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Reading SO not cool, says uncool guy.

I'd have to agree with Eyeris on this:
Reading is cool, ok? It makes you look intellectual, and shows you actually have a brain beneath all that gelled dyed hair. Oklar, maybe in your eyes being seen with a book is not as cool as being seen in some Beemer or a SLK; but heck, I'd rather be able to strike up a conversation with a girl PROPERLY, rather than just sidling up to her and going, "Hey, How you doing? Wanna take a ride in my SLK?". How shallow did you think she is?

Yorkshire Moors Bores.

I'm surprised to read that while Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, is doing good and has sold 70k copies in the US in the first week of its launch, British sales have been far from remarkable at only 600 copies sold in that same week.

Is it because the British are sick of reading about the exploits of crazy women running about in the rain on the moors of Yorkshire? Do gothic novels bore the pants off people? Aw, come on... Jane Eyre and Rebecca weren't so bad, were they?

Nancy Yi Fan's Swordbird.

It sounds almost too good to be true. A Chinese 11-year-old kid writes a fantasy novel about warring birds. She submits it to a US publisher (who usually doesn't accept unagented submissions) and they agree to publish it.

Kid must be a freaking genius. I'm jealous:
Born in Beijing in 1993, Fan lived in New York with her parents from the age of seven, graduating 'with excellence' from an elementary school there in 2004. When she was in sixth grade, at the age of 11, she was taught about terrorism and the events of 9/11. That night, she explains, she had a startling dream all about birds at war and the next day she started writing Swordbird in her bedroom as a way of trying to convey her worries about violence in the world. She now lives back in China, on the beautiful Hainan Island with her parents and their three pet birds. The girl, now 13, is a compulsive writer and reader who spends most of her time in the library, but she also loves bird-watching and martial arts.Thi…

It's Banned Books Week!

From the American Library Association:
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2006, marks BBW's 25th anniversary (September 23-30).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.Of course, as Malaysians, we don't have that much democratic or intellectual freedom, but we do have more of it than some nations. I guess that's something to be thankful for. More intellectual freedom would be nice though.

It'd be great if our government stopped treating us like children …

Readings.

Seems everytime I go in the direction of Bangsar, it rains. And boy, does it rain. Visibly was really bad on the NPE at around 3pm. The rain eased a little when I got near the Bangsar LRT station, but traffic just decided not to move, so I got stuck there for a while. Might have reached this month's Readings at Seksen's 67 Lorong Tempinis on time if it weren't for the jam. But then again, I probably wouldn't have come at all in the first place.

Azman, the Streamyx contractor had called me a couple of weeks earlier to tell me that he and his Gang of Installers would be paying me a visit on the 23rd to get my wireless internet up and running. (Irony paid a visit too when Maxis dropped a leaflet in the mailbox announcing the arrival of their new wired broadband plan this morning. I hate Puchong.) He said they would come at 4pm, right when Readings would be scheduled. Thank goodness he decided to come a little earlier, so that was how I found myself in Bangsar for the Readi…

REVIEW: The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain

Some authors were made to write novel-length prose. Some were born to write words in short story chunks. Then there are those who manage to do both well. I'm not sure which categorisation Rose Tremain would fit in - if one would even dare to do so - but let me take a gamble: I have a sneaking suspicion she belongs in the first category.

Having won the Whitbread Novel of the Year in 1996 for Music and Silence and received praising reviews for her latest novel, The Colour, Rose Tremain is undeniably a good novelist. It was with this knowledge I armed myself with before expecting to enjoy her latest collection of twelve short stories, The Darkness of Wallis Simpson.

The title story imagines the last years of Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American who King Edward VIII abdicated for in 1936. Tremain takes this true story and spins it into a tale filled with whimsy and irony.

Wallis Simpson is dying but why can she only remember her first two husbands - one abusive the other kind yet …

When Books Need Policies.

I was alerted by Sharon's post about the Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim planning to submit a proposal to revise the National Book Policy yesterday, and two questions immediately came to mind.

1) We have a National Book Policy?
2) What does the National Book Policy say about books anyway?

Since I don't have the time to drop by my favourite legal bookstore (probably because I don't know where to find one) to get myself a copy of the latest edition of Dasar Buku Negara, I did a little googling around and this is what I found:

The National Book Policy was approved by the Cabinet in 1985 and was drafted to ensure that
books in the Malay language play an effective role as as a tool for the development of the social and cultural mind in line with the country's needs and ambition;books are enjoyed by all levels of society in this country;people in this country have a strong interest in reading;books published in this country achieve a high standard …

The Art of Cover Design.

