eric forbes’s book addict’s guide to good books
unleash your imagination and awaken to the joys of literature and the reading life
a media sponsor of the 2010 citibank-ubud writers & readers festival 6-10 october 2010
Monday, December 01, 2014
Saturday, November 01, 2014
November 2014 Highlights
“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and NOVEMBER arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” J.K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
1. Far As the Eye Can See (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / Robert Bausch
2. Amnesia (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Peter Carey
3. The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate, 2014) / Michel Faber
4. Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book (Ecco/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / Richard Ford
5. A Map of Betrayal (Pantheon, 2014) / Ha Jin
6. Funny Girl (Viking, 2014) / Nick Hornby
7. The Laughing Monsters (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Denis Johnson
8. Revival (Scribner/Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) / Stephen King
9. Mermaids in Paradise (W.W. Norton, 2014) / Lydia Millet
10. The Forgers (Mysterious Press, 2014) / Bradford Morrow
12. Shark (Grove Press/Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014) / Will Self
13. All Days Are Nights (trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann) (Other Press, 2014) / Peter Stamm
14. All My Puny Sorrows (McSweeney’s, 2014) / Miriam Toews
1. Infidelities (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Kirsty Gunn
2. Frog (Hamish Hamilton, 2014) / Mo Yan
3. Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Alice Munro
4. The American Lover (Random House, 2014) / Rose Tremain
1. You Must Remember This (Milkweed Editions, 2014) / Michael Bazzett
2. One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Paul Muldoon
3. The Other Mountain (Carcanet, 2014) / Rowan Williams
1. Loitering: New & Collected Essays (Tin House Books, 2014) / Charles D’Ambrosio
2. Visitants (Hamish Hamilton, 2014) / Dave Eggers
3. Where I’m Reading: The Changing World of Books (Harvill Secker, 2014) / Tim Parks
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
SHANTINI SUNTHARAJAH traces CHARMAINE AUGUSTIN’s journey from broadcasting and boardrooms to gourmet food and confectionery
You might remember Augustin for her remarkable ability to connect and engage with live audiences and viewers, or how she seemed to effortlessly radiate glitz and glamour on the screen. Delve a little deeper, and it becomes abundantly clear that she is a deep thinker—a characteristic that she is well aware of.
Kuala Lumpur-born Augustin describes herself as passionate and intense, sensitive and very private. She also calls herself a “quiet observer,” a trait that was born of necessity when she was a child. Her late father, Dato Capt. Patrick Augustin, was in the Army and Special Branch, so her formative years were marked by travel and plenty of it. “On the move” is the phrase that best describes her childhood, she explains.
All that movement and change brought with it both the good and the bad. “My nomadic childhood created insecurities. It also built reserve and innate self-belief,” she explains, candidly. “I was an outsider, an avid observer of life, an adventurer. Incessant daydreaming was my insulation from the uncertainties of growing up. It was fertile ground for unbridled imagination.”
While a nomadic lifestyle created an unusually high level of unpredictability in her childhood years, Augustin also fondly remembers the good times. The middle child among three siblings and the only girl, Augustin recalls growing up in gorgeous Lutyens-style bungalows with gleaming arches and wide wooden verandahs, surrounded by lush spacious gardens. “There were gazebos, giant rubber and banyan trees with branches reaching to the sky. Sometimes we lived in forests in newly cleared jungles turned into housing residences. Other times it was by the sea.”
Seaside bicycle rides and playing with starfish are undeniably idyllic ways to while away the hours, but these days, Augustin has time to indulge in these pursuits only in her memories.
Today, Augustin, who speaks and writes French fluently, is a busy businesswoman who co-runs Passion Doux (which means “sweet passion” in French) with her best friend Lee Yulie. Passion Doux is a wholesale provider of premium gourmet foods. “We import and distribute gourmet and specialty fine foods with a penchant for confectionery. We also work with individuals with rare and specialty products. These include handmade award-winning nougats, pickles and jams, cookies, coconut candies, pate des fruits and calamansi honey nectar juice, among others.”
Passion Doux clients are highly discerning and demand the finest, but judging from the company’s growth, the two co-owners are more than able to deliver. “Our clients include five-star hotels, upscale grocery outlets, private premium gift retailers and blue-chip corporations. My roles and focus include product identification and development, packaging, sales, marketing and branding, client relationship, import and logistics,” explains Augustin.
So how did a renowned TV personality end up in the wholesale food industry? As it turns out, much like her childhood, Augustin’s career path is nothing if not unusual and her choices reflect the deep courage of a woman who isn’t afraid to follow her heart.
For those who remember her polished professionalism during her days at TV3, it would be hard to believe that the young broadcast announcer had no media experience or training at the time. Despite this “drawback” she enjoyed a meteoric rise up the ranks and while many others in her place would have played it safe, she dropped everything to go to college.
The next few years were a whirlwind of upward mobility and career changes, which included time working as a Marketing Manager at the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) when she became part of the pioneering effort that created the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). Next she was headhunted to join Ericsson Malaysia as General Manager of Mobile Internet and Systems Integration and became the first Malaysian woman and the youngest person to take over the role.
