Thursday, 31 August 2006

John Ling on Rejection.

John Ling gives his take on rejection. "It's all in the context," he says. "If there's anything I have learned, there are good rejections and bad rejections. A good rejection is constructive and does not attack you personally. A bad rejection, on the other hand, can be spiteful and snobbish."

He even shows us a rejection letter he once got from an editor who encouraged him to improve his writing:
In spite of this, I knew early in my reading that I would not publish the book—and still kept reading, something editors rarely do. Because you have such potential, I am going to explain my decision in some detail in the hope it will set you on the right path to a successful career.
Read the rest on his blog.

Raman on Rejection.

And speaking of Silverfish, the Bloke in Bangsar has quite a few words to say about rejection, which I think can be summed up as "deal with it". Of course, some might say that the rejection itself isn't the big deal here, but how the Bloke rejects people that's particularly irksome.

Anyhow, I found this part particularly interesting:
Another writer came into the store a few weeks ago and wondered why I was being flamed in one of the blogs - accused of not helping young writers. She mentioned a name. That rang a bell immediately. 'Is this the person,' I said, pulling out a 400-plus page POD volume which I had received from him some time back. Of course, it was.
Hmm. More on rejection in the comments of this post.

Goodbye, Naguib Mahfouz...

Naguib Mahfouz, whose novels about the struggles of workaday Egyptians drew worldwide acclaim and made him the only Arab to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988, died of complications from a bleeding ulcer Wednesday in Cairo. He was 94.
Via Seattle Times and Silverfish.

What a sad day. I haven't even got to reading his copy of Respected Sir, Wedding Song, The Search that I got for free from Kinokuniya back in May.

More Mahfouz links at The Elegant Variation.

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Feeling That Independence Vibe.

Yay! Tomorrow's a holiday!

I initially thought I'd celebrate Malaysia's 49th year of independence by hanging out at home watching some Hayao Miyazaki flicks while eating KFC and drinking Twining's Earl Grey, but then decided to change tack and drag my gf to the National Planetarium instead. Been feeling a little annoyed lately (you'd be too if you heard Samy Vellu sing on national TV) so it'll be good to blow off some steam by making fun of Pluto.

See ya on Friday.

A New Cultural Revolution.

Linda Jaivin takes a look at Chinese authors who prefer writing in a language other than Chinese:
China has never lacked for great writers. It has a 5000-year tradition of letters that includes some of the greatest poetry ever written - rip-roaring epic adventure, gripping family sagas, great romance, keen satire, world's best essays, frisky tales of the supernatural and even knock-your-little-bound-foot-shoes-off erotica - and all that before the vernacular revolution of the early 20th century.

The freedom to write Chinese as it was spoken, following the May Fourth Movement of 1919, spawned an explosion of literary talent that wars and revolutions helped spread across the Chinese diaspora, to Taiwan and beyond. Yet these upheavals also brought about regimes that have had their own strong and enforceable opinions on what writers should and should not be writing.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

A Review of the Review of Prose’s Reading Like a Writer.

Sharon yesterday highlighted Emily Barton's review, in the New York Times, of Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. But Scott Esposito gets a bit riled up over said review and deems it necessary to critique:
And what’s with the self-questioning of whether writing can be taught or whether or not the teachers will “have any success”? First of all, what does “success” mean here, exactly? Are we talking Man Booker Prize success? Then, um, no, Prof. Barton. Probably not. Are we talking practicing writing and reading a whole bunch in order to exercise one’s creativity in a way that makes one feel like they’re the agent of their own destiny? Then, yes, Prof. Barton, I think we’re onto something. I keep wishing I could see some other type of instructor go through these kind of tortured involutions, like a welding instructor, maybe. Or I wish I could read a good essay about pedagogical self-doubt by a football coach. That would be actually interesting. I wish that all writing instructors who were having doubts would do themselves and their students a favor: go home. Get another job. Try office work. It does the body good.
He then goes on to give his own suggestions for books about writing, which happen to be Rust Hills's Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular and Wayne Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction.

An Interview with Anthony Burgess.

But he's dead! No lah, this interview when he was alive one, from the issue 56, Spring 1973 edition of Paris Review.

Hur hur. This one's really for Sharon.

Monday, 28 August 2006

What does JK Rowling do with her money?

Those damned celebrities pointlessly spending their money like water. But not J.K Rowling. Oh no:
...the story of what Jo Rowling spends her money on is far from a predictable tale of conspicuous consumption. Indeed, it is a story which provides a valuable and uplifting counterpoint to the circus of pointless and continuous spending indulged in by other modern celebrities like, say, Victoria Beckham.

Having found fame and fortune late in life, she has not been tempted into any fashion excesses. Indeed, she has never been particularly interested in style, and often describes her younger self as a 'freckled beach ball'. She is appalled by the excesses of modern celebrity culture and particularly disturbed by the cult of thin-ness.

Hi-Tea with Authors.

Both Sharon and Lydia blogged about yesterday's hi-tea with authors in MPH 1Utama. The topic of discussion sounds like it was a continuation of the previous Writer's Circle meet - e-Books. That may be the wave of the future, but I'm living in the present, and like Lydia says:
I suppose most of us are dinosaurs who prefer to smell the books we read rather than read from an electronic device.
Mmm! The fresh smell of a virgin paperback!

Anyway, sounds like it was a load of fun. I opted out of going because I preferred to catch up with a week's worth of sleep. Sunday's for snoozing, I tell ya!

Xeus has her own take on the hi-tea.

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Ted at 67 Jalan Tempinis Satu.

Me, reading "Ghost in the Garden".

Update 1:
I was knackered yesterday, so I didn't get to post much.

