Friday, 26 September 2008

Design a Cover for Lydia Teh!

Lydia Teh, author of Honk! If You're Malaysian and Life's Like That is having a book cover design contest for her new book, Do You Wear Suspenders? – The Wordy Tales Eh Poh Nim, a collection of her vocabularistic column in The Star.

Check it out! You could win a RM100 worth of book vouchers which I assume can be used at MPH Bookstores.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

My feet are killing me.

The Gallery had a buka puasa cum launch event yesterday so I left later than usual from work. Even stopped by Kinokuniya to pick up a copy of Murakami's Running Book.

But if I had left like usual, I probably would have been on one of the trains involved in the collision near the Bukit Jalil station on the Ampang LRT line yesterday. The time and place of the accident is right about the time and place I would have been on the train if I hadn't gone home late. That is a very scary thought. (But not as scary as the thought that the Ampang Line has been becoming less and less reliable ever since RapidKL took over 4 years ago.)

It was a really unusual scene when I got on the platform at Masjid Jamek around 10pm. I was expecting it to be more or less devoid of people, but what greeted me was a scene equal to rush hour at 6pm! Had to wait for the train for ages, and it only went on till Tasik Selatan. From there there was a temporary feeder bus service to ferry passengers to the remaining stations.

You'd expect RapidKL to provide these feeder bus services for free to make up for the inconvenience, but no! passengers had to pay an extra RM1 to get on. What a bunch of lowlife scammers.

Anyways, all the while I was standing and now my feet hurt like heck, which doesn't give me the right mood in which I can read Murakami's Running Book. Sigh.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Shoulda just bought it instead.

There was some confusion with Kinokuniya (and maybe even The Star) and I won't be reviewing Murakami's Running Book. They gave the review copy to someone else instead. Ah well. Alea jacta est and all that.

Wish they could have told me earlier because then I could have just bought the book and read it already instead of having to twiddle my thumbs.

In the meantime I'm reading an ARC of The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb which MPH kindly gave me. So far so good, although the protagonist is getting to be a little too flawed for my liking.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

rip

Feeling a little sad. No. Scratch that. A lot sad. My iPod Shuffle just died.

It's a first gen Shuffle so it looks like a stick of gum rather than a silly clip-on. I bought it right after launch and has served me well for the past 3 or so years. I guess it was time. The headphone socket had been having problems recently with the audio dying out on one side of the 'phones, and then switching to the other for no reason at all.

But even then I loved using it as a general-use thumbdrive. When not using it as a music device, just plug it in and it becomes a spare backup drive. Very useful, unlike the 2nd gen clip-on Shuffle, which you have to plug into a dock before you can connect it to a computer.

I'll miss you 1st gen iPod Shuffle! *sniff*

On the upside! The new shuffle doesn't cost more than RM200 while I bought my old 1GB Shuffle for RM500. (It was right before CNY and my old company had recently given out a bonus). These days you could get a Nano with 8 times the memory AND a screen with that kind of money.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Hitchhiker Book in the Making.

Young Adult author Eoin Colfer has been chosen to write the sixth book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Trilogy (yes, yes you read that right).

But why?

I have never read any of Colfer's books and I'm sure he must be a good writer but I doubt anybody could match up to Adams' wit and talent. The Hitchhiker series isn't even remembered for its story more than its jokes and clever wordplay so why bother continuing it?

I just hope Eoin Colfer is an atheist. Only an atheist can properly write another Hitchhiker novel!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Can't find the right word...

Don't you hate it when you're seeking le mots juste but the damn word just keeps being elusive? What's ironic about this is while I cannot find the word I'm looking for I can however remember an uncommon phrase like "le mots juste". The mind boggles.

On Apologising.

Okay! Moving on.

After all the brouhaha about Ahmad Ismail's unwelcome commentary, as well as the subsequent illogical actions, I found it heartwarming to read Amitabh Bachchan's quote on apologising:
Bachchan, 66, had asked for "forgiveness" for his wife's remarks, saying they were without "malice."


When asked whether he felt it demeaning for a star of his standing being forced to apologise to a political group, he told reporters in New Delhi, "by apologising no one becomes small".
(Emphasis mine.)

I've always wondered my Malaysian politicians have always found it hard to apologise even though it's very clear to everyone with half a mind that they're in the wrong. After all, no one becomes small.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

I am a Dork. In a National Newspaper.

Okay, so I'm in The Star again! Not as a book reviewer though, but in a Roald Dahl profile written by Rouwen Lin.

As evident in the article, I am a dork. Seriously. Look at this photo:


Haha!

Anyways, thanks Rouwen, for giving me my fifteen minutes of fame.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Happy Roald Dahl Day!

It's Roald Dahl Day again and this year I haven't forgotten! (Thanks to Blogger's scheduled publishing feature.)

So last Roald Dahl Day, I showed you pictures of my autographed first edition copy of Rhyme Stew and the previous year I told you my experience at the book signing. This year let me show you a photo of the book signing.


Look at that! My glasses are the same colour as Roald Dahl's!