Then it was on to Malaysia Biotechnology Corporation as Branding and Marketing Vice-President. Augustin’s corporate career culminated in 2008 when she was appointed General Manager for DDBPR, the public relations arm of Naga DDB, Malaysia’s largest marketing and communications advertising company. Like her decision to drop everything during the height of her success at TV3, Augustin made a decision to turn away from the corporate fast track to focus on her secret love—food. “Food has always fascinated me. It is one of the greatest pleasures of the senses and a playground for creativity and visual art.”
As with all her career moves, she combined heart with smarts and looked at ways to turn her love into a viable, lucrative business. This focus and direction inspired her to combine food with trading and thus Passion Doux was born. “I have always loved the idea of trading. Even in the companies I used to work for, wherever there was an opportunity, I would create business-inspired events,” she reveals.
Other than serving an ever-expanding clientele, Augustin, along with Lee, works with less fortunate individuals and families who possess the fire and spirit of an entrepreneur but not the financial means to support their dreams. “We develop recipes, formulas and ideas with them and brand and market their products. This gives them sustainable income, new-found confidence and knowledge that they have special skills and are able to contribute to society and to their families.”
Passion Doux also serves as a channel for the two women to bring alive the food tradition and memories of their beloved mothers and grandmothers. “We resurrect long-forgotten or rarely produced traditional favourite delicacies like handmade coconut candies the way Granny used to make them.” Augustin says this brings back the past in a beautiful way while reviving disappearing tastes and senses. “We take quiet pleasure in seeing the look of happiness on the faces of clients who come across a long-forgotten aroma or a taste from their childhood.”
Reproduced from the July-September 2014 issue of Quill magazine
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Verve & Versatility
ANNA TAN shows SHANTINI SUNTHARAJAH that self-improvement isn’t too much of a stretch
CATHOLIC SCHOOL, with all its rules and regulations and the nuns who enforce them, might not sound like a great way to spend most of your growing-up years. Anna Tan, however, has nothing but warm memories to share and credits those schooldays for inspiring her reading habit.
“My reading habit was inculcated by the nuns in the Catholic school I attended, called St Teresa, in her hometown, Kuching, Sarawak. The head nun—Mother Monica—started a library and stocked it with many Enid Blyton books as well as magazines from the Vatican City,” she explains. “So I read whatever Mother Monica brought to the library. My brother and I would compete to see who finished a book first!”
Mother Monica must have done a fine job because the consultant trainer, human resource practitioner and change leader is now a full-fledged author. Stretched: Unleash Your Team’s Potential by Coaching the “Rubber Band” Way! captures Tan’s proven coaching ideas and techniques and aims to guide readers to extraordinary growth and breakthroughs.
Tan says that the advice in her book, which is geared towards leaders, employers and managers who are keen to create passionate, productive, action-oriented teams, is based on long experience in the trenches. “In a career spanning over fifteen years, I worked in various multinational companies as a senior corporate leader helming the human capital and talent functions.” Her work exposed her to a vast range of people and corporate cultures. “I had the opportunity to interact and socialise with people at all levels, experiencing both Western and Asian leadership and cultures.”
Tan confides that she has always wanted to write a book and didn’t hesitate to grab the chance to do so when she took a six-month break from corporate work at the end of 2010. Any other hard-working denizen of the corporate world might have used the time to kick back and relax but she is nothing if not focused. “It was six months of ideas, writing fluidly, freestyle.”
Even after going back to work, Tan did not waver from her writing routine and completed the book at an admirably quick pace. “I went back to corporate HR and it was another six months of fine-tuning the typescript. Getting feedback from corporate folks, HR practitioners, college students and incorporating their input, editing by my publisher and publishing took another four months.”
Tan’s speed is also attributed, in no small part, to the fact that she is able to write “wherever I have my Mac” as well as to the way she thinks. Part of the writing process, such as creating the chapters—something that makes many other writers falter—turned out to be a breeze. “I am lucky that I think in ‘categories’ or have my ideas in buckets. Hence, dividing the chapters was quite easy.” However, she is also quick to admit that creating Stretched from scratch did have its challenges. The biggest among these was “simplifying the concepts without sacrificing the essence of the book,” she says, referring to the complex concepts related to coaching teams to do their best at work.
Tan admits that she loves her work but takes care to spend as much quality time as possible with her loved ones on weekends. In her case, her loved ones happen to include three felines. A huge cat lover, she describes her furry family members with some detail. “They each have very different personalities. Girlie, the eldest at twelve years, is the most introverted. Furrygamo is three and is your typical “scatty” cat. Cotton is two years old and is the most extroverted and social one.”
Weekends are also a time for pastimes most people would consider typical—save one. “During the weekends, we do normal things like house chores, cook [her husband Allen Yap does the cooking], catch up on reading, watch TV, entertain friends and trim the cat’s nails.” Tan confides that the last is more than a one-weekend job. “The cats hate having their nails trimmed so it has to be stretched over a number of weeks,” she laughs.
Another thing that she enjoys during her downtime is baking. As a coach who trains leaders and managers to find opportunities to bring out the best in themselves and their people, it appears that she walks her talk. Others would never view domestic work as anything more than what it is but she has managed to find a way to turn time in the kitchen into something of a self-improvement exercise. “I love to bake and I teach others to bake. I have learnt to master the challenging French macarons! Baking has taught me to be precise and to persevere.”