Found this interview with Paul Buckley, the art director for book cover design at Penguin US via Boingboing. The awesome cover for the US edition of Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics is his handiwork, and its much better than the yuckworthy UK edition:


(left: US edition, right: UK edition)

In the interview, he mentions commissioning the work of artists such as Frank Miller (Sin City), Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Chester Brown (Yummy Fur), which really give the book covers a cool edge, such as this edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover for the Penguin Classics Deluxe imprint:

Now, that's a book worth owning just for the cover alone.

So I went to the Times Warehouse Sale...

Been busy of late (which is why I'm blogging and doing my laundry at 3am), but I did manage to take time off to visit the Times Warehouse Sale. I couldn't resist... I blame mum.

Loads of good books to be had for RM8 each, which I don't know is a good thing or a bad thing.

Anyway, managed to drag myself away with:
The Viceroy of Ouidah by Bruce ChatwinTen Novels and Their Authors by W. Somerset Maughamnumber9dream by David MitchellLiterary Occasions: Essays by V.S. NaipaulThe Tiger in the Well by Philip PullmanThe Book That Changed My Life edited by Diane OsenSideways by Rex PickettWomen of the Silk by Gail TsukiyamaThe Language of Threads by Gail TsukiyamaJust a Geek by Wil Wheaton

Booker Prize Shortlist Coverage.

And the Booker Prize shortlist nominees are:

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Links:
Eric Forbes has covers of the shortlisted (so you know what to look for in stores)Maud Newton has interviews and reviewsPenguin's beside themselves over the choice of Hisham Matar and Kiran Desai.Guardian has an overview writeup

This month's readings at Lorong Tempinis Satu.

From Sharon:
The next "Readings" in our monthly series of readings will be held next Saturday, 23rd September, 2006, with the aim of showcasing local writers and encouraging new talent. We have a very exciting and varied line-up for you, so come and join us for an afternoon of words, wit and wine!

Reading this time:

Jit Murad
Aneeta Sundararaj
Xeus
Patricia Sykes
Amir Hafizi
Joy Teh

Time: 3.30pm
Date: 23rd September 2006
Place: 67, Lorong Tempinis Satu, Lucky Garden, Bangsar (for directions check www.seksan.com)

"Readings" is initiated by Bernice Chauly, and is currently organized by Sharon Bakar and made possible by the gracious sponsorship of Seksan from 67 Tempinis Satu and La Bodega.

Sharon Bakar Writer/ teacher hp: 012-6848835
sbakar@streamyx.com
http://thebookaholic.blogspot.com

Interview with a Literary Agent.

Why does an author need an agent? Aneeta Sundararaj interviews literary agent, Janet Grant:
The publishing world is an ever-changing universe, with personnel changes and publishing houses buying other publishing houses. It’s almost dizzying to keep track of all the changes. A literary agent is like a still-point in a turning universe. Once you secure an agent, that person will hopefully guide you through your entire career, helping you to decide what you’ll write next, placing your work with the appropriate house, and dealing with the business side of publishing, which frees you up to concentrate on the creative side. And when things go wrong—as they inevitably will—your agent is there to step in and to help resolve the problem.Do also check out Janet Grant's website.

Times Year End Warehouse Sale.

Just when you thought your wallet was safe... I received the following information in an email from the lovely Laydiefa:Times The Bookshop is organizing its year end warehouse sale.

Details are as follows:

Date: 15th Sept - 24th Sept 2006 (15th Sept - TPC Member Special Preview)
Time: 12pm - 8pm (preview & weekday); 10am - 8pm (weekend)
Contact: 012-608 3569
Venue: 2nd Floor, Dataran Hamodal, Block A, (behind Colgate), Jln Bersatu 13/4, Seksyen 13, 46200, PJ

Please PRESENT your TPC card upon entering for the preview day.And here's a map:


Those peeps at Times are truly evil! It's bad enough we've all spent our lifesavings at Payless earlier in the month, why would anyone want to hold a warehouse sale at the end of the month when the salary's been squandered?!? They always do this!!!

*jumps up and down raging and seething*

How does it feel to be a literary sensation?

I've waxed lyrical over Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Talebefore, and now that her book is out in both US (released two days ago) and UK, the book's publisher's marketing machine is at full force. With her book auctioned off for $1m in the US and £800,000 in the UK, it's no surprise the publishers are making sure they'll be getting their investment back.

