cover image The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Sonny Liew. Pantheon, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-101-87069-3

An early candidate for the various best-of lists for 2016, this superlative achievement from Liew (The Shadow Hero) tells the story not only of Singaporean artist and comics creator Charlie Chan Hock Chye, but of Singapore itself. It hardly matters, of course, that the titular character is an invention of Liew’s, because his story is so real that some early reviewers assumed Liew’s protagonist had to be a real person. Chye’s story, from his youthful beginnings and early career as an artist to his later reminiscences, is fascinating in itself, but Liew’s inclusion of fabricated newspaper clippings, old sketches, and mixed media works—and even an occasional photo collage purporting to show us first-hand evidence of Charlie’s life—is riveting. As Chye’s life is revealed, so is the history of Singapore, a tumultuous sweep that is mirrored in the history of cartooning. Make no mistake: this multilayered book is a masterpiece. (Mar)