Tan hopes that her book will help shine a light on new and better ways to work and shift her readers’ perspectives. “The coaching way—as opposed to the autocratic where you just tell and issue instructions—is one that resonates with younger generations like the millennials. It is high time leaders replace some of their ‘die-hard’ ways to a coaching style that engages the hearts and minds of their team members—yes, be like the rubber band, stretch, be flexible and adapt.”
Coach, trainer and author Anna Tan shares three life-improvement tips that will help people create great teams at work (and maybe in their personal lives, too!):
• Talk less, listen more.
• Give permission for others to be brave, and challenge the status quo. By doing that, you renew their hope of the possibilities of what they can be and more.
• Don’t tell people what to do. Facilitate the conversation to enable them to come up with their own solutions. People are spurred to take action based on the solutions they come up with.
Reproduced from the July-September 2014 issue of Quill magazine
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A China Doll in KL, by Ewe Paik Leong
EWE PAIK LEONG talks about the kind of research he undertook while working on his novel, A China Doll in KL
This novel was partly inspired by an accidental visit to New Peng Hwa in Pudu district in KL. One evening, I stepped inside the food court solely for a quick dinner. Dozens of girls and not-so-young women, carrying packets of watermelon seeds, were milling around. One by one, they approached my table and asked in Mandarin, “You want to buy watermelon seeds?” Only then did I realise that they were China dolls. When I said “no”, their next question would often be “Do you want to buy me?” Other girls used innuendos like “Do you want to be happy?” I was shocked by their audacity. The other half of the inspiration came from two novels which I’d read several years back: The World of Suzie Wong (1957), by Richard Mason, and A Woman of Bangkok (1956), by Jack Reynolds. “Why not a Malaysian version of those two books?” I asked myself as I recalled the novels while watching a few China dolls gyrating with their clients to loud music from the band on the stage.
Meisu’s love interest is Alvin, an alcoholic artist who’s struggling to come to terms with his addiction. As the novel is written in close multiple third-person POV, there are many scenes where Alvin is the POV character. Therefore, I needed to experience what it was like being dead drunk. I don’t drink much except for a couple of beers during Chinese New Year, so I came back one evening with two bottles of cheap made-in-Thailand brandy. Sitting in front of the TV after dinner, I started to gulp down the brandy. My startled wife asked, “Wazzup, darling? You never drink! Are you in a funk?” I told her that I wanted to be in the shoes of my alcoholic character and she quipped, “I hope he’s not also a wife-beater!”
“I can’t leave New Peng Hwa and solicit business elsewhere as I’m contracted to my boss,” said a China doll to me. Her answer indicated that organised crime and vice goes hand-in-hand in New Peng Hwa. Anyone who goes there can see the presence of thugs almost everywhere. Some hang around with walkie-talkies hooked to their belts. Since New Peng Hwa has links to triads, I created a subplot in the story. In Act I, Ouyang Lifu, the head of the Red Centipede Society, tries to extort protection money from Meisu, but she challenges him to a card game instead. During the final hand of the game, Lifu raises the stake to “loser chops off the last finger.”
An unforgettable incident was when the place was raided one evening. I was sitting in Kim Wah Café in the first floor of Ace Electronics Building, adjacent to New Peng Hwa (which houses the apartments used by China dolls), when a lookout employed by the vice syndicate shouted, “Run! Police! Run!” The whole place was in turmoil as all the girls started to stampede down the broken-down escalator. One China doll slipped and nearly fell facedown and several others took off their stilettos and ran barefooted. When I reached the ground floor, I heard the clumping of heels coming from the fire-escape staircase as more China dolls came scrambling down from their apartments. Standing on the sidewalk, I saw a police truck up ahead on the road, trying to manoeuvre through traffic. It was like a scene from a TV cop show.
A China Doll in KL is published by Monsoon Books, Singapore
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
October 2014 Highlights
“It was OCTOBER, and the leaves of the oaks around the language school had turned gold and were batting light into its tall windows. A young Irish woman was seated alone in the teacher’s lounge. She had made herself a cup of tea on the range in the corner, and she was opening a tangerine on a paper napkin, with hungry carelessness.” CALEB CRAIN, in Necessary Errors (2013)
1. The Far Side of the Sun (Berkley, 2014) / Kate Furnivall
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead, 2014) / Marlon James
3. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Doubleday, 2014) / Rachel Joyce
4. The Boy Who Drew Monsters (Picador USA, 2014) / Keith Donohue
5. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen (Viking, 2014) / Charlie Lovett