So this Roald Dahl fellow? What's so awesome about him anyway?

Let me tell you!

Roald Dahl's works appeal to me because there's always a sense of childish craftiness or mischievousness in the writing, as if he's letting the reader in on a secret joke. It's like Roald Dahl was this good-hearted prankster who never really grew up, and he threw all his good ideas for pranks into the books he wrote.

Add to that his silly and funny made-up words, is it any wonder he won many a child's heart?

In a way, he never really did grow up. I remember watching an interview with him on television when I was little, and he said he preferred the company of children rather than adults.

My favourite Dahl book has changed a few times since my childhood. It used to be I loved The BFG, and then later, it was the Willy Wonka books, and then when I was a little older and when I managed to find a copy of My Uncle Oswald after a long search, that became my favourite. But I think nowadays I've settled on his autobiographies, Boy and it's sequel, Going Solo. It's the only two books of his I keep returning to every year.

The reasons I love Boy and Going Solo is that in those two books, you come to realise why exactly he turned out to be the writer he was.

Boy chronicles the years of his life from when he was born until near the end of his school days; his life as a prankster schoolboy makes for very good reading. Going Solo picks up right after Boy, and follows his young adult life, initially as an employee with Shell in East Africa, and then as a fighter pilot for the RAF in the Second World War.

In both books, the events he writes about are made more interesting because its true, but knowing Roald Dahl, I suspect the stories were embellished with extra details to make them more interesting, exciting or even funny.

I was introduced to Roald Dahl when I was first able to read, probably at the age of 6. My father was studying in England then so I was sent to an English school. The teachers encouraged the pupils to read Roald Dahl, and they even read to us aloud his books after classes had finished and before our parents came to take us home. I don't remember the teachers reading anything other than Roald Dahl; it was always a book of his one after another. Probably the first Roald Dahl book a teacher read to me was The Magic Finger.

I'm not sure what impact Roald Dahl had on me, to be honest. This sounds entirely cheesy, but in my childhood, his books were my greatest friends. When you're a kid, adults are always the baddies, and in Dahl's books the children always triumphs against the machinations of the adults. I read and reread the books to comfort myself especially in times when I felt the adults were being unfair to me. Maybe the biggest impact was that Roald Dahl made me a rebel?

I have read (and own) all his children's books but only some of his adults' books. I think I'm missing one adult novel, which is rare and disowned by the author anyway, and his earliest short story book, which I keep meaning to read but having delayed it because his early writings were a bit dry. He hadn't found his voice yet at the time.

There are some differences between his children's and adult books. The first thing you'll notice is that all his children's stories are novels but all his adult ones are short stories, save for one novel, My Uncle Oswald. The second thing you'll notice is that while Dahl maintains his trademark prankster tomfoolery intact in his adult stories, the jokes tend to be much more sinister, and more often than not it involves various naughty bits a person in his or her right mind would never allow a child to read.

This is most evident in My Uncle Oswald, which is about a team of conmen who go around stealing the sperm of famous personalities worldwide, and in Switch Bitch, the book that compiles the short stories he wrote for Playboy Magazine.

The other thing is, the adult short stories always, always have a brilliant twist ending. Roald Dahl is the man who mastered the twist ending. Somehow this talent was never really brought over into his children's books as they concentrate more on telling jokes and evoking a child's sense of wonder.

Which is all right by me.

Friday, 12 September 2008

More About Roald Dahl in More About Boy.

Just in time for Roald Dahl Day on the 13th, Puffin has published an "extended" version of Roald Dahl's boyhood memoir, Boy, called More About Boy.

From the Amazon UK page:
What were Roald Dahl's first words? Read his account of going to football matches with Joss Spivvis, the gardener. This new edition of a favourite book contains a wealth of new photos, facts and writings about Roald Dahl and his childhood, together with the original text and illustrations from his much-loved memoir. With lots of little-known details, this is a must-have for all Dahl fans!
I checked with Kinokuniya but they don't have it yet. Faster, Kino!

I guess we can expect More About Going Solo in the future? And then it won't take long before they start releasing More About Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator or More About The Magic Finger or More About The Vicar of Nibbleswicke or... okay, I'll stop here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Thoughts on Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I was writing an essay earlier this month and in it I quoted a children's poem which I knew since childhood composed by Robert Louis Stevenson. This made me realise that despite the fact that I knew the existence of R.L. Stevenson's works since I was very young I have never really read a novel by him.

Never read his famous pirate book, Treasure Island, nor The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde and certainly not Kidnapped. The former two books are familiar to me thanks to the wonders of film and television (not to mention pop-cultural references) but I've never really known the story that moves Kidnapped.

Seeing as I've owned a copy of Kidnapped almost as long as I've known the poem I mentioned earlier, I thought I'd put this problem to a halt.

Having done so, I found Kidnapped to be an intriguing adventure story, filled with deception, sword fights and nasty, snarling men. This is also a very, very boyish adventure, due to the lack of prominent female characters; in fact, at one point in the story, there is a girl who provides an important role in the story, but unfortunately she was not even honoured with a name. Definitely not a book to pass the Bechdel Test then.

