I went to the "Sembang-Sembang Dengan Penulis Melayu (Chatting with Malay Authors)" event at MPH MidValley yesterday. It was supposed to start at 2pm, and rushing there from a wedding ceremony in PJ at that time, was a nightmare. Stuck in the usual massive traffic jam outside MidValley during the weekends and couldn't find any parking. If one of the largest bookstores in Malaysia wasn't there, there wouldn't even be a reason for me to go.
So, like the event name suggests, a lot of Malay authors were there, and interestingly enough, most of them were authors in the PTS stable. I'm not really clued in on the Malay literary scene, but I recognised a couple of names and faces, the most obvious ones being A. Samad Said, Raja Ahmad Aminullah, Nisah Haron, Irfan Khairi and Azizi Ali.
In fact, the event started out with Azizi Ali giving a talk about how authors should market their books. (He started out with cry of "Who wants to be a millionaire writer!?" which I believed irked some writers in the audience.) They should be proactive and not just sit in their room and write and expect people to discover their "genius". This would include giving interviews, writing articles in the media and giving talks. Irfan Khairi added that one should also have an online presence to market themselves. Razali Endun, a veteran Malay writer, then proceeded to chastise them for stating the obvious. He wanted to hear something new. In defence to this, Azizi Ali said that he was stating this for those who didn't know.
Next up, was a forum moderated by Raja Ahmad Aminullah, of Suarasuara. The topic was "Quality Vs Quantity in (Malay) Publication", and the speakers were Najwa Aiman (who's really a guy*! SHOCKING!) and Nisah Haron.
Nisah Haron started by saying that a lot of contemporary Malay books lacked quality. By quality, she meant books that gave something back to the reader after reading them. Books that provided knowledge. She tries to provide this in her books, which provide some mental challenges to the reader. But she also said that books like these didn't necessarily cater to the demands of the (Malay) reading public, but there is a demand, even if it is minimal. This results in a situation where "quality" books were not being stocked by the stores because they wouldn't sell. This is why she set up Ujana Ilmu (The Malay equivalent to Amazon), where anyone who wanted to get any Malay book, could do so, rare or not.
Najwa Aiman was of the opinion that just because mainstream Malay novels (read: Romance and Young Adult novels) were popular, and sold in huge quantities, it didn't mean the novels lacked quality. He said to make it big, a writer has to cater to the demand of the writing public. But this resulted in the discussion degrading into a Literature vs Mainstream Fiction debate, and after that I...er...kind of zoned out a bit, because frankly, I'm sick of the topic, in any language or culture. Books are books.
There's a lot more to talk about the event (there's a bit of discontent on how the whole thing was handled apparently), but I'm really not the one to talk about it.
At least I got to meet Nisah Haron and get her to sign my copy of Mencari Locus Standi. Hooray! Seems she expected me to be older. I was a bit dumbstruck by that. C'mon... do I really strike anyone as being mature on this blog? ^_^
More sembang-sembang drama on Nisah's Malay blog. (And a pic of me and gf behind Pak Samad.)
*Apparently, when he changed to a female pseudonym, his books sold better. Go figure. Such is the state of Malay publishing.