6. The Lives of Others (W.W. Norton, 2014) / Neel Mukherjee
7. Leaving Time (Ballantine Books, 2014) / Jodi Picoult
8. Lila (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Virago/Little, Brown, 2014) / Marilynne Robinson
9. Electric City (Counterpoint, 2014) / Elizabeth Rosner
10. Lamentation (Mantle, 2014) / C.J. Sansom
12. Nora Webster (Viking/Scribner, 2014) / Colm Tóibín
13. Sometimes the Wolf (William Morrow, 2014) / Urban Waite
1. Academy Street (Canongate, 2014) / Mary Costello
2. Crooked River (William Morrow, 2014) / Valerie Geary
3. The Lodger (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014) / Louisa Treger
1. Man V. Nature (Harper, 2014) / Diane Cook
2. The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories (Press 53, 2014) / Wendy J. Fox
3. White Tiger on Snow Mountain (New Harvest, 2014) / David Gordon
1. The Heart Is Strange: New Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / John Berryman
2. Habitation: Collected Poems (Lost Horse Press/University of Washington Press, 2014) / Sam Hamill
3. The Stairwell (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Michael Longley
4. Blue Horses (Penguin Press, 2014) / Mary Oliver
5. Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014) / Claudia Rankine
6. Playing House (Seren, 2014) / Katherine Stansfield
1. Poetry Notebook: 2006-2014 (Picador, 2014) / Clive James
2. Discontent and Its Civilizations (Hamish Hamilton, 2014) / Mohsin Hamid
3. Private Island (Verso, 2014) / James Meek
4. Ciao, Carpaccio! (Pallas Athene, 2014) / Jan Morris
5. The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books (Viking, 2014) / Azar Nafisi
6. Mecca: The Sacred City (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / Ziauddin Sardar
7. The Best American Essays 2014 (Mariner Books, 2014) / John Jeremiah Sullivan (ed.)
7. The Best American Travel Writing 2014 (Mariner Books, 2014) / Paul Theroux (ed.)
8. Red Nile: A Biography of the World’s Greatest River (Thomas Dunne Books, 2014) / Robert Twigger
9. Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (Oxford University Press, 2014) / Marina Warner
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Wisdom does not come with age ...
WISDOM, they say, comes with age. I once thought that wisdom was the sole province of the old. Now that I am all grown up, I have come to realise that that’s all balderdash. Wisdom is the province of those who possess it; age is quite immaterial. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet young people who are wise beyond their years, and I have also had the misfortune of meeting old people who have absolutely no wisdom at all.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Rotten Durian Awards & Other Malaysiana Miscellany
SOME MANUSCRIPTS are so bloody horrendous that I literally get sick editing them! I feel feverish, headachy, and all-over-the-body-achy. Seriously, one of these days we must consider giving out a slew of ROTTEN DURIAN AWARDS for the worst Malaysian books of the year—books I absolutely could not care less about. I know for sure there won’t be a dearth of contenders for these uniquely Malaysian awards where MEDIOCRITY is the only yardstick of greatness and celebrated with customary pomp and ceremony! Perhaps I will start the ball rolling with that pathetic attempt at a book ... yes, that particular pseudo-book! It reminds me of the opening lines to Keir Alexander’s excellent novel, The Ruby Slippers (Corsair, 2014): “She stinks. It has to be said. Stinks to high heaven.”
Publisher: You mean someone from Good Olde Mother England?
Pompous Lass: Of course—if English is their mother tongue!
Publisher: Why’s that?
Pompous Lass: Because my book is for the wonderful people of this planet. I want it to be perfectly edited for all my readers from around the world …
Publisher: Would you like to bear the cost of getting someone from England to edit it then?
Pompous Lass: Will that be cheap?
Publisher: What do you think? Everything is cheap except you?
Pompous Lass: I wouldn’t want to spend my money on that! If it’s too expensive, a local editor should be all right, I guess!
Receptionist: Who’s calling?
Receptionist: Lily who?
Waterlily: Water “I-can’t-tell-you-my-real-name” Lily!
Receptionist: How can I help you?
Waterlily: I want to talk to the editor about my manuscript?
Receptionist: What’s your manuscript about?
Waterlily: I can’t tell you that! I don’t know who you are. You may just steal and profit from my hard work! I want to speak to the editor!
Editor: Could you send us samples of your work, Water?
Waterlily: I can’t do that either.
Editor: So what can you do, Water?
Waterlily: Why do you need samples of my work?
Editor: Duh! So that we could assess your writing and decide whether we want to publish it or not!
Waterlily: Why do you want to review it? I am a famous writer and my work is quoted in all the leading journals all over the galaxy!
Editor: That’s nice and all. However, we would still like to assess it.
Waterlily: Will you be distributing my book in the U.S. and the U.K.?
Editor: No. We only sell foreign rights to those markets. And over the internet.
Waterlily: Looks like you are not the right publisher for me. Goodbye!
Publisher: Well, it depends …
Author: Depends on what?
Publisher: Well, whether you have a written manuscript?
Author: I haven’t written one. Can you get it written for me?
Publisher: Why is that?
Author: I can’t write.
Publisher: But you have studied for a couple of foreign degrees … and you have lived overseas for many years. With your fake accent and all, I’m sure you could write English.
Author: I’m very bad at grammar. Could you get me a writer whom I could talk to, take down notes and put them all in a book for me? I can talk very well. I just can’t write.
Publisher: Can’t imagine how you manage to pass all your exams over the years!
Editor: No! You are not a bestselling author. And you’ve never have been one.
Author: It’s a way of MARKETING the book!
Editor: I don’t think that’s MARKETING; that’s CONNING. Your first book sold less than a thousand copies in over five years. That, to me, is a disaster of epic proportions!
Editor: Well, it sucks, for one!
Author: What! How dare you insult me! Everyone who has read it thinks it is a magnificent piece of work!
Editor: Who, pray tell, read your magnum opus?
Author: My dear husband and children, friends and relatives! And my dearest mummy and daddy, too!
Editor: Of course!
