, I doubt Gresham feels the need as writer to reveal any fundamental truths, or teach us how to live as good Singaporeans. A more weighty critical voice, Jee Leong Koh, who was dismissive of Arthur Yap’s short stories, has nothing but praise for Gresham’s collection. And not without reason. There’s rich language, much stuff going on here: enough for a dissertation surely – in fact the more I read these stories the more I’m reminded of Nalpon, but perhaps even more of Amanda Lee Koe. As with these line-crossing local writers in all senses, in Gresham, something resonant is generated in the gentle vibrations between the very local mundane and the magical.”
“In this first collection, Gresham, conscious and cosmopolitan mongrel writer of the world, seems to have broken key ground and taken the Singapore short story into a newer, freer, adaptably post-national, and highly readable space.”
“In ten short stories, Jon Gresham brilliantly and tenderly leads us down a gallery that displays sketches both geographically and emotionally Singaporean”
"I am still at a loss, holding my breath by the end of it, as the couple surrender to “the phenomenon”. But is the final act faith-induced, awaiting what is on the other side? Or is it a mutual suicide, leaping in reverse into the void? Whichever the conclusion, We Rose Up Slowly allows the local landscape to utterly disappear — to eclipse — and this is what is most haunting for me.
The book is a prescient reminder, perhaps the first amongst many, that I need not look across the waters, but only up the sky-scrapers in the centre, to find fantasy. I can dream with authors like Jon Gresham so that the absurd undoes the quotidian structures on this island, releasing “silver lockets” of magic into the air."
"Gresham's surrealistic stories, at their best, shake us from within, and deepen the notion that we are islands of consciousness; in this way, they compel us to confront our own intellectual detachments and emotional blindspots in order for us to engage better with the world.
They are also fundamentally stories about our modern world, its cross-cultural realities, and the fractured lives we lead in them. We Rose Up Slowly is an absorbing and disturbing read definitely worth spending an afternoon with."
Sam Ng, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, July 2016
'Gresham’s beautifully subtle prose bears within it the sense of something devastating, something tumultuous, something painfully moving; this something he never quite articulates and yet surely we recognise it. The experience of reading the collection reminded me of this quote from Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape: “We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, from side to side.”’
"It's a book to sink into: one is in the hands (or shall we say "fingers?") of an excellent storyteller."
"This is an Excellent read."
"Most memorable are The Finger, a triangle between an expat couple and their maid, as well as A Girl And A Guy In A Kijang In Kemang, in which a tale of forbidden love from ancient Java plays out in a Jakarta traffic jam."
"I think what I enjoyed most about We Rose Up Slowly was the clarity and simplicity with which the complicated backstories of the characters was presented ... generous in the meaning and enjoyment it provides ... I will definitely be re-reading it soon."
"...each protagonist has to confront the gap between messy reality and romantic idealism; each one is looking for an escape, and knows that nothing will be the same again."
"This is an excellent book for the busy Singaporean who might not have time for a full-length novel. Each story can probably be finished within the length of the time it takes to travel to work. I would also recommend it as a gift for birthdays because it a refreshing breath of fresh air in the local scene."