Anyway, the readings went great! Though I rushed through my piece, everyone seemed nice about it... ("I didn't hear it well, but it sounded great.")

Both Jessie and Saradha read lovely stories from their collection of short stories, Snapshots!

Fairul "Roy" Nizam read some really good poetry in Malay, of which I thought "Merdeka!" was his best.

Sharanya read a beautiful, lyrical excerpt from her WIP novel, and Jasmine Low read some good pieces of writing, with the one I like most the "Man in the Middle".

Also, some people seem to be a little confused over my surname. You'll have to talk to my parents about that, but I can tell you I'm not from East Malaysia. I grew up in Ipoh.

Update 2:
Haiyah. I totally forgot about the Open Mic session. *slaps head*
KG read his poem, "anal" and Patrick Dominique read one about women. They were fantastic speakers.

More Pictures:
  1. Don't miss Sharon's write-up
  2. Leon has some pics up (including one of a pig cage, whee!)
  3. Sharanya has a nice pic of my profile and other arty ones too!
  4. Nizam Zakaria has more pics
  5. Vovin couldn't hear me read :( I will read louder next time, promise!

Friday, 25 August 2006

Literary Weekend.

It's going to be a busy lit weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday (26/8)

67 Jalan Tempinis Satu

Monthly readings aimed at encouraging new writing talent. Readers: Ted Mahsun, Jessie Michael, Saradha Narayan, Fairul Nizam and Sharanya Manivanan.

MPH MidValley

Book Talk: The Book Project 1&2 by Karen Ann Theseira
Get to know the authors and the book creator as they will be here to tell us their inspiration and experiences in writing their stories.
1.00 - 2.00pm / Courtyard

MPH 1Utama

Dark City by Xeus
Xeus shares tips and her experiences on how to get money from writing.
(And buy her book dammit!)
1.00 - 2.30pm / Entrance 1

Author Appearance by Lim May Zhee
Lim May Zhee is a talented adolescent, who has managed to write and publish her own book when she was 15 years old. Come and meet this strong and energetic young author who has proven to all that strong determination can make dreams come true!
(I usually raise an eyebrow or three when sentences contain too many adjectives.)
3.30 - 4.30pm / Entrance 1

Sunday (27/8)

MPH 1Utama

Hi-Tea with Local Authors
Lillian Too, Renesial Leong, Azizi Ali, Chong Sheau Ching, Yvonne Lee, Prof. Dato Khoo Kay Kim, Lim May Zhee and many more!
(Like wow man!)
2.00 - 5.00pm

Hard to Pronounce Literary Names.

Max at the Millions helps out in pronouncing literary names:
Ask the Internet any question you want, and usually you'll be able to learn the answer, but for some reason it's not very good at helping people find out how to pronounce words and names. I've noticed, looking at my visitor logs, that people show up here again and again trying to find how to pronounce a handful of difficult literary names. Sadly they've found no answers here... until now.
Hooray! I can now pronounce Coetzee! (And Goethe too, a long-time guilty secret of mine...)

Thursday, 24 August 2006

2006 Guardian First Book Prize: The Longlist.

Who's up for £10,000?

Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living
Carrie Tiffany, above (Picador), fiction

Lorraine Adams (Portobello), fiction

John Donne: The Reformed Soul
John Stubbs (Viking), biography

Lonesome George: The Lives and Loves of a Conservation Icon
Henry Nicholls (Palgrave Macmillan), natural history

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveller
Jason Roberts (Simon & Schuster), biography

Running for the Hills
Horatio Clare (John Murray), memoir

Poppy Shakespeare
Clare Allan (Bloomsbury), fiction

Waiting for the Night-Rowers
Roger Moulson (Enitharmon), poetry

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
Yiyun Li (4th Estate), stories

In the Country of Men
Hisham Matar (Viking), fiction

Interview with William T Vollman.

Matt Thorne asks an interesting question to Mr. Vollman:
Vollmann wrote his first novel while working as a computer programmer. He slept in the office and lived off candy bars. As a fledgling author, I found this incredibly inspiring and wrote a novel in the same way. I asked Vollmann if he thought an office job could be good for a writer. "To the extent that the writer can borrow the means of production, the desk and the paper. Being a writer seems to work well with being at a desk. If you can work in there, the office can be helpful, and also you have the sense of reclaiming a bit of your own life from a miserable, deadening existence."
I totally connect with this. I find the office very conducive to writing. And I even get to spunge office supplies.

Penguins Talk Covers.

The bloggers over at Penguin posted up a cool proof jacket for John Donne's biography:


And this is the final cover:

Not so cool.

They also talk about other cover-related things:
This seems as good a time as any to deal with the question raised by Jennifer about the reasoning behind publishing a book straight into paperback format and skipping the hardback completely. There are a few reasons for doing this. It might be that we have published another book by the same author and want to reissue one of their previous titles (called a backlist title) - which may have already published somewhere else, like the U.S. Or we might want to prioritise making a new author accessible to as large an audience as possible, by making it affordable. This is sometimes a great way of making a name for a debut author - encouraging people to take a punt on an unknown on the basis that it'll only cost them a fiver or so.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

The Denial of True Reflection.

Finally, an article about Gunther Grass that has absolute common sense:
Without ethics man has no future. This is to say mankind without them cannot be itself. Ethics determine choices and actions and suggest difficult priorities. They have nothing to do, however, with judging the actions of others. Such judgments are the prerogative of (often self-proclaimed) moralists. In ethics there is a humility; moralists are usually righteous.