Author: So can I take it that you are not interested in publishing my manuscript?
Editor: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ... Duh!
Editor: How’s that possible?
Author: I got every one of my best friends to buy 500 copies of my book. Yahoo! Time for a reprint?
Editor: What do you expect them to do with all the copies of your book?
Author: Who cares what they do with them? Perhaps they can make beef or vegetable stew with them?
Editor: Your manuscript, you mean? Well, it all depends on the quality of your manuscript.
Author: What? I know your Financial Controller and the Top Man, you know!
Editor: Ooh, I’m shivering! Of course, we will publish your book—even though it sucks big time!
Editor: Isn’t that what you want?
Monday, September 01, 2014
September 2014 Highlights
“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first SEPTEMBER was crisp and golden as an apple.” J.K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
1. Broken Monsters (Mulholland Books, 2014) / Lauren Beukes
2. The Betrayers (Little, Brown, 2014) / David Bezmozgis
3. A History of Loneliness (Doubleday, 2014) / John Boyne
4. Outline (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Rachel Cusk
5. Two More Pints (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Roddy Doyle
6. Perfidia (Alfred A. Knopf/William Heinemann, 2014) / James Ellroy
7. The High Divide (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014) / Lin Enger
8. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (trans. from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) (Europa Editions, 2014) / Elena Ferrante
9. Edge of Eternity (Pan Macmillian/Dutton Books, 2014) / Ken Follett
10. The Secret Place (Viking Adult, 2014) / Tana French
12. Arctic Summer (Europa Editions, 2014) / Damon Galgut
13. Flood of Fire (John Murray, 2014) / Amitav Ghosh
14. Hold the Dark (Liveright, 2014) / William Giraldi
15. All the Days and Nights (The Friday Project, 2014) / Niven Govinden
16. The Monogram Murders: The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2014) / Sophie Hannah
17. Dear Thief (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Samantha Harvey
18. The Soul of Discretion (Chatto & Windus, 2014) / Susan Hill
19. Printer’s Devil Court (Profile Books, 2014) / Susan Hill
20. The Sunrise (Headline Review, 2014) / Victoria Hislop
22. Black Dance (Black Cat/Grove Press, 2014) / Nancy Huston
23. Wittgenstein Jr (Melville House, 2014) / Lars Iyer
24. J (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Howard Jacobson
25. The Moor’s Account (Pantheon, 2014) / Laila Lalami
26. 10:04 (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Ben Lerner
27. The Day of Atonement (Random House, 2014) / David Liss
28. The Undertaking (Grove Press, 2014) / Audrey Magee
29. Station Eleven (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Emily St John Mandel
30. An Event in Autumn (trans. from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson) (Harvill Secker, 2014) / Henning Mankell
32. Accidents of Marriage (Atria Books, 2014) / Randy Susan Meyers
33. The Bone Clocks (Sceptre/Random House, 2014) / David Mitchell
34. Florence Gordon (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) / Brian Morton
35. The Taxidermist’s Daughter (Orion, 2014) / Kate Mosse
36. Us (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) / David Nicholls
37. The Dog (Pantheon, 2015) / Joseph O’Neill
38. When the Night Comes (Hatchette Australia, 2014) / Favel Parrett
39. De Potter’s Grand Tour (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Joanna Scott
40. Quartet for the End of Time (William Heinemann/Hamish Hamilton Canada, 2014) / Johanna Skibsrud
41. How to Be Both (Hamish Hamilton, 2014) / Ali Smith
42. A Sudden Light (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Garth Stein
43. The Paying Guests (Virago/Riverhead, 2014) / Sarah Waters
44. Belzar (Dutton Juvenile, 2014) / Meg Wolitzer
1. The Secret Sky (Philomel Books, 2014) / Atia Abawi
2. Under the Tripoli Sky (trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter) (Peirene Press, 2014) / Kamal Ben Hameda
3. Sons and Fathers (Linda Leith Publishing, 2014) / Daniel Goodwin
4. The Banks of Certain Rivers (Lake Union Publishing, 2014) / Jon Harrison
5. The Bully of Order (Harper Press, 2014) / Brian Hart
6. Rainey Royal (Soho Press, 2014) / Dylan Landis
7. We Are Not Ourselves (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Matthew Thomas
8. Love Me Back (Doubleday, 2014) / Merritt Tierce
1. The Emerald Light in the Air (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Donald Antrim
2. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales (Nan A. Talese/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / Margaret Atwood
3. Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined: The Selected Stories of Stella Duffy (Salt Publishing, 2014) / Stella Duffy
4. The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014 (Anchor, 2014) / Laura Furman (ed.)
5. Doll House (Dock Street Press, 2014) / Sara Lippmann
6. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Fourth Estate/Henry Holt, 2014) / Hilary Mantel
7. Lovely, Dark, Deep (Ecco Press, 2014) / Joyce Carol Oates
8. Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) / Paul Theroux
1. The Whole & Rain-domed Universe (Picador, 2014) / Collette Bryce
2. Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Carcanet Press, 2014) / Louise Glück
3. Habitation: Collected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2014) / Sam Hamill
4. Gabriel: A Poem (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Edward Hirsch
5. Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 2014) / Mark Strand
1. The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us (W.W. Norton, 2014) / Diane Ackerman
2. On Immunity: An Inoculation (Graywolf Press, 2014) / Eula Biss
3. Epilogue: A Memoir (Liveright, 2014) / Will Boast
4. Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) / Tracy Borman
5. Words in Time and Place: Exploring Language Through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 2014) / David Crystal
6. While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal (Seal Press, 2014) / Elizabeth Enslin
7. Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America (Harper, 2014) / Franklin Foer (ed.)