But how is the author getting on now that she's had her first novel published (and is richer)? From the Yorkshire Post:
"I do miss the washing up – it was part of my quiet afternoon time when I was allowed to think," she says, adding: "I do miss writing very badly."I'm nearly halfway through her book, and there isn't one bit at all I don't like about it so far...

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Between the ages of 5 and 10, I lived with my parents in the city of Bath. I was sent to a school called Moorlands Infant School (later Junior), which claimed to be built on the grounds of the house where Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, lived. The school logo was a stylised black horse, preparing to jump.

It was here I first discovered Roald Dahl. I don't remember which teacher read it to us in class; perhaps it was Ms. Telliere with her impossible to spell French name, or was it Mr. Peak, who always got angry at me for not wanting to write my weekend diary? I'm not even sure which Roald Dahl story was read, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was The Magic Finger.

I must have told my dad about it when I came home that day because the next thing I knew Dad came home with more Roald Dahl books - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, BFG, The Witches.

In school we were thought to love reading, and I learned to love reading Roald Dahl.

My most important R…

Tomorrow is Roald Dahl Day!

13th September is Roald Dahl's birthday, and tomorrow he would have celebrated his 90th birthday. Plans are afoot for a worldwide celebration and MPH is thankfully joining in on the fun:
Roald Dahl’s Birthday Celebration
Celebrate the birthday of the infamous Roald Dahl, author of various bestselling books including Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, BFG and Fantastic Mr. Fox. There will be lots of children activities such as story telling, colouring contest, quizzes, word games and most importantly lots of prizes to be won! So make sure you bring your friends along that day!

MPH MidValley: 16 September, 2.00-3.00pm
MPH 1Utama: 23 September, 2.00-3.00pmParents can sit at ease that I won't be jumping out of the shelves and guerrilla-reading stories from Switch Bitch or excerpts from Uncle Oswald's diary. Perhaps on his 100th birthday.

My Sunday.

Went to Xeus's talk at MPH MidValley yesterday. Finally got to meet Lydia Teh and Yvonne Lee, and along with Xeus, we chatted a bit before Xeus started her talk. It was great meeting you guys!

Xeus talked about the ways of making money from writing (query newspaper and magazine editors because they're always up for interesting stories or features for their lifestyle or expertise sections), her experience writing Dark City (took her two months to finish the first draft), and what she has in store for the future (a children's book, of which a synopsis is available on her blog).

I also got for myself a copy of Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale, which is absolutely amazing. I wasn't planning on reading this just yet, but while I was waiting for Xeus's talk to begin, I read the first page... and well, I couldn't stop reading it. Have had to ditch Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies aside for now 'cause I've been totally sucked in.

The book is a lo…

My Payless Haul.

I went on Saturday. Woke up late - was very tired that day - and ended up going there around 3pm. It rained half-way there. And heavily too. Visibly was very low and I could barely see the bonnet, what more the cars in front of me. We managed to reach YMCA hall safely, was even lucky enough to get a parking space in that heavy rain. And yet, we couldn't get out of the car to walk to the hall. Not because we didn't have an umbrella, but because the car park was flooded with water rising 2 inches high! So we stayed in the car for a while, listening to the Dixie Chicks singing "I Hope", waiting for the rain to stop.

I didn't want us to wade through the water. My shoes would've survived, of course, but my gf's shoes wouldn't have. And I couldn't drive back out and send her to the hall first for fear of losing my parking space. So in the end, I managed to reverse the car a bit to where the ground was a little higher and wasn't flooded, let my gf ou…

Round-up of Literary Events.

What to do during the weekend?

First there's the Payless Warehouse Sale that's on even as we speak, and lasts till Sunday, 7pm.

Then on Saturday, at MPH MidValley, there'll be some author appearances you should go to and support:

Snapshots by Aneeta Sundaraj, Saradha Sarayanan and A. Jessie Michael
2.00 – 3.00pm, Courtyard

This is a collection of stories that are basically snapshots of everyday life through the authors’ eyes. They are stories designed to appeal to both men and women with no specific theme. Join the authors as they share some of the stories written in the book.

Author Appearance by Faisal Tehrani
4.00 – 5.00pm, Courtyard

Here's your chance to meet one of the biggest names in Malay literature. Join the author of Si Peniup Ney, 1515 Kombat, 1511 and Surat Surat Perempuan Johor as he will be here to share with you some of his literary collection.

Then on Sunday, also at MPH MidValley, Xeus will be making an appearance:

Dark City By Xeus
3.00 – 4.00pm, Courtyard

Here’s…

REVIEWs: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman AND In Patagonia.

