‘Fate’ may be too strong of a word but opening Charissa Ong’s Midnight Monologues and landing on this page sent chills down my spine and tears to my eyes. Anyone who knows me knows that I really only have one weakness and that weed-smoking, new age-preaching, human-shaped weakness has been the one thing guiding me through every reckless, thoughtless decision I’ve made in the last three years. ‘He’ has been my best friend but my biggest distraction.
I had come across Midnight Monologues at a café in KL that turned out to be a slight bit too pretentious for my liking. But thank god for the gift of hipster culture and indulgence or I would have never stumbled upon this page, this book, this reminder that I haven’t quite learned how to be a whole person on my own yet and that’s fine.
I bought the book on impulse and only ended up reading the rest on the plane back home. Her poems are separated into three sections: ‘Lost’, ‘Found’ and ‘Hope’; with an additional section dedicated to her short stories. How I feel about her writing is similar to how I feel about the café I found it in: slightly self-indulgent but inspiring. I found the writer’s best work to be her brevities while her longer poems lacked depth, largely due to her heavy use of rhyme and symbolism.
With that said, credit needs to be given where credit is due. I hold this book and Charissa in high regard. By self-publishing Midnight Monologues, she not only carved out a place for herself in Malaysian publishing but for all young aspiring writers who have yet to find a home for their own work. Her voice speaks on behalf of my own generation and I cannot deny that probably a lot of the criticism I have of her writing and storytelling is in part due to the relatability of the content—especially in ‘Lost’—making whatever differences of perception or experience stand out more in particular than I would expect from past or foreign writers. All in all, there is a very rhythmic consistency to her writing, a warm voice telling you that you are not the only one still struggling to find comfort in your own skin.