8. A People’s History of the French Revolution (Verso Books, 2014) / Eric Hazan
9. The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Dan Jones
10. Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (W.W. Norton, 2014) / Charles King
12. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (Bloomsbury Circus/W.W. Norton, 2014) / John Lahr
13. The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics (Melville House, 2014) / Kenan Malik
14. Pilgrimage to Iona: Discovering the Ancient Secrets of the Sacred Isle (Watkins Publishing, 2014) / Claire Nahmad
15. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Allen Lane/Viking Adult, 2014) / Steven Pinker
16. Between Gods: A Memoir (Doubleday Canada, 2014) / Alison Pick
17. Women in Dark Times (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / Jacqueline Rose
18. Scorsese: A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson, 2014) / Tom Shone
19. Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin (Penguin Ireland, 2014) / Karl Whitney
20. Victoria: A Life (Atlantic Books, 2014) / A.N. Wilson
Friday, August 15, 2014
The AWFUL, AWFUL Malaysian Authors
I HAVE YET TO FULLY RECOVER from producing a spate of horrendous books these couple of months. Yes, months of slow, mind-numbing torture. All right, let me be honest here, these are really bad books that I am talking about. And I am not joking. Seriously. I am calling them “books” here for lack of a better word. On second thought, “trash” would probably be a more appropriate word to use! Worst of all is being literally forced to produce books from manuscripts that have been rejected, but somehow claw their way back from the depths of Hell to scare the bloody living daylights of Humankind. (These nightmarish books to end all nightmares are lethal enough to kill you instantly!) Publishing in Malaysia is like running on a treadmill; you just go nowhere even after much painstaking exertion. Here are some of my not-so-favourite things about being a book editor!
ONE, authors who are willing to (and actually do) pay others to write about them for them (in biographies or autobiographies) and praise them to high heaven. (In this age of self-absorption, self-aggrandisement and shameless self-promotion, there are people who are so obsessed about seeing their names in print that they are willing to pay others to write their books for them!) Some enjoy praising themselves in their badly self-penned autobiographies!
TWO, authors who are ungrateful to their editors and waste their time when their so-called books fail to make a dent in the local or global marketplace.
THREE, authors who plan their all-important book launches (and the food, of course!) without having completed writing their manuscripts or going through their final proofs. Book launches (at opulent five-star hotels and exclusive golf clubs, no less!) are planned even before the ink on the pages has dried—sometimes even before the book is written! (These are a dime a dozen.) It is so easy to get published in Malaysia; there is only one qualification you need: just write badly! Too many authors fall in this category. (I have edited some of the worst autobiographies not only on this planet but the whole galaxy.) And they are such a waste of precious life and prime retail space.
FOUR, psychotic authors who “hijack” the whole publishing process and behave like prima donnas and divas. (There are many of these prancing around like peacocks and peahens.)
FIVE, authors who think the publishing house belongs to their daddies or granddaddies. Believe it or not, money does buy you everything nowadays—despite what they teach you in philosophy school!
SIX, authors who are under the delusion that they write better than V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and R.K. Narayan put together! (An indepth study definitely should be done to delve into this very strange Malaysian malaise.) This state of overconfidence is frightening.
SEVEN, authors who are supposedly graduates of some of the finest universities on the planet, and yet are unable to string proper sentences together or organise their (unintelligible) prose into paragraphs. (Who was it who said that education makes one a well-rounded person? He obviously haven’t had the misfortune of meeting such a creature as a Malaysian. (“If you can’t do such simple things, you might as well flush your degree down the you-know-where,” a schoolmaster once told me in the late 1960s.)
EIGHT, authors who demand advances even though they have no manuscript to show. (Go figure this one out!) For some reason or other, they also want to know their sales figures before sitting down to write the book they say they were put on earth to write. And (this is a good one) they always want to know when their books will be available in the bookshops (when they have yet to write anything)! (I was told by Mama that this sort of behaviour is rooted in one or a combination of these: traumatic childhood experiences, psychological trauma or defective upbringing!)
NINE, authors who do not allow editors to edit their books (and who, for one reason or other, do not edit their own books themselves, usually due to pure laziness, pomposity or other human flaws which should make the Devil so proud of them). They also demand an assurance from the editor that as editor he will be personally responsible for reading every line or word of the atrocious manuscript to ensure that the book is perfect! They just love contradicting themselves, don’t they? (“Don’t you dare edit my work; you are solely responsible for every mistake that occurs in my book and make sure my author photograph is in colour; I want the graphs and tables to be in colour, too. What do you think?”) It’s no surprise to find more than one preface and/or five or six forewords in these books! This group of authors also loves launching their masterpieces and making a public spectacle of themselves! (On the other hand, there are authors who keep amending their work, even after their books have been on bookstore shelves for months!) Or how about this evergreen: “All my friends and relatives have read my manuscript and they all think it’s perfect; there’s no need for more editing to be done.” Or this chestnut: “Why so many rounds of editing-huh?” Or this: “I need the comma there. I don’t feel comfortable without it.”