Do check out my review of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in today's StarTwo:
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki MurakamiJapanese literary renegade, Haruki Murakami, is well-known as a novelist but not so much for his short stories. He is, in fact, quite prolific when it comes to short stories, and has been writing them since 1980 after he finished his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball. His stories have been published all over the place, from Granta, to the New Yorker, to McSweeny’s. In fact, if you bother to go look for them, you’ll find his stories up online too, available legally and free. Some of these stories have been compiled before into a collection called The Elephant Vanishes. That collection didn’t necessarily represent the best of what he had to offer at the time, and I found it varying in quality and mostly forgettable.Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, translated by Phillip Gabriel and Jay Rubin, gathers together the rest of his short stories written from 1…

North Korean Literature.

Thanks to the Literary Review, I was alerted to the September issue of Words Without Borders, which features "Literature from the Axis of Evil" and includes writing, interviews from and about Iran, Iraq, North Korea and other "evil" nations.

Of interest to me is the North Korean section which has stories from North Korea (whoa!) and an interview with the advisory editor for the North Korean writing, Hayun Jung:
Would you say that there is a "dissident" literature in North Korea at all? Or is there one being produced by writers in exile in South Korea?

There is no channel for dissident writers in NK, if there are any, for publishing their works since all publications are strictly controlled by the Choson Writers Alliance, a chapter of the ruling Workers' Party.

Although only a few North Korean exiles in the South have published memoirs (and not literary works), since there are now almost 8,000 North Korean defectors living in the South and presumably over …

Reminder: Payless Stock Clearance Sale.

Remember hor... this weekend got sale:

Payless Stock Clearance Sale
8 - 10 September
10am - 7pm

(Click on image to enlarge)

Tiger Dedication.

Probably old news to some but I thought this was cool - in Anthony Burgess' Time for a Tiger, the first book in The Malayan Trilogy, there is a dedication. This is unique not only because the other two books in the trilogy don't have dedications but this particular one is written in jawi.

It says:
Kepada sahabat2 saya di Tanah Melayuwhich means:
To my friends in MalayaI'm ashamed to admit that Burgess's jawi penmanship is better than mine.

Also, I found this highly amusing. Overleaf from the dedication is a disclaimer which states:
The Malay state of Lanchap and its town and inhabitants do not really exist.One of the meanings of the word "lanchap" in Malay is "masturbate". Tee hee! Other meanings include "slippery" or "saying something without meaning to, or by accident" but that's not as immature or funny.

On Serialising.

Looks like serialising novels is in vogue again. Harper's is in the game by serialising John Robert Lennon's Happyland:
Lennon cut 30,000 words and one character to fit “Happyland” in Harper’s. (The third of four installments appears in the September issue.) Roger Hodge, the editor of Harper’s, said the magazine had been looking to serialize a novel when he heard from a friend of Lennon’s about “Happyland” being dropped by Norton (the novel's original publisher). “It seemed to me to be a perfect novel to serialize,” Hodge said.And Penguin's in on it too, though they're taking a different - and in my opinion, more interesting - approach, by releasing Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, a Victorian-era novel about a lady dumped by her fiancĂ© and forced to turn into an adventuress. How it works is, you pay £25, and Penguin will send you an installment, each one a chapter (10 in all), every week, from October to December 2006.

The covers look beautiful, but too bad the stor…

Interview with Karen-Ann Theseira.

Karen-Ann Theseira talks to Aneeta Sundararaj about Book Project 3:
Our project is a project in progress. We will learn, grow and continue to challenge ourselves. We strive to make every book an improvement from the last. We believe there are no bad writers and no bad stories. Everyone is given a sporting chance and due respect. Having said that, I do know we have a responsibility to the paying public as our books must be worthy of the retail price. We must strike a balance.

We don't compete or compare. We just do what we do to the best of our ability. Book 3 is a compilation of fictional stories. Personally, I am very impressed with the level of imagination, originality and creativity in this book. If all goes well, the launch of book 3 will be in Dec. of this year.

Kinokuniya Sunday.

After the Borders trip yesterday I dropped by my parents's house to say hello (and to get free dinner). Mum said it's been a long time since she visited Kinokuniya. Why not we go there tomorrow, she said. I said, fine.

So that's how I found myself in kinokuniya today, and came back out with another four books. I mentioned how I'm addicted to book buying to my mum, and she said, don't worry, it runs in the family. She added: "Better a creative mess at home, then an idle neatness."

Yay! It's great when your mum justifies your book buying spree!