These thoughts come to my mind as I read the macabre denunciations being levelled today against Günter Grass. About him as a man and about his great work as a writer, they totally miss the point, and might be dismissed as laughable, but, as an index of a certain recent moral climate in Europe, they are troubling. They are an example of moral judgments made in a carefully constructed vacuum of experience. They are what is left after the emptying out of lived experience, and they are a strident denial of what we know in our bones to be real.
John Berger hits the nail on the spot about how I feel on the whole issue.

Clear Intentions.

From Yasmin Ahmad:
I suspect a filmmaker is fundamentally no different from a novelist or a poet, or even a painter or photographer.

We all just want to tell a story. Or to put across a feeling we have about humanity, as we observe it.

I believe these feelings and observations must stem from a clear intention, and a sincere personal concern for the human condition. No use pretending, because sooner or later, the viewer or reader will see through your mask.

What's Up?

I'm feeling a little down today, and it only got worse after reading Sharon's post about Anthony Burgess being "restricted" in Malaysia (dunn dunn dunnnnnn!).

So! I think I'll take a little walk, albeit virtually, around the literary blogosphere and see what gems I can find to cheer me up:

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Murakami Roundtable.

With all the coverage I give my hero (*swoon*), Haruki Murakami, sometimes I wonder whether I should just change my blog into a Murakami fanblog.

The Fall 2006 edition of Scott Esposito's online litmag, Quarterly Conversation, is up and one of the highlights is the Murakami Roundtable, which features essays, reviews of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a short guide to Murakami's fiction and a Murakami dictionary.

Do also check out the other articles in the Quarterly Conversation. They're pretty good reads.

Readings at 67 Jalan Tempinis Satu.

From Sharon:
Our series of monthly readings resumes next Saturday, 26th August, 2006 with the aim of encouraging new writing talent.

Time: 3.30pm
Date: 26th August 2006
Place: 67, Jalan Tempinis Satu, Lucky Garden, Bangsar (for directions check

Readers for this Saturday include:

Ted Mahsun
Jessie Michael
Saradha Narayan
Fairul Nizam
Sharanya Manivanan

"Readings" is organized by Sharon Bakar and is made possible by the
gracious sponsorship of Seksan from 67 Tempinis Satu and La Bodega.
Ted Mahsun will be quaking with fear and stage fright as he reads.

Monday, 21 August 2006

Sounding Stupid in the Language of Your Choice.

Well, Sharifah Amani has trumped Tan Twan Eng as the top search words to get to my blog. And all in 3 days. Amazing, but not really.

Chatting with Malay Authors. So the Drama!

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 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.

Advice from a UK Literary Agent on Fusion View.

Yang-May Ooi has finally uploaded her podcast interview with UK Lit Agent, Lucy Luck, on her Fusion View blog:
As part of my series on Getting Published, I invited writers from Malaysia and the UK to submit questions to a UK literary agent in an exclusive interactive project on my blog Fusion View, an East/ West blog on writing, culture and the arts.

We got a great response and armed with some probing and astute questions, I spoke to UK Literary Agent Lucy Luck about the process of submitting your manuscript for publication. She gives her advice and answers questions how a literary agent can help an author, what to put in your covering letter, what’s hot in the publishing world right now and much more.

Lucy also explains how you can submit your manuscript to her agency - if you do submit, please mention Fusion View.
I am really grateful to Yang-May for providing us this opportunity to ask questions from a real Lit Agent. A lot of good questions are asked and answered satisfyingly (Yang-May's a very good podcaster host!), with questions coming from all over the world, among them John Ling and Lydia Teh. But I'm happiest with my question being answered. Look for it very near the end of the interview.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Indonesian Lit in Silverfish.

From the Bloke in Bangsar:
Just got back from Jakarta yesterday and, in response to requests, I brought along with me some books on Indonesian literature in the luggage. So Silverfish now has a small collection, which we want to develop into a whole section eventually. Do drop by if you are interested. All books have been individually selected and represent the best of modern Indonesian literature. You may also wish to send us suggestions or requests.
The best of modern Indonesian literature by whose standards?

Saturday, 19 August 2006

KL Writer's Circle.

Me and the gf dropped by the KL Writer's Circle in MPH 1Utama today. (Well, actually, I went in, and she stayed outside and did some Sudoku.)


Dato’ Ng Tieh Chuan from MPH Group Publishing was first up, and he talked about the importance of contracts in publishing. He went through the main points of a typical contract and highlighted clauses that authors would be wise to be wary of, such as remainder, translation and royalties clauses. I find it very interesting that in the translation clause, you should make sure it doesn't say "Malay", but "Bahasa Melayu" because apparently that could create some confusion when it comes to discussing Indonesian distribution rights.

Ms. Shoba Mano, author of Prodigal Child, was next, and she encouraged authors to consider publishing their books electronically, besides pursuing through the traditional way. According to Ms. Mano, ebooks were the "wave of the future". She explained how there were many ebook publishers that were willing to consider publishing a new writer's manuscript as well as the benefits of publishing electronically, i.e. readers get easier access to books and the many online libraries that provided ebooks. She also gave a little background of ebooks, like the formats they come in and what devices you could read them on. Then, during the Q&A session, she talked a little about herself and her book, the Prodigal Child. She said it took about one year of going back and forth with her Indian publishers before it was finally published.

But the real reason I went was to meet Xeus, so I could corner her and get her to autograph my copy of Dark City! Yay! *squeals like a 12-year-old girl*
Haha... but it was really cool to finally get to meet her. She's such a friendly and bubbly person.

By the way, Xeus will be talking about her book next week:

Date: Saturday, 26 August 2006
Time: 1 - 2.30pm
Location: MPH 1Utama, Booker Room

Be sure to drop by!

Sembang-sembang Bersama Penulis Melayu.