TEN, most potential authors just want to get published; it doesn’t really matter whether their writing is good enough. But it does matter in more ways than one as we all very well know.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, authors who cry and wail over the phone and who won’t take no for an answer because they have already invested so little time on the manuscript. (Somehow, they don’t seem to understand why I have rejected their yet-to be-written manuscripts. “I’ll only write it if you want it,” they lament!)
Ironically, authors who write well tend to give editors less problems than those who can’t write!
Rare though they are, I have had the privilege of working with authors who have become great friends over the years. Editing can be a very traumatic experience, but when both writer and editor work well together, the end product is something to behold. I always look forward to working with writers who believe in and are not afraid of rewriting and revising their work; such writers are a joy to work with because they are really passionate about their work and are not afraid of pushing themselves beyond the boundaries.
Do you belong to any or a combination of these stereotypes? I hope not, because these are not exactly role models worth aspiring to!
Friday, August 01, 2014
August 2014 Highlights
“July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden AUGUST sky. A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it.” GERALD DURRELL, from My Family and Other Animals (1956)
1. Before, During, After (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Richard Bausch
2. The Betrayers (Viking, 2014) / David Bezmozgis
3. Lucky Us (Random House, 2014) / Amy Bloom
4. Outlaws (trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean) (Bloomsbury Publishing) / Javier Cercas
5. Sweetland (Doubleday Canada, 2014) / Michael Crummey
6. Falling for Hugh (Doubleday Canada, 2014) / Marina Endicott
7. The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus/Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Richard Flanagan
8. The Secret Place (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014) / Tana French
9. If Not For This (Red Hen Press, 2014) / Peter Fromm
10. The Far Side of the Sun (Sphere, 2014) / Kate Furnivall
12. Tell (HarperCollins Canada, 2014) / Frances Itani
13. The Ghost in the Electric-Blue Suit (published in the U.K. as The Year of the Ladybird) (Doubleday, 2014) / Graham Joyce
14. Twilight of the Eastern Gods (trans. from the French by David Bellos) (Canongate Books, 2014) / Ismail Kadare
15. Windigo Island (Atria Books, 2014) / William Kent Krueger
16. The Lotus and the Storm (Viking, 2014) / Lan Cao
17. Diary of the Fall (trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa) (Other Press, 2014) / Michel Laub
18. The Golden Age (Vintage Australia/Random House Australia, 2014) / Joan London
19. In Search of Solace (Sceptre, 2014) / Emily Mackie
20. Bittersweet (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Colleen McCullough
21. He Wants (Salt Publishing, 2014) / Alison Moore
22. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage (trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel) (Alfred A. Knopf/Harvill Secker, 2014) / Haruki Murakami
23. The Long Way Home (Monotaur Books/Sphere, 2014) / Louise Penny
24. The Sheltering (University of South Carolina Press, 2014) / Mark Powell
25. The Girl Next Door (Hutchinson, 2014) / Ruth Rendell
26. A God in Every Stone (Atavist Books, 2014) / Kamila Shamsie
27. Friendswood (Riverhead, 2014) / Rene Steinke
28. Anna Karenina (a new trans. from the Russian by Rosamund Bartlett) (Oxford University Press, 2014) / Leo Tolstoy
29. The Tongues of Men or Angels (Corsair, 2014) / Jonathan Trigell
30. The Thing About December (Steerforth, 2014) / Donal Ryan
31. The Story Hour (Harper, 2014) / Thrity Umrigar
32. Their Lips Talk of Mischief (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Alan Warner
1. Painted Horses (Grove Press, 2014) / Malcolm Brooks
2. The Miniaturist (Ecco, 2014) / Jessie Burton
3. Season of the Dragonflies (William Morrow, 2014) / Sarah Creech
4. Flying Shoes (Bloomsbury Circus, 2014) / Lisa Howorth
5. A Bad Character (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Deepti Kapoor
6. What Ends (Oneworld Publications, 2014) / Andrew Ladd
7. The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House (Penguin, 2014) / Stephanie Lam
8. California (Little, Brown, 2014) / Edan Lepucki
9. Dear Daughter (Viking Adult/Harvill Secker, 2014) / Elizabeth Little
10. The Feathers (Piscataqua Press, 2014) / Cynthia Lott
11. The Invention of Exile (Penguin Press, 2014) / Vanessa Manko
12. Your Face in Mine (Riverhead, 2014) / Jess Row
13. The Story of Land and Sea (Harper, 2014) / Katy Simpson Smith
14. Man at the Helm (Viking, 2014) / Nina Stibbe
15. The Scatter Here Is Too Great (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Bilal Tanweer
16. We Are Not Ourselves (Simon & Schuster/Fourth Estate, 2014) / Matthew Thomas
17. The Girls from Corona del Mar (Hutchinson, 2014) / Rufi Thorpe
1. Mr. Tall (Little, Brown, 2014) / Tony Earley
2. The Liar’s Wife: Four Novellas (Pantheon, 2014) / Mary Gordon
3. The Dog (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Jack Livings
4. Night: Collected Stories (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Edna O’Brien
5. Flings (Harper, 2014) / Justin Taylor
1. Black Country (Chatto & Windus, 2014) / Liz Berry
2. Poems of the American South (Everyman’s Library, 2014) / David Biespiel (ed.)
3. Standing Shadows (Faber & Faber, 2014) / David Harsent
4. The Stairwell (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Michael Longley
5. Where the Wind Sleeps: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Publishing, 2014) / Neil Monahan
6. New Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Les Murray
7. Moscow in the Plague Year: Poems (trans. from the Russian by Christopher Whyte) (Archipelago, 2014) / Marina Tsvetaeva
1. Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / James Booth
2. Italian Venice: A History (Yale University Press, 2014) / R.J.B. Bosworth
3. Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed: Conversations with Paul Cronin (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Paul Cronin
4. Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (Free Press, 2014) / William Deresiewicz
5. The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / David Eimer
6. Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C.K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy and Translator (Chatto & Windus, 2014) / Jean Findlay
7. This House of Grief (Text Publishing, 2014) / Helen Garner
8. Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial, 2014) / Roxane Gay
9. Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2014) / Adrian Goldsworthy
10. Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Dianne Hales
12. Watching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen from Garbo to Balthazar (Faber & Faber, 2014) / James Harvey
13. The Homing Instinct: The Story and Science of Migration (William Collins, 2014) / Bernd Heinrich
14. The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us (Delphinium, 2014) / Alison Lurie
15. The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (Graywolf Press, 2014) / Carl Phillips
16. Berlin Now: The City After the Fall (trans. from the German by Sophie Schlondorff) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Peter Schneider
17. Susan Sontag: A Biography (trans. from the German by David Dollenmayer) (Northwestern University Press, 2014) / Daniel Schreiber
18. Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918 (Allen Lane, 2014) / Alexander Watson
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
July 2014 Highlights
“They talk about big skies in the western United States, and they may indeed have them, but you have never seen such lofty clouds, such towering anvils, as in Iowa in JULY.” BILL BRYSON, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (2006)
1. The Tightrope Walkers (Penguin, 2014) / David Almond
2. Mr. Gwyn (trans. From the Italian by Ann Goldstein) (McSweeney’s, 2014) / Alessandro Baricco
3. The Incarnations (Doubleday, 2014) / Susan Barker
4. The Disappearance Boy (Bloomsbury Circus, 2014) / Neil Bartlett
5. The Symmetry Teacher (trans. from the Russian by Polly Gannon) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Andrei Bitov
6. Arts & Entertainments (Ecco, 2014) / Christopher Beha
7. Broken Monsters (HarperCollins, 2014) / Lauren Beukes
8. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands (Random House, 2014) / Chris Bohjalian
9. Touched (Hammer, 2014) / Joanna Briscoe
10. Wayfaring Strangers (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / James Lee Burke
12. The Narrow Path to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus, 2014) / Richard Flanagan
13. John the Pupil (Fourth Estate, 2014) / David Flusfeder
14. Sisters of Treason (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Elizabeth Fremantle
15. Vixen (The Borough Press/HarperCollins, 2014) / Rosie Garland
16. The Fortune Hunter (St Martin’s Press, 2014) / Daisy Goodwin
17. Upstairs at the Party (Virago, 2014) / Linda Grant
18. The Emperor Waltz (Fourth Estate, 2014) / Philip Hensher
19. Thirst (Chatto & Windus, 2014) / Kerry Hudson
20. The Sea Garden (Orion, 2014) / Deborah Lawrenson
22. The Hundred-Year House (Viking Adult, 2014) / Rebecca Makkai
23. Little Lies (published as Big Little Lies in the U.S.) (Penguin/Putnam, 2014) / Liane Moriarty
24. The House of Small Shadows (St Martin’s Press, 2014) / Adam Nevill
25. The Final Silence (Harvill Secker, 2014) / Stuart Neville
26. Painting Death (Harvill Secker, 2014) / Tim Parks
27. Breakfast with the Borgias (Hammer Books, 2014) / DBC Pierre
28. In Love and War (Faber & Faber, 2014) / Alex Preston
29. Evergreen (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Rebecca Rasmussen
30. Happy Are the Happy (trans. from the French by Sarah Ardizzone) (Harvill Secker, 2014) / Yasmina Reza
31. Red Joan (Europa Editions, 2014) / Jennie Rooney
32. Skylight (trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa) (Harvill Secker, 2014) / José Saramago
33. The Dark Meadow (trans. from the German by Anthea Bell) (Quercus, 2014) / Andrea Maria Schenkel
34. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (Atria Books, 2014) / Genevieve Valentine
35. The Storms of War (Orion, 2014) / Kate Williams
36. The Care and Management of Lies (Harper/Allison & Busby, 2014) / Jacqueline Winspear
1. Panic in a Suitcase (Riverhead, 2014) / Yelena Akhtiorskaya
2. A Man Called Ove (trans. from the Swedish by Henning Koch) (Atria, 2014) / Fredrik Backman
3. Life Drawing (Random House, 2014) / Robin Black
4. The Miniaturist (Picador, 2014) / Jessie Burton
5. High as the Horses’ Bridles (Henry Holt, 2014) / Scott Cheshire
6. The Angel of Losses (Ecco, 2014) / Stephanie Feldman
7