Anyways, the spoils:

The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil by Nicolai V. Gogol
I blame Jhumpa Lahiri for this one.

Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin
I wanted to get Norwegian Wood but they didn't have that in the British edition so I bought this instead.

No god but God by Reza Azlan
I have a love-hate relationship with the Message of Peace. Once in a while I read non-fiction books about it.

M…

Borders Saturday.

Had some time for myself today so I thought I dropped by The Curve to visit Tango Mango (or is that Mango Tango?) to buy a couple of Moleskines, but turns out they don't have the ones I want in stock. (Why la nowhere got standard ruled Moleskine???)

I just got my payment from a freelance copywriting job and when I went to Borders, I splurged most of it there.

What to do? I'm addicted to book shopping...

The spoils:

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
Borders is having a Haruki Murakami promo: buy 3 books for the price of 2. I couldn't resist buying the ones I didn't have. I just couldn't! Wish I had enough cash to buy the rest of Murakami's books I didn't have... else I could have bought 6 for the price of 4...

after the quake by Haruki Murakami
If you check out the New York Times website, there's a recording of a reading Murakami gave at the New School in New York, and he read "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo" from this collection. His vo…

Xeus on Rejection.

Quoth Xeus:
I personally believe that if you want to reject someone, it's best to outline to the person:
It's the work you are rejecting, not the personIf this particular piece of work is not good enough, it doesn't mean your future work will not be good enoughThese are the reasons: a)....b)....c)BUT you can improve if you do a)....b)....c) e.g: write better grammar, make your sentences simpler, write a more compelling story etcIt's not the end of the world. JK Rowling herself was rejected many times.Now, go home and take my advice and polish up your tome. THEN come and see me again when you are ready.
All this can be said fairly nicely. We need to nurture our young Malaysians, not deflate their hopes. (Yeah! The Merdeka spirit!)

Reading List Update.

For my future reference, I:

am currently reading

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Ms. Lahiri just sucks you in with her delightful prose. Gf gave rave reviews about it so I thought I'd read it too. (Despite how certain quarters call her not a true reader, I trust her judgement anyway.) I'm only on chapter 3 currently but already I know this book will r0x0r my b0x0rz long after I'm done with it. A movie's in the works and is set to be released in March 2007, with Ms. Lahiri making a cameo as "Aunt Jhumpa". Watch the trailer.

have recently finished

30 Aug 2006: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
Interesting in some parts, boring in others. I like how Chatwin ties in his journey around Patagonia with his family history, and how he relates history to the people and places he's visited.

21 Aug 2006: The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain
Some of the stories were boring, meandering, and plodded along at the pace of a leatherback turtle lost on a beach. Only a few were …

Six Questions for M.A. Orthofer.

The Critical Mass has an in-depth interview with M.A Orthofer, founder of the very useful book review site, The Complete Review.

On getting U.S. readers to read more books in translation, Orthofer says:
I think in the US the low profile (and also number) of translations it isn't so much a question of provincialism but largely a problem of awareness: readers simply don't know what wonderful stuff is out there. Sure, the homegrown books can keep you busy, but I think a bit of exposure (prodded on by more reviews and media coverage, and better marketing) would help lead readers to what's already available (where they'd find considerable rewards), leading in turn to more translations.

Firefly Replaces Tinkerbell.

A summary of the new, officially sanctioned, sequel to Peter Panwas leaked to the New York Times. The story, until now a well-kept secret, apparently involves the Lost Boys and Wendy, who have grown up, returning to a polluted Neverland where Peter Pan still lives. Tinkerbell's been replaced by a new fairy, Fireflyer.

Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean will be released 5 October 2006.

FireWife by Tinling Choong.

Eric Forbes highlights a new Malaysian author, Tinling Choong.

According to the publisher's website, her first novel, FireWifeis about...
...a fictional tale of a fledgling photographer, Nin, who leaves her corporate job in California to photograph women in various places throughout the world. Her journey turns into a search for the truth about women: the women of fire and the women of water. At each stopping place, she uncovers the tale of a woman who has been marginalized by her sexuality. In Taipei, she meets Zimi who leases her forehead as advertising space and wants to donate her eggs to an infertile friend; in Bangkok, she photographs Ut, a fourteen-year-old girl forced into prostitution; in Tokyo, her subject bares her body so that sushi may be served upon her daily to groups of salivating men. Each of their lives echoes a stage in Nin’s own journey of discovering her raw sexual self, her true fire self.Something to lookout for, indeed.

FireWife is published by Nan A. Talese a…