Wednesday, 28 February 2007

College Students Respond!

Remember back in January I mentioned an article in The Sun in which I got so riled up about because there were a bunch of college students who didn't know about the local writing scene?

Well, Joanna Van, the writer of the article, and Ashvini, one of the students mentioned in the article responded to my blogpost.

Joanna Van:
Actually, the original article had the fellow interviewees state out possible solutions to help the problem. Unfortunately, the 700-word limit got in the way and my editor took that chunk out.

So no, they didn't just "whine" about it. They had solutions and ideas (I would be a complete baffoon journalist for not asking such an important question).

As for not wanting to be aware, many teens/youths (this article was after all meant for that group) have their heads stuck in books and nothing more. This article was spawned by my personal experience that I wouldn't have known about the writing community if not accidentally. And that accident was due to a tiny and small article in the newspapers. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't even be a journalist nor a writer, just a wannabe.

My point is, most articles related to writing are small and far between. I thought I could help but voicing out what the youth says and in a bigger article.

As you said: I have no problems against you; but what's your contribution to help the scene? At least we managed to create some sort of spark of debate and force people to face the fact that we're "whining" about something that is very real.
Ashvini:
...we're not condemning the writing scene either, that was my point. And also the point of the article. To tell those who write and know nuts about getting known for it, that there are other people like them around and it wouldn't hurt to be open about your writing despite limiting factors and what the general public thinks about people who DO write.

Well, I participated in a writing competition a few years ago which happens to currently be a project I'm still actively involved in, along with the Irish Embassy, The Star and The National Library. Perhaps you've heard of it, the IMPAC Literary Award for Young Malaysian Writers? Also participated in a writer's workshop which was a project involving writers from several countries by the British Council. Contributed some poetry to the Utusan for teaching English to primary school kids in text books.

The problem is, we don't have a reading community to begin with. So the various measures taken to get people interested sometimes even fails to get noticed. I have from personal experience, met many who are interested in knowing about the scene but due to ignorance about it, they fail to get proactive.

Every now and then, a problem needs to be addressed to keep pushing the people to realise that it's still an on-going problem. It's not that we don't appreciate current measures taken to make things better, it's just that we don't want to live in denial of some things either.

That was merely what it is.
There was also a lot of name-calling thrown about but I've helpfully edited it out. Hohoho. Visit Ash's blog for the full read (the juicy bits are in the comments).

Thursday, 22 February 2007

The Inaugural MPH Breakfast Club for LitBloggers.

Thanks to Kenny Mah's mad photoshopping skilz, we have a nifty poster to stick on our blogs and make this event look all hunky dory:


And I must say, it does look hunkier and dorier! Open to everyone, especially if you have a blog. I hope they've got scones there. Been ages since I've had scones for breakfast. See ya there!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

After Dark Revealed.

Haruki Murakami's latest book to hit the English-speaking world, After Dark, is set to be released in May. Here are the recently revealed covers (left, UK; right, US):


I can't wait!!!

Yet Another Book Meme.

I got this meme from Ed Champion, and it looked interesting to do:

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicise the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.
  1. +The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. +To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. +The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
  6. +The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
  7. +The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. +Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
  12. +Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. +Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
  14. *A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. +Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. +Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
  17. *Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. +Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. +The Hobbit (Tolkien)
  22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. *The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  26. +The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. +The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. +Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. +Nineteen Eighty-Four (Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. *The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. +The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. +Bible
  46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. +The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. +A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
  53. +Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. +Great Expectations (Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. +Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
  58. *The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. +The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  77. *A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
  79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
  81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
  83. +Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  87. +Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
  92. +Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  93. +The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  94. +The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. *A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. *The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
Too much gaps in my reading. Must remedy that.

Friday, 16 February 2007

REVIEW: Elarti: Dissember:06

Now, here's a bad allegory for you: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, our oft-ridiculed Institute of Language and Literature (the English acronym sort of gives it away), is like the 15th Century Catholic Church. Given a mandate to encourage the use of Malay and to nurture local literary talent, it has instead misused its supreme power to crush the masses into obedience.

Use the Malay language properly! - Or else.

It treats its writers with disdain, refusing to allow them to own their copyright of works. It forces everyone into using a strict, formal and often dull version of the language. It's not a surprise at all that now the public image of the language and anything written in the language is seen as nothing more than a mindless snooze-fest.