There will be a talk session with Malay authors tomorrow at MPH MidValley:

Date: Sunday, 20 August 2006
Time: 2.00 - 5.00pm
Location: MPH MidValley

The talk will be moderated by Raja Ahmad Aminullah from Suarasuara and author of Menyarung Jiwa and Kata Kata Hati.

So You Want to Be a Writer.

Wallace Stegner, Francine Prose, John Kenneth Galbraith, and others offer advice to aspiring wordsmiths.

Friday, 18 August 2006

Vote on the Hottie of Publishing, Women's Division.

Ah, GalleyCat.

The big fear is not bad reviews. It’s no reviews.

Hugo Rifkind, author of Overexposure, talks about his feelings now that his first novel is published:
What I often thought was this: one day I will have a novel published. When I do, on that very day I will walk into Borders Books, just down there by Oxford Circus, and buy my own book with my own credit card. And, as I do this, I will stare into the smug shop assistant’s eyes and see if they have noticed.
I have a feeling Mr. Rifkind will be googling his name and he'll be encountering this post. Do say hello if you do! :)

Thursday, 17 August 2006

Nisah Haron at MPH Mid-Valley this Sunday.

Nisah Haron, award-winning author of Mencari Locus Standi, will make an appearance at MPH MidValley:

Location: MPH Mid-Valley
Date: 20 August 2006
Time: 2.30 pm

Her books, Impian Tsu-Ryi, Mencari Locus Standi and Farris Putera Yang Hilang will also be sold there.

Murakami nominated for World Fantasy Award.

Haruki Murakami's novel, Kafka on the Shore, has been nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

margin.notes (my fave blog for translated Japanese literature) however, thinks its inclusion not only stretches the definition of fantasy, but also crowds out lesser-known fantasy authors because of his "big name" status:
Further, I fear that lesser known writers-dearly loved by the fantasy readership but not well-known outside of it-will have their works crowded out by the name authors who merely have to give a small hat tip to fantasy (a dream sequence here, and UFO sighting there) and get their novels stacking the awards lists. For a novel to qualify as fantasy in my own personal catalog has to be set primarily in a fantasy universe, and /or use mythical creatures or supernatural abilities as a fundamental part of the plot line.
Though I agree that Murakami might be overshadowing the lesser-known, perhaps more established, fantasy writers, I think that Kafka on the Shore is definitely a fantasy novel, through and through. Talking cats, a crow alterego, Colonel Sanders, lost Japanese soldiers from World War II, and a whole bunch of crazy surreal sequences qualify as fantasy to me. Fantasy isn't just for the dragon-breeding, Tolkien-hugging crowd anymore.

It's getting tougher by the second.

Your first book may have been a bestseller, but don't expect the next one to be:
Indeed, the pressure seems to be greater for writers whose first books climb bestseller lists and garner adoration from far and wide. Since the arrival of Oprah Winfrey's sales-bestowing book club and its imitators, the anxiety level for some authors has intensified. Many have suffered cases of "second novel syndrome," as it's known, that are far worse than Parkhurst's.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Tainting Cultures.

This isn't really what I normally blog about but I am impelled to say something over the uproar over Sharifah Amani's comments about "tainting the culture" at the 19th Malaysian Film Festival. Sharifah Amani is quoted to have said, "Kalau filem cemarkan budaya (if films can taint culture), let's do it more often." Pretty strong words for a 20-year-old lass. And when looked at without context it is indeed very understandable why many people got riled up. But what made her say this in the first place?

Let's go back a few months, back to April 2006, when RTM1 aired a forum where the topic was "Sepet and Gubra – corruptors of Malay culture." A very eyebrow-raising topic indeed, engineered to stir things up. In the forum, Yasmin Ahmad was labelled a "pencemar budaya (culture corruptor)" because her movies did not reflect a "proper" Malay culture, and clearly Sharifah Amani was just responding to the accusations about Yasmin Ahmad and her movies made in the forum. Many people may have forgotten this.

So taking this in context, perhaps what Sharifah Amani simply meant at the Fest was that filmmakers should make more movies that show more than just a single perspective of the Malay culture, such as what Sepet and Gubra attempted. We really shouldn't be taking her literally that filmmakers should go and make movies that "taint culture", as she was just quoting what the speakers in the forum were saying.

In that very same forum, two other very questionable statements were made, yet no one with the authorities really sought to question the people who made these statements. From a post at Yasmin Ahmad's blog:
Film producer: “Malaysia Melayu punya.” (This translates to “This land belongs to the Malays.”)

Journalist: (translated) “How can a good Muslim girl who prays and reads the Koran fall in love with a Chinese infidel?”
If there's anything anyone should be getting upset about, it's these two fascist statements, not what Sharifah Amani said at the Fest.

I was wondering when Yasmin Ahmad would post about this. And now she has:
To me, she is one of God's greatest gifts for my work, alhamdulillah.

And no matter how much they rant about how "kurang ajar" she was on the night of FFM19, as far as I'm concerned she was nowhere near as kurang ajar as the people who crucified her.

I mean, for goodness' sake, they even cursed her father and mother. Call me old-fashioned, but insulting someone's parents does not figure in my book as decent civil behaviour.

And she's only 20. How old are these people again?

REVIEW: Travels by Michael Crichton.

ISBN: 0060509058
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Paperback: 400 pages

Michael Crichton is an author renowned for his tech-thriller novels, but in Travels, Crichton takes a break from the thriller circuit, dons a travel writer's cap and writes about his journeys instead. His reason for doing so is because "writing is how you make the experience your own, how you explore what it means to you." The book is also Crichton's journey within, struggling with his fears and limitations, to search for himself. He writes, "Eventually, I realised that many of the most important changes in my life had come about because of my travel experiences."

