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Showing posts from June, 2007

Questions and Answers.

Glenda Larke, our very own Fantasy writer whose books are sadly very, VERY hard to find or are just plain unavailable in Malaysia, asked if anybody wanted to ask her any questions about being a writer. This came about after she read about Oprah's interview with Cormac McCarthy where the former had asked some very inane questions to the writer.

Glenda's answered three questions so far, each answer having a dedicated blogpost each. The answers provide good insight into world-building, characterisation and fantasy writing. Take a look, here, here and here.

Ted at Seksan's!

I'll be reading a little something (tee hee!) tomorrow at Seksan's so you might want to drop by and say hi.

Date: 30th June, 2007
Time: 3.30pm
Place: Seksan's, 67, Jalan Tempinis Satu, Lucky Garden, Bangsar

Here's a map, so you don't get lost in the horrid jungles of wild Bangsar.

Other bipedal organisms who will be there reading with me:
David ByckAndre VltchekGary OoiLiyana YusofCean
All of them much, much better than me I think!

Farish on Salman.

Farish Noor, every Malaysian's favourite historian, reminds us what Sir Salman's contributions are:
When I hear the name Rushdie mentioned, I think of the same Salman Rushdie who was writing in the 1980s at the time when Britain was under the rule of Margaret Thatcher, she of the foreigner-hating-ways. For many a young Asian academic and student then, Rushdie was our spokesman, our voice of reason, whose powerful commentaries, op-ed pieces, public lectures, etc. warned of the dangers of racialised communitarianism in Britain. He was the spokesman for the downtrodden, the poor marginalised migrants, the minority communities of Britain. His columns that appeared in the press lambasted, again and again, the racist policies of the Thatcher government and the racism inherent in the world of Occidental academia and writing. It was Rushdie who foregrounded and promoted the writing of Asian authors as English authors, so that their works would not be marginalised and relegated to the m…

Bronze Sky.

Twin Towers-2, originally uploaded by Ali Tehrani. I mentally slapped myself as the warning sirens started their echoing howls across the bronze city sky.

Earlier that day I had a terrible feeling, a sort of prescient warning, telling me not to leave my box. For reasons I still don't understand, I ignored my feelings and left the safety of my box to go to main street for my weekly supply of acrylae.

I looked up at the architectural monstrosity that loomed and towered above me. The chrome and glass that made up the tower's skin vibrated as it received the pounding of the siren's soundwaves and tried to blind me with intense light that reflected from the city and from the clouds. The clouds that smeared the rust-coloured sky above the tower moved indifferently, pushed on by winds that were gathering speed. Flashes of bright light lit up various areas of the clouds.

I had seen this before. Years and years ago, back in the monsoon of '34. I knew they had come back. Probably fo…

Ever had that feeling?

Kafka, originally uploaded by 14da.
Ever had that feeling where all you wanted to do was to escape to another world?

Review the Dark City TV Series!

According to Swifty, the Dark City TV series that Xeus mentioned some time back has apparently already started showing on Astro RIA. I don't own a TV and I certainly don't own a satellite dish to connect to the TV that I don't own, so I wouldn't know if the show is really based on the book of the same name. I highly doubt it.

Seems the ratings have been low because there hasn't been any marketing to promote the show. So the filmmakers have taken things into their hands and plunged their film-making selves into the tubes of the dangerous internets to bring you the following message:
NICHE FILMS present DARK CITY, a local 13-episode series playing on Astro RIA every Wednesday at 10:30pm (followed by repeats throughout the week).

In the tradition of omnibus shows like ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and THE TWILIGHT ZONE, DARK CITY brings you various tales of the macabre with a distinctly Malaysian flavor ... ranging from supernatural horror to psychological thrillers, and bla…

JG Ballard's Thirteen to Centaurus.

Science fiction at its best--when the ghee-whiz special effects are stripped bare and that which is left is only the story.

In this 1965 BBC adaptation of JG Ballard's short story, "Thirteen to Centaurus", the 15-year-old Abel questions Dr. Francis of the true nature of the station they inhabit.

Twists upon twists await!

Philip Pullman Wins Carnegie of Carnegies.

Philip Pullman wins the Carnegie of Carnegie 70th anniversary for the brilliant first instalment of the His Dark Materials trilogy:
The opening book of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman's epic trilogy of wonder and love, won the supreme accolade in its field last night. Northern Lights was declared the finest children's book of the past 70 years, handsomely topping a readers' poll as the best winner of the annual Carnegie medal published in that time. Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in the US) is perhaps one of the most enjoyable fantasy books out there you can read. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the sequels, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, which I didn't enjoy as much.

Livin' La Vida Communista.

Fancy living it up, commie-style?

Some enterprising capitalist pigs have converted old Corbusier-esque concrete apartment blocks into a hotel where you can relive life as it was in pre-1989 East Germany:
"Ostel" takes its guests back to some time before 1989 - an era of ugly brown and orange wallpaper, spartan furnishings and Politburo portraits.

