Forthcoming book has been described as "the saddest children's book ever", Lucy Wong reports
Sam Jam's novel "Dead Eric Gets a Virus" instantly identified him as a children's book writer like no other. For a start, who would write a book for 11- to 15-year-olds about death? But people who read it came away with a different question: who else could have made a book about that subject so light and enjoyable? "I don't set out to be funny or sad. I set out to create characters that are much more real than those in most children's books. As a result, they affect the reader much more deeply, and thus the amusing bits come across as much more funny, and the sad bits come across as devastating," he said. Children assume he was born with the name Jam, and adults assume he was born Vittachi, the byline he uses for his journalism and novels for adults. "Actually, neither is true. My father's name was Perera, and my mother's was Da Silva---all thanks to colonial history. But the family decided that it was silly that so many people in Asia had European surnames, so we started using my great-grandfather's Sinhalese surname, Vittachi. My first name was given to me by a Javanese guru and my second came from China." His long-awaited new book is also extraordinary. It takes Einstein's Theory of Relativity and turns it into a story about a child who has become "unstitched" from the fabric of time. It starts off amusing, as Simon live his life two or three seconds ahead of everyone else. But the story becomes edge-of-the-seat scary when he learns what it means to fall out of time. "Twilight in the Land of Nowhen" is due to be published by Allen and Unwin in early 2006. People who had read the mss have described it as "the saddest children's story ever written". Jam says: "There are two types of tears: tears of joy and tears of laughter. I like to get them both into a single book if I can."