The story concerns young David Balfour, with parents newly deceased, and the farmhouse his father rented given to another tenant. He is told to seek his paternal uncle and as with stories like these, and with uncles named Ebenezer (for that is the name of David's uncle), he turns out to be a bit of a miser and a crankpot to boot.

Uncle Ebenezer soon reveals himself to be a mean plotter of schemes, of which one of them involves sending David on a Staircase Climb of Death. David, however, is equipped with a wit usually not found in characters in stories like these, and so manages to escape Certain Death.

However, his wits don't work all the time as soon the machinations of his uncle allow David to be kidnapped onto a ship bound for the American colonies where he is destined to be a slave.

This is where the story truly begins, and David soon meets Alan Breck, a Scot highlander who is on the side of the French in the currently ongoing France-Scotland war (and incidentally a real person in life). When David finally manages to escape the clutches of his kidnappers with the aid of Alan Breck, they are then reluctantly embroiled in a political assassination which leads them to fleeing for their lives across the Scottish countryside.

Modern writers are told not to use slang in their novels and for good reason. Slang is difficult to read and most often it annoys the reader rather than allowing them to absorb themselves into the story. One good example of this is Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn which contain liberal amounts of slang which prove too much of a pain to stumble through, at least for me.

Kidnapped is also a novel that uses liberal amounts of slang (this time, Scottish) in dialogue but somehow it doesn't get in the way of the story. In fact R.L. Stevenson's use of language is beautiful and rhythmic in the way only an archaic, Victorian use of the English language can be.

I really enjoyed reading Kidnapped and am a little surprised why it took me so long to get round to reading it (twenty-one years, to be precise, judging from the ancient receipt I found in my copy). Perhaps I shall try reading Treasure Island next. Ho ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Sponsored Links: Get these books from Amazon.com:
1. Kidnapped (Penguin Classics)
2. Treasure Island (Puffin Classics)

And now there's the Dahl Prize!

From The Guardian:
Roald Dahl never won a children's book prize in his lifetime, but today he has gone one better, as the shortlists for a literary prize bearing his name are announced.


Founded by the children's laureate Michael Rosen, the Roald Dahl Funny prize celebrates honours the most hilarious children's authors. The inaugural winners will receive £2,500 - a slightly more serious prize than the Gloucester Old Spot pig handed over to winners of the Wodehouse prize for adult comic fiction.


Rosen founded the prize to boost the profile of humorous books as part of his campaign to put the fun back into children's reading.

"I have sat on judging panels before and what happens is that the funny books get squeezed out, because somehow or other they don't tackle big issues in the proper way," he explained. "They'll get through to the last four or five books, and then historical fiction, or something about death or slavery or new technology will win out. I think it's a great shame, because actually when I think about the books I remember from childhood they are the funny books."
If you're wondering why there's suddenly an increase of Roald Dahl-related news on the interwebs, it's probably because Roald Dahl Day is around the corner.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Sold out?!?

I just came back from Kinokuniya where I talked with one of the merchandising peeps and she told me they actually had Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running in the store the other day but it sold out.

Sold out?! Already? Seriously, who stalks Kinokuniya for Haruki Murakami and buys up every new book of his? (Don't answer that.)

Anyways, Kinokuniya is only bringing in more stock in next week which is hopefully when I receive my review copy. Yes!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Google Chrome.

Okay. Google Chrome? Total awesome. After using Chrome, using Firefox 3 is like driving a lorry after driving a Lotus Elise. Too bad the EULA isn't very writer-friendly.

Update:
Looks like Google is fixing that EULA snafu. Now if only they'd release a Mac version, I'll be ready to sell my soul to Google. Oh wait I already did. (I heart Google Reader.)

Update 2:
I forgot to include this, and I really should, because it's a comic by Scott McCloud. Yes, the very same Scott McCloud of Understand Comics!). The comic explains the whys and hows of Google Chrome and is a very good primer on understanding the reasoning behind the design decisions in the new browser.)

Update 3:
They've updated the EULA, so everything's peachy now. Well, except for the bugs I've been noticing. Doesn't work so well with Facebook.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Dahl... Roald Dahl.

I've always known Dahl was a ladies' man (and even called upon his talents for writing his stories) and I knew he was somewhat of a spy (as we learn in Going Solo) but I never knew he used his manly charms in his work as a spy:
Drawing on previously unpublished letters and other documents, American journalist Jennet Conant has written about Dahl's numerous sexual conquests.


They include Millicent Rogers, the heiress to a Standard Oil fortune, and Clare Boothe Luce, a right-wing congresswoman and the wife of the publisher of Time magazine.


Boothe Luce proved so frisky, Dahl later claimed to have begged his superiors to take him off the assignment, only to be told to get back into the bedroom.


Conant writes: "Dahl's superiors watched his rake's progress with grudging admiration.


"A certain amount of hank-panky was condoned, especially when it was for a good cause."
Such a rogue!

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