Starting out as a medical student who "resented the fact that our education system seemed to be as much about emotions as about the factual content of what we were learning", we discover that the writer of State of Fear already had, by then, a scientific mind and had little patience for the mystical. This belief has no doubt helped him immensely when writing his novels, because a lot of scientific theory and logic goes into them, adding a kind of pseudo-legitimacy into his otherwise outlandish fiction. But along his travels, which take him from Hollywood to the jungles of Pahang, Crichton slowly realises that knowledge of science is not enough to help him live his life, that there is more beyond "the fringe". And it is this realisation, plus a huge dose of curiosity, that brings him to meet psychics and other such mystics, to engage in spiritual sessions. He starts out a skeptic but is soon forced to accept that there are some things that science cannot explain, therefore becoming a believer.

Some of the chapters were published in Esquire and the Conde Nast Traveller and can be read as stand-alone chapters. But by reading them randomly you'll miss the transformation from skeptic to believer that happens from beginning to end. However, there is one drawback to this: Crichton occasionally assumes we don't already know what has gone before and repeats information from previous chapters.

Though a non-fiction book, Travels reads like one of Crichton's thrillers--fast-paced and sprinkled throughout with scientific trivia. This pace falters in the end though, when Crichton inserts, as the last chapter, a speech on why he "believed there was validity to certain psychic phenomena." It is a reminder to the scientific community "not to discredit science, but to place the workings of science in a more realistic perspective with regard to unaccepted phenomena." The contents of the speech is a fitting conclusion to the book, but after reading through his travels at what seems like breathless speed, the slow-paced speech was jarring to the overall reading experience and seemed out of place.

Michael Crichton is fuelled by an intense curiosity that drives him to understand and discover unknown things. This intensity is channelled through his writing and his experiences serve as an interesting and thought-provoking journey, whether outward or inward.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Reading List Update.

For my future reference, I:

am currently reading

The Darkness of Wallis Simpson by Rose Tremain
Started reading this last night. Was hoping the LRT ride this morning would last longer than usual so I could find out what happens in the title story (the first short story in this compilation). I hope the rest of the stories are of the same quality as this one.

have recently finished

Aug 14, 2006: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
Brilliant and enjoyable collection of short stories. Proof that Murakami is indeed master of the surreal as well as the unreal.

Aug 2, 2006: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Melancholic and nostalgic. Though written in simple language, the story is engaging till the end.

Jul 30, 2006: Roald Dahl and His Chocolate Factory by Andrew Donkin
Found this book lying around in my parents's house and gave it a read. Finished it in a few hours. It was okaaaaay. Some things I didn't know about Dahl were in the book, but I think those factoids could've have easily been found on the Internet if I had bothered to look.

might be reading these next
also finished listening to this in the car

The Ode Less Travelled
by Stephen Fry
Great book! Makes you want to write poetry right then and there. Which was hard for me as I was driving.

Previous Reading List Update:

Julia Cameron's Floor Samples.

There's a feature on Julia Cameron (author of The Artist's Way) and her new memoir, Floor Sample, in the dead-tree edition of the Star today. Unfortunately, it's not mirrored on their website, so let me instead point you to the same article (without the cuts that found its way into the Star version) at the LA Times:
...her own recovery inspired her "creative unblocking" seminars, before her 1992 bestseller "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" sold more than 2 million copies, before the book spawned a movement, before strangers approached her in airports with home-recorded CDs, self-published poetry, handmade jewelry and the words, "You saved my life."

Back then, no one knew of Cameron's own struggles, the nervous breakdowns that got progressively worse and the traumatic episodes so severe she found herself talking to trees in a London park and darting naked down her driveway in Taos, N.M. No one knew of the conflicted personality behind "The Artist's Way," part bawdy truth-teller, part mystical, 12-stepping mentor.

The Man Booker Prize 2006 Longlist.

Well, this year's Booker Prize longlist is out:
  • Carey, Peter Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber)
  • Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Edric, Robert Gathering the Water (Doubleday)
  • Gordimer, Nadine Get a Life (Bloomsbury)
  • Grenville, Kate The Secret River (Canongate)
  • Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down (Canongate)
  • Jacobson, Howard Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)
  • Lasdun, James Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)
  • Lawson, Mary The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)
  • McGregor, Jon So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)
  • Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men (Viking)
  • Messud, Claire The Emperor’s Children (Picador)
  • Mitchell, David Black Swan Green (Sceptre)
  • Murr, Naeem The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)
  • O’Hagan, Andrew Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)
  • Robertson, James The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)
  • St Aubyn, Edward Mother’s Milk (Picador)
  • Unsworth, Barry The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Waters, Sarah The Night Watch (Virago)
I haven't read any of these so have no idea who to root for. Though I hear In the Country of Men is good. Theft too. But Peter Carey winning it for the third time? Hmmm.

The Times has a write-up on the Booker longlist.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Eric Forbes's Advice for Writers.

Also by way of Lydia, Eric Forbes, my favourite book list man, has three very good posts up advising writers who are thinking of having a book published:
  1. What to write and how to publish what you have written?
  2. Is there really a market for Malaysian fiction in English?
  3. Bad English says so much
Editors live a tough life, and rarely receive any credit for their work. Eric must be receiving some really bad manuscripts in his slush pile recently, to post up these articles.

Sensing Resensi.

Lydia writes a little about RTM's book review programme, Resensi, that airs during Selamat Pagi Malaysia, and also a little about her experience being interviewed on it back in 2004:

As Resensi is a Malay program, the interview was conducted in Bahasa Malaysia. In school, I had done reasonably well in BM, even outdoing the only Malay boy in my class in exams. But it had been many decades since I last used the language actively. So I had to prepare my script in Malay and rehearse them so that I didn’t sound too kekok. Must’ve worked because my sister said that I sounded very natural and confident. But then, she’s my sister-lah.

If you’re interested in all things book-related, make it a point to catch Resensi. Writers, this is a good platform for you to promote your book too.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

I'm Off. Ciao!

Ted will be taking a break from his thinking and... wait! Why am I talking in third-person? Anyways, I'm off for a holiday. No fair that Sharon gets to have all the fun gallivanting around Malaysia with her family! I wants me break too!

I shall be back on Tuesday. Till then, ciao~

Ahhh... beaches here I come!

(Oh! And don't forget: Suarasuara Publication is having a reading session with their authors at MPH MidValley this Sunday at 12-2pm. Meet Rahmat Harun, Amirul Fakir, Raja Ahmad Aminullah, Dr Zakaria Ali et al. Won't be there but I hear it's gonna be fun!)

John Ling's New Blog.

Check out ma man, John Ling, yo. He got one o' them blogs. Dig it.

Stream of Consciousness.

I finished writing a short story two nights ago and I'm still feeling that funny warm glow one gets when they've completed something they feel is great. On Tuesday evening, I suddenly had the urge to put down some thoughts I had been mulling over the previous week. I grabbed my notebook, and started writing.

I had been (and still am) reading Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and I was getting a little concerned with the creases that appeared on the spine as I progressed through the book. I thought about how such creases defiled the beauty of the book, but then debated that the creases showed that the book was fulfilling its purpose--to be read--and this was beautiful in its own way. So I was writing down what I thought about all this and when I got to the end, I felt I needed to write some more. So I added in some characters. I placed them in a location. I made them meet up. And I found myself with a beginning for a short story.

Usually, that's just as far as I get. Then I abandon the story because I don't know what would happen next. In this case, I felt the story just coming in, like a gushing stream after rainfall. I just couldn't stop writing. I knew more or less what would happen, and if I didn't, I managed to make something up that was credible to the story (or at least I would like to think so!). I was in the office when I started writing, and as luck would have it, I didn't have work to do. So I just kept writing and writing. Right until 6. Then I got on the LRT. I found I needed to continue the story, needed to find out what happened next. So I wrote and wrote all the way from Sentul to Bukit Jalil. And when I got home, I found the story had not been completely drained out of me, and it wanted to be put on paper. It insisted. I complied.

Late that night, after approximately 3500+ words, I was done. I'm still not sure how or why I suddenly felt like I needed to get down so many words at once, and almost non-stop too. It has happened to me only once before... and I wish I knew how to replicate it. It's a wonderful feeling zooming through words, enjoying a story as I'm writing it. I've already typed it up in Word, but I'm staying away from it for a while so I can return to it one day with fresh eyes. But I've got a feeling this one will still be a good story when I get back to it (unlike countless others which managed to look like complete drivel).

I hope I can share it with you one of these days. The short story (current draft is 3800+ words) is entitled "The Creased Spine of a Paperback" and is about a man who is meeting his old friend from school for the first time in a long while. His friend has called for an urgent meeting with him and now the man is wondering what's the matter.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Will Your Book Be My Friend?

More on promoting books on MySpace:
A primary reason authors join MySpace is to connect easily—and instantly—with their existing audience, as well as thousands of potential readers. Elsewhere on the Internet, many writers employ Web designers to help maintain personal sites, making it costly and time-consuming to keep them freshly updated, especially with last-minute news. Koren Zailckas, author of the memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, kept a MySpace blog while on her book tour, and says the "control freak" in her likes being able to notify her fans with the touch of a button when she's doing a reading or has a TV appearance. Zailckas says she feels closer to those she meets on MySpace, since she can check out their profiles just as they view hers. "It's more intimate," she says. "The readers you're communicating with are honest-to-god human beings with faces and (now and again) your book in their list of 'favorites.' Silly as it sounds, there's something tremendously moving about being able to 'see' one another, even if it is in a nerdy sort of way." Zailckas points out that while readers aren't necessarily visiting their favorite author's Web page religiously, they often log on to MySpace on a daily basis and will see bulletins posted there.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

There's a write-up today in the Star about Renni Browne's and Dave King's Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I have this book, and let me tell you, if you're a fiction writer, this book is one book you absolutely must have on your writing desk at all times. The book is a guide on how to edit and polish your finished manuscripts and is very handy when you want to figure out how to make your story better:
Self-editing is important because a writer will want his/her manuscript to be as strong as possible before an independent editor works on it.

The best way to learn editing is from another editor, and this book offers you that opportunity.

Renni Browne and Dave King, who are professional editors, take the writer through the processes that an expert editor would follow to perfect a manuscript – from dialogue and exposition to point of view, interior monologue and voice.
I don't have the dead-tree version of the newspaper right now, but I'm betting there's a cut-out coupon in there for some sort of discount for this book at Kinokuniya. If so, I would very much recommend you get your writing rump to Kino's and get this book, if you haven't already.

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Suarasuara Author Appearance.

In conjunction with the writer’s month, rumahpenerbitan Suarasuara will have a meet-the-authors session at MPH MidValley:

Venue : MPH – MidValley Megamall, Courtyard.
Date : Sunday, August 13th
Time : 12 noon – 2 pm

Meet authors Rahmat Harun, Amirul Fakir, Raja Ahmad Aminullah, Dr Zakaria Ali (who was awarded the S.E.A. Write Award in 2003) and other Suarasuara writers.
(Via the Suarasuara blog)

Hah! Bet you didn't know there was a writer's month!

Singapore Library Bans Dark City!

Dark City is too dark! Prissy librarians can't handle the graphic prose of Xeus's collection of short stories:
Would you believe it? I've been banned by the Singapore National Library. They refused to stock my book in all their branches, citing 'It's too explicit and graphic" after reading a few chapters.

The outrage!

At least I haven't been banned here by our own Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka. They took 5 copies to keep as 'National Heritage.' I'm not sure I can quite call Dark City a national heritage, but at least I can count on my own countrymen/librarians to support me.
Remind me to rewind my clock to 1950 whenever I'm in the vicinity of the Singapore National Library. Kudos to our local librarians for having the stomach to stock such an "explicit and graphic" book!

Monday, 7 August 2006

Jhumpa Lahiri's Narayan Days.

Jhumpa Lahiri offers a novel way to enjoy Malgudi Days in a Malgudi month, and also comments lovingly on his collection of short stories:
Raised speaking Tamil at home, Narayan wrote from the beginning in English, a language that, as Ved Mehta points out in a profile he wrote of Narayan in The New Yorker, is “foreign to most of his countrymen and also to most of his characters.” Narayan’s father was a headmaster, and as a result Narayan had access to a library full of English books. His early literary diet included Scott, Dickens, Hardy, Conan Doyle, and Wodehouse. In My Days he recalls, “I . . . started writing, mostly under the influence of events occurring around me and in the style of any writer who was uppermost in my mind at the time.” Why Narayan chose to write in English and not Tamil is something I leave scholars of his work to ponder. As a reader I am simply grateful for the way Narayan, long before so many writers of Indian origin or background writing in English, beautifully knit together the subject matter of one place with the language and narrative tradition of another, achieving what Mehta aptly calls an “astonishing marriage of opposite points of the compass.”

Rushdie Hearts Potter.

Turns out Salman Rushdie (and son) is a fan of Harry Potter. And who isn't? (Don't answer that.) But it's no surprise really:
Most of the response about Dumbledore followed a question by famous author Salman Rushdie, who stepped forward to the audience microphone with his son and introduced himself like any other fan. JKR said, "I don't feel this is quite fair," amusedly. "You're better at figuring out plots than most." (That might be a paraphrase.) Rushdie flat-out asked (along with whether Dumbledore was alive) whether Snape was "good" or bad." She did not answer, but said that "your opinion is correct," possibly to his assertion that Snape was intrinsically good (though it was unclear).
(Via Maud Newton.)

Saturday, 5 August 2006

Snapshots: The Power of Three.

The Star has an interview with all three writers of Snapshots!, a collection of Malaysian short stories:
Among the stories featured include one about a fed-up Filipino maid who takes matters into her own hands; a beautiful daughter-in-law who unwittingly causes tension in her new family; a tongue-in-cheek satire on Malaysian politics; a private investigator who is taken for a ride; a ghastly twist of a ghostly tale; and a cheat who meets his match in a kacang putih vendor.

Indeed, all the stories have a moral to them but as Aneeta says, it is up to the readers to decide and choose. Although the book is written from a Malaysian point of view, the authors have thoughtfully added footnotes to translate local words into English to make it easier for foreigners to comprehend.

Friday, 4 August 2006

Best of the Classics.

How to rejuvenate interest in the Classics? If you're Penguin, you release "Best of" lists to help people choose what to read. For example:

The Best Sex
  1. Story Of The Eye - Georges Bataille
  2. A Spy In The House Of Love - Anaïs Nin
  3. Lady Chatterley's Lover - D H Lawrence
  4. Venus In Furs - Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch
  5. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
The Best Violence
  1. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
  2. Hell's Angels - Hunter S Thompson
  3. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  4. Another Country - James Baldwin
  5. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

Payless Stock Clearance Sale!

Choices, choices. Regret not going, or regret going?

Payless Stock Clearance Sale
8 - 9 September
10am - 7pm

(Click on image to enlarge)

Thursday, 3 August 2006

Interview with John Ling.

Aneeta Sundararaj digs through John Ling's grey matter in her interview. Excerpt:
Perhaps I might not be too farfetched to say that writers are a curious, obsessive lot. Why else would one shut herself up in a writing corner, brainstorming and scribbling, while life passes her by? Probably because she has no choice but the write. The closest parallel I can draw is perhaps that of the compulsive blogger. Many have discovered blogging these past few years, and along with it, how soothing and liberating it can be to pour yourself out.

I think that for most young people of my generation, they find solace from their daily traumas and troubles by clubbing and socializing and calling up their friends and so on. For me, it is strictly writing.

Interview with John McNally.

The Elegant Variation has a short but sweet interview with John McNally, author of America's Report Card:
Q: Your family background is working-class suburban Chicago. What has this meant for your writing?

A: I have a good work ethic. Growing up in a working-class environment also helped put my life into perspective. My father was a roofer. He’d get up at four a.m. to drive across the city to some job and wouldn’t get home until past dinnertime. I’m a lucky s.o.b. I roll out of bed whenever I want and then sit in front of a computer most of the day, taking long breaks with no one looking over my shoulder. I know better than to complain about the difficulty of writing. Yes, writing a novel is hard, but it sure as hell beats standing on a roof on a day when it’s over a hundred degrees and breathing in fumes from hot tar. A few days of that kind of work would cure any writer who whines about his job.

Irving and King: Don't Kill Harry Potter!

In a press conference before a charity reading at New York's Radio City Music Hall, John Irving and Stephen King asks J.K. Rowling not to kill off Harry Potter but J.K Rowling says:
"When fans accuse me of sadism, which doesn't happen that often, I feel I'm toughening them up to go on and read John and Stephen's books," she said. "I think they've got to be toughened up somehow. It's a cruel literary world out there."

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

A Book Meme.

So! I've been memed by The Eternal Wanderer!

1. What is the total number of books you’ve owned?
Pfft. Who knows? I estimate around 700-800 books. Probably a lot more when I start adding the books left at my parents's.

2. What is the last book you bought?
I bought five books at the same time:
3. What is the last book you’ve read?
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

4. What are you currently reading?
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

5. What are the 5 books that have meant a lot to you or that you particularly enjoyed?
Hmm. Have to think a bit on this...
6. What book(s) would you wish to buy next?
Probably something from Paul Theroux. Like The Great Railway Bazaar.

7. What book(s) that caught your attention but never had a chance to read?
Hmm. Children of the Gebelawi by Naguib Mahfouz and The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.

8. What book(s) that you’ve owned for so long but never read it?
I'm sure I can find more if I dig deeper into my piles of books...

9. Who are you going to pass this meme to (3 persons) and why?
I'm flushing it down the toilet. So long, meme!

Judging People by the Books They Read.

Reading the right book in public might get you laid:
Not only does sitting with your nose in a book positively influence others' opinion of you, it could actually - get this - lead to sex. A third of those surveyed said that they "would consider flirting with someone based on their choice of literature". It's finally official, people. Reading is hot.
Do also read the comments. They're quite interesting. Am going to read more Murakami, Marquez, Kundera and Bulgakov on the LRT in the future. S'funny though... was reading Ishiguro on the LRT the whole week and nobody asked to sleep with me...

Ask Advice From a UK Literary Agent.

Yang-May Ooi, author of The Flame Tree and Mindgame, sent word that she'd be talking with a established London-based literary agent on her podcast in two weeks's time:
If you are a writer aiming to have your book published in the UK, now is your chance to put a question to a UK Literary Agent.

It can be confusing for a new writer trying to send out their novel for the first time, especially if you are based outside the UK. Should I go via a literary agent or submit direct to the publisher? How do you find an agent? What format should I submit my manuscript in?

I am the author of two novels published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton and the creator of Fusion View, an East / West blog on writing, culture and the arts at I will be interviewing an established London-based literary agent for a Fusion View podcast in two weeks time and I am inviting new writers to email me your question about writing and getting published. I will select the best and most relevant questions and ask them during the interview so that you can get a personal answer from an industry insider.

The closing date is Midnight (GMT +1) Friday 11 August 2006. The podcast will be uploaded onto Fusion View on Monday 21 August 2006.

To find out more, click on this link.

Please use the form in the link above to ask your question. Do not reply to this email with your question. Please help me manage the the likely volume of responses by following this guideline.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks

Yang-May Ooi

Author of "The Flame Tree" and "Mindgame" (Hodder & Stoughton)

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Rushdie vs. Greer.

Ah. Literary spats. Gotta love 'em:
As the debate over a screen version of Monica Ali's book Brick Lane continues, Salman Rushdie, the author who in 1989 received a fatwa from the late Ayatollah Khomeinei in the wake of the publication of his book The Satanic Verses, has entered the fray with an attack on a longstanding rival, Germaine Greer.

In a letter published in the Guardian today, which is expected to reignite a row which has simmered since the early 1990s, Rushdie denounces Greer's support for the Brick Lane activists who are attempting to block the film as: "philistine, sanctimonious, and disgraceful, but it is not unexpected".

Copyright of Translated Works.

by Nisah Haji Haron; translated from malay by Ted Mahsun

If a writer translates another writer's work, does the copyright belong to the translator or the original writer of the work?

Translated works are commonly found on the market. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka has also published translated works, especially from winners of literary prizes such as the Nobel Prize and the like. If you go to Indonesia or China, the phenomena of abundant translated works is very much the norm.

Recently published books, like Harry Potter, have an Indonesian or Mandarin version within a period of not more than a month.

Are these translators called plagiarisers because of translating a work that has already been published earlier and was written by the original author?

In Malaysia, this question has to be referred to the Copyright Act 1987. Within copyright laws, ideas are not protected. They only protect the expression of the idea. This means that when a later author repeats a sentence that was used by an earlier author with the exact same meaning, without permission from the earlier author, then it is considered an infringement of the earlier author's copyright.

If just the idea is repeated but is presented in a different way, the later author can be said of not infringing the earlier author's copyright.

Translated works do get protection under copyright laws. Translated works are placed under the category of published works. Section 8 of the Copyright Act lists the type of works that fall under published works:

a) translated, adapted and arranged works and other changes made to a piece of work that can be copyrighted; and
b) collections of literary works, like short story compilations, poetry collections or anthologies.

This act also makes sure that the published work gets the same protection that the original text receives. The protection of the translated work will also not risk the copyright protection of the original work. Even so, a translation requires permission from the original writer.

According to the Copyright Act 1987, the right to translate anything to the national language is only given one year after the original work has been published. If no translation is currently underway by the original author, translators are free to do a translation into Malay after receiving permission from the Copyright Tribunal. The Tribunal will provide a non-exclusive license to the translators.

In simpler terms, the original author gets copyright protection as an author. The situation is the same with the translator who also gets the same copyright protection as with the original author of the work. This is because a translation is also a form of producing a derivative work from the original material. The process of translating also requires effort and dedication. This is what is protected by copyright.

In another situation, if a writer from Malaysia wants to translate his own works into another language, the copyright laws also allows for a form of protection.

Section 13(1) of this Act also says that the writer, as the owner of the copyright, has the exclusive right to allow it to be translated into any language whatsoever.

Originally published in Tunas Cipta, July 2006. Translated with permission.

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