Enter the guys and gals behind Projek Elarti. Like Martin Luther was to the Catholic Church, Projek Elarti aims to become the thorn in DBP's skin. Last December, they finally published a literary magazine that totally goes against the parochial language rules set by DBP. In fact, the "Dissember" that's printed on the cover has the "diss" in the word highlighted in red, a not-so-subtle hint at what this gang is all about. Upon further inspection of the magazine's cover, at the top it is printed, "majalah kulturpop yang plural lagi liberal": A magazine of plural as well as liberal pop-culture. If there's anything DBP isn't, it's definitely plural and liberal. And if you still don't get it, there's the explanation at the bottom that there's "fiksyen frinjan" (fringe fiction) in the mag.

Open the mag, and the first thing you see are the words "Babi Terbang" (flying pig). It's a brilliantly written editorial (I assume written by Amri Ruhayat) that is not only symbolic by putting aside the taboos of Malay culture, but also sets the tone of the sort of Malay writing that you're going to read within. Next to the editorial, on the inside front cover is printed a quote of Franz Kafka that is written in the sort of colloquial Malay that near everyone uses while speaking, but never seen in writing, because it's the sort of thing DBP abhors and would crush with a steam roller, if it hadn't already used the money to build a tower with an open book on its roof.

What follows inside are articles, interviews, short stories and poems that are written in the style set by the editorial, and it makes for good reading, providing a fresh breath of air to Malay. There's lots of good reading provided by the likes of Sufian Abas, Animah Kosai, Amaruhizat, Diana Dirani, Dina Zaman and Tok Rimau. The interviews with Nizam Zakaria and Khalid Jaafar make for thoughtful reading too.

It certainly is a far cry from the stiff upper-lips I seem to imagine the editors of other Malay literary mags having. It's very hard to go back to reading the likes of Dewan Sastera and Tunas Cipta (as if you were before) when all they seem to be are dull, irrelevant, and obsessed with a disturbing knack for navel-gazing. Even their paper quality is eons behind that of Elarti. After holding Elarti, all you might want to do with it is to cuddle up with it 'cos the paper quality's so good, and the layout design's so appropriate for a fringe litmag like this. It's all definitely cutting edge, bleedingly so.

But for all the praise - and there's already such a lot of praise for this magazine - there are I feel a few blemishes in this otherwise quality product. I think I read somewhere (though I can't find the original post now) that the reasoning behind naming the mag "Elarti" was because it would be something you could bring along with you to read on the LRT. If that's the case, Elarti would fail the test - it's just too damn big. Don't even try reading Elarti on the PUTRA line at 8am from Kelana Jaya. The magazine doesn't deserve that kind of mistreatment.

The other problem I find with Elarti is that the English articles (yes, there are some) are unnecessary, and they cloud the pool of Malay writing in the magazine. I'm all for local English writing having a place to be published but I feel that Elarti's too good a space for Malay fringe writing to scoot aside for English writing. This sort of Malay writing is special; it's a message to the purists that language should evolve and grow and bloom; I feel we should give what it deserves - a dedicated space. If anything, reading something in Malay, then English, then Malay again is the equivalent of down-shifting from 5 to 3 to 1 for me - not good. Shift-shock aside, the English stuff is brilliantly written too, especially Animah Kosai's, "The Idiot's Guide to Restricting Books".

All in all, I think unleashing this mag is Projek Elarti's way of hammering on DBP's door a note of objection against its iron rule on Malay, and if we're lucky, maybe these guys can influence a reformation movement for the language.

To get your copy of Elarti, I would suggest being in the Klang Valley first, and then visit these fine people. Each copy costs RM7 (er, I think.) Also, the editors are soliciting submissions for the next issue.

Portrait of Ted as a (Very) Young Man.

When I was a little boy, I wanted to be an artist. So I practiced very hard, and every day, and prayed to my Beatles moptop that one day I would become The Greatest Artist That Ever Lived.


I even studied from the masters.

Today, I still draw like a 5-year-old. Maybe praying to my Beatles moptop was a bad idea.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning

A lot of people have told me their favourite Haruki Murakami short story is "On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning". It's a sweet story and I'm not surprised a lot of people like it the best, but I am surprised someone made a short movie out of it, and seems to have made a good job out of it, transplanting the story from Japan to a small town in Scotland.

Enjoy.

REVIEW: The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien.

I've just finished reading Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman, and I've just realised I've never really read any Irish authors before. Now I'm wondering if I've been missing out because The Third Policeman is a wonder to read. It's silly, and there are plentiful amounts of wtf moments, but it's a good kind of silly.