The hotel, which opened in Berlin in May, offers guests a choice of rooms in the style of the old eastern bloc.

The "Stasi Suite" is more expensive than the budget "Pioneer Camp".

The hotel is a former East German Plattenbauwohnung - the kind of mass-produced concrete apartment building that came to symbolise life in the communist bloc.

In the reception four clocks are another throwback to the "socialist" camp, showing the time in Moscow, Berlin, Havana and Beijing. And if you ever forget that Big Brother is watching you, the hoteliers have displayed the portraits of former Soviet leaders in what I assume are …

Town Trouble.

There's a lesson to be learnt from this:
Five farmers from the Auvergne countryside appeared in court yesterday for attacking the writer Pierre Jourde over his novel inspired by their tiny village.

Incensed by Jourde's depictions of heavy drinking, adultery, intermarriage, filthy homes and accidents with farm machinery, some locals say the novelist will never be forgiven. But Paris's literary elite is horrified by the tale of an acclaimed writer "attacked by his own characters". So next time you sit down and write your novel, ask yourself: "Will the real people I based my fictional characters on try to kill me when the novel gets published?"

Muffin Top.

Raman of Silverfishbooks duly notes the new words that have entered the Collins dictionary. My favourite? Must be "muffin top", which is defined as "the unsightly tummy bulge protruding over low-rise jeans".

Call me weird but I like that "unsightly" bulge. I don't think it's unsightly at all. I think it's kinda cute actually. But that's just me of course. Anyways, I think muffin top's a cool name for it. Hoho! I am very amused!

Daerah Samad.

I must be stating the obvious here, but I think A. Samad Said is a fucking genius. I just came back from the Daerah Samad exhibition currently running at Galeri Petronas and I'm still feeling floored. I don't remember the last time I felt this way after going to an art exhibition.

Pak Samad's sketches are, at a glance, appear to be random blotches of ink and coffee stains with a dash of poetry to top it off. But looking carefully reveals that these sketches of seemingly random and impromptu lines evoke images and thoughts that must have been playing on Pak Samad's mind at the time. Some of the haiku-esque works are simply beautiful:
kita juga masih menyimpan peta dan hikayat lama, membuka jendela dan pintu sendiri, kita masih akrab disambut mentari* Beneath these words Pak Samad is a chaotic mess of lines that form what appears to be an urban squatter settlement, with towering skyscrapers looming in the background.

The message that the sketches seem to want to tell are dar…

Sir Salman.

Salman Rushdie, one of my favourite writers gets a long-deserved knighthood. The Guardian has a few choice quotes from the literary scene:
"I am delighted for him," said fellow novelist Ian McEwan said last night. "He's a wonderful writer, and this sends a firm message to the book-burners and their appeasers." The book-burners got the message all right and they don't like it much. Fatwa-spouting Iran has already condemned Sir Salman's knighthood:"Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is... a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials," Mr Hosseini [Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman] told a press conference.

"The measure that has taken place for paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked." Bla bla bla yadda ya…

Interview with Per Petterson.

Now that Per Petterson has grabbed the IMPAC Dublin, I guess this would be a good time to highlight an interview with him at Wild River Review. Per Petterson talks about how landscape is important in his books, what he reads, and his writing habits:
I have written everywhere: beside my bed, at the kitchen table, in the living room with my children crawling around my legs.

Now I work in a cabin 100 meters from my house. Living in the forest, I have the space I did not have before.

Usually I sit at my computer (a Mac, always) and start with a notion of something, a few sentences that I feel have some sort of substance. I never plan anything; never plot my books. In fact I do not know how to do that. I write when I can, hoping for the best and try to take things as they come.Hmm. A Mac person.

Writing by Amir.

A long time ago, my father gave me a book with a loud orange cover, and its title was:

gen
era
tion

It was my introduction to the wit of Amir Muhammad and Kam Raslan (and Sheryll Stothard, but I haven't read anything of her's since).

While I recently got my Kam Raslan fix with Confessions of an Old Boy, I haven't really had much of Amir Muhammad since. Sure, there's his movie blog, but that doesn't hold up a candle to his old writing and it's more about his movies than anything else. And yeah, he has a column in NST from time to time, but I don't read the NST any more on principle, so I frequently miss out.

So I'm glad he's started a new blog that's focused on his writing. This is the Amir I know and love.

So... Yesterday!

So, yesterday I took a day off work to take care of the first leg in the marriage procedure for Muslims. Because almost every state in Malaysia has made it mandatory for Muslims to get a HIV test before getting married, I went to the government clinic in Kelana Jaya early in the morning to take my HIV test... only to discover that they only made tests after 2pm. Drat. I should've gone to the one in Puchong. Which I did, and luckily they let me take my test then and there.

After getting my results (negative), I called up the Imam Jurunikah, the guy who will sign the papers that will allow me to get a certificate saying that I'm allowed to get married. He wasn't in, and I kept calling back until I got a hold of him a little after 2pm. He asked me to come to his house (thankfully not that far away) at 3pm. I brought my father and brother along, because it is required that two witnesses (requirements: Male, Muslim, Malaysian, above 18) be there.

After being chided for bringing r…

The Curse of the Biblioholic.

Dammit.

Seems everyday now there's at least one new book or one new author that I discover and am intrigued about. This is dangerous because I seem to have less spending money nowadays. (Must be that wedding.)

But I can't help it. I keep buying and buying anyway! It's become a daily habit of mine to browse my favourite litblogs, literary websites and LibraryThing, and it's always in those places I find something or someone new to read. I can't stop! If I stop browsing those sites... I'd feel all empty inside!

Last weekend, I bought three China Mieville books that I'd been meaning to read for some time now. LibraryThing's Suggester's fault. And from there, I've been intrigued by the Gormenghast trilogy that Mieville is influenced from. And now I want to get those too!

Dear oh dear. It's a never-ending cycle. The Curse of the Biblioholic.

The Sorted Books Project.

I love this concept--sift through your book pile and choosing some of the books then grouping them together so the titles can be read to form a short short story.Then show them off on your shelves! I must try this with my collection!


More stories hidden in book titles at Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books project.

Orange Sun.

So now that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has bagged herself the Orange prize, the Guardian decides it's time for an author profile.

She mentions quite a number of interesting points like how the Western world likes to exoticise Africa:
"We have a long history of Africa being seen in ways that are not very complimentary, and in America [where she has been studying for the past 10 years] being seen as an African writer comes with baggage that we don't necessarily care for. Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn't believe my first book [Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003] because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren't starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn't authentically African."So it's …

My Watershed Novels.

What are the watershed novels that changed and shaped your life? These are the novels that made you take a different direction in your life, that gave you a different perspective on things around you, that inspired you to new and exciting things.

Here are the books that I think were my watershed novels:

Roald Dahl's children's books
I was introduced to Roald Dahl by my first year teacher. I'm not quite sure which exact book it was but I think it was the Magic Finger. (Ah, the days of innocence, long before the word "finger" had dirty connotations...) Thanks to Roald Dahl, I discovered that reading was actually a fun activity! I swiftly consumed the rest of his children's books. James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, et al. I miss him.

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Which child didn't wish to discover a secret door to another world? Like Roald Dahl, my visits to Narnia encouraged a healthy dose of imagination and…

Reading List Update.

Used to be I did these reading lists once a month. Now it's once every 6 months. I must be getting forgetful. So this is a list of what I have read so far in 2007 (minus one book).

I am currently reading:

Bila Tuhan Berbicara by Faisal Tehrani
A science-fiction post-apocalyptic novel and boy does it have lots of science in it, especially from the point of a vulcanologist. The science is balanced out by a healthy (some would say unhealthy) dose of theology. The novel is actually presented in a drama format and it's interesting where Faisal takes the reader within this self-limited confine. I'll be writing a review about this book soon, so watch for it.

I have previously finished reading:

15 Jan 2007: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Likeable, but hard to read. I have a feeling that Spontaneous Prose is an acquired taste, like wasabi or sambal belacan. On the whole, it is an okay book. I liked Ray's hitch-hiking and freight hopping journeys across the US as well as his musings …

Dedicated by Burgess.

I've been wanting to blog this for ages, but I've never managed to make the scanner work properly... that is till now.

Some years back, my dad was browsing the shelves of NovelHut, Ipoh's best second-hand bookstore, and found a copy of Anthony Burgess's Time for a Tiger. Price? RM2. (That would be approximately USD$0.60 or GBP£0.30).


Did I mention it was a hardcover first edition? Here's the dedication page, with the famous dedication written in Jawi. Jawi is the Malay language written in Arab script, a norm early last century. Nowadays, Malay is written in Romanised form. The dedication says: "Kepada sahabat-sahabat saya di Tanah Melayu" which translates into "To my friends in Malaya." On the opposite page, proof this is the first edition.


A first edition is probably valuable by itself. But this copy has something extra that makes it even more special--a personal dedication by Burgess himself to a friend:

If you can't make the writing out, it s…

Ray Bradbury: "Fahrenheit 451 wasn't about censorship!"

Well, this gave me a bit of a start. In the LA Times it is reported that Ray Bradbury is now saying that his dystopian novel about book censorship, Fahrenheit 451, isn't actually about censorship:
"It is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature."Makes sense. After all, Fahrenheit 451 was written in the 50s, and TV was the "new" medium, and like all "new" mediums, the unfamiliarity alone is often enough to garner a bad rep. That's how it was with novels in the 18th century and comics in the 50s. These days it's the video games that get the bad rep.