Artists can be canaries flying down into mines or diving underwater.
“I should be so considerate of anyone who showed me friendship,” he says early in the novel. “All their wishes should be mine. I should follow them everywhere, like a dog.” Then he adds, with less than dog-like humility: “I am endlessly kind. But the people I have known have never appreciated this fact.”
There is no titular story in Inez Tan’s debut collection This is Where I Won’t Be Alone. As an American reader, I first considered this title a statement of theme or artistic destination. But if you’re Singaporean, then you know the title as an excerpt from a popular 1998 song called “Home,” written by Dick Lee for the first in a series of songs Singapore’s National Day Parade, celebrated on August 9th of each year.
The realm of storytelling is a sacred one, and not just for authors and readers, but for our culture as a whole. As the novel makes readily apparent, if we neglect or ignore our collective pasts, our stories, then we risk losing the most important part of us forever.
Guided by poets including Shakespeare, Homer, and Milton, Principles of Economics asks: can we stave off or transform grief by creating a faithful copy of the departed, by remembering everything in the manner of Borges’s Funes?