The story is narrated by a student of the philosopher, de Selby, who remains nameless throughout the book. After committing a murder, he is thrown into a series of extremely absurd events that include meeting a one-legged man, policemen who are obsessed with bicycles, an explanation of the atomic theory, omnium (you can create anything with Omnium), and a left-turn to Eternity.

Strewn in between the narrative are footnotes quoting the ridiculous theories and experiments that de Selby comes up with; for example, the theory that night happens because of darkness particles polluting the air, or how if you reflect enough mirrors together, you can see yourself when you're younger, since light is slowed down. The footnotes add to the madness that is the main narrative, and even threaten to take over the book at one point, when de Selby's critics are discussed.

It's too bad I don't have the book with me right now, I'd love to give a sample of O'Brien's writing. It's so lovely and witty I kept rereading the page I was on, awed at his use of the language.

I now look forward to reading his first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Literary Hypermarts.

I find it extremely embarrassing but two of my favourite sources of cheap books happen to be hypermarkets, to be specific, both Tesco and Giant in Puchong. Both of these hypermarkets happen to have their cheap books sourced by the same distributor, who I sometimes suspect to have shady connections to unscrupulous book warehousers, but that's just irresponsible speculation on my part.

In any case, I don't mind, like how I don't mind that Times and Popular and Big Bookstore keep having Book Warehouse Clearance Sales every other month at suspiciously cheap prices.

At RM8 or thereabouts, the books are cheap, but this is mostly because the books are horribly creased in the spine or there's a noticeable cutting or printing error. The books are still readable of course, it's just that they're not in pristine condition fit for the bookstore, and are, I suspect, rejects from the publisher that are supposed to have been destroyed.

Nevertheless, dig through the pile (and my! what a huge pile it can be at times), you might find a few gems, gems you might be hard-pressed to even find in Payless. Most recently, I found Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds and a nice copy of Dashiell Hammett's Thin Man, as well as a couple of seldom seen Penguin modern classics (the titles escape me at this moment in time).

Sometimes I just go to Tesco or Giant to restock on coffee or earl grey, without the least intention of buying books, but then I step out with 5 books or so. Just goes to show... I can't escape book buying no matter where I go.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Read.

"Resume Redone"
By Ellen Meister

TV bores you;
The web is a fright;
Your spouse ignores you;
And hobbies are trite.
Films are offensive;
Gardens weed;
Shopping's expensive;
You might as well read.

Conan Doyle Not Significant.

It's not just us who have politicians who don't respect cultural heritage. Like the ridiculous debacle with Rais Yatim and Bok House, Britain's Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, won't save the mansion where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles.

From The Scotsman:
...the Culture Secretary has refused to save Undershaw, where Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, because the Scottish writer "does not occupy a significant enough position in the nation's consciousness".

The house was partly designed in 1897 by Conan Doyle himself, along with architect Joseph Henry Hall, and was used by the writer to entertain many literary guests including Bram Stoker and the young Virginia Woolf.
"Does not occupy a significant enough position in the nation's consciousness". How dumb can you get?

I guess all politicians are cut from the same cloth, no matter where they hail from.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Where to buy Write Out Loud?

Xeus and Tunku Halim mentioned in the comments of a previous post that they were having problems finding Write Out Loud to purchase.

To those interested in getting your own copy of Write Out Loud, I recommend paying a visit to Popular Ikano, where they have a stack on the "Recently Arrived" table.

For the uninitiated, Write Out Loud is a collection of short stories that contains the bestest short story ever*, "The Secret Operation in the Matriarch's Kitchen".

*Opinion may be biased.

Friday, 2 February 2007

Night of the Living Text.

Come on down, you KL-ites! More info can be found at Sharon's blog, as always.

So You Say You Want to Write a Novel...

But you're too damn lazy to actually sit for hours on end writing (or typing, as the case may often be nowadays) 80,000 words.

No problem. Those birds at Penguin have come up with a novel idea (hah!) of a wiki-based novel. The idea is for people (that's you or me or anybody, folks) to go to The Million Penguins website, and in the spirit of open-sourcing and wiki-editing, to write and edit a novel. Together.

Check it out. There's already six chapters up awaiting rewriting and editing, and I suppose you can even add on and write the continuing chapters.

I'd have to applaud Penguin for making such an experiment. A crowd-sourced novel - whoda thunk it? As Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin's digital publisher, says in The Guardian:
"To be honest, we don't know exactly what is going to happen or how this will turn out. We hope people will enter into it in the spirit we intend and leave their egos at the door. It's not about individual work and individual brilliance - it's about people working together as a community".
Good luck, Penguin. I'm really interested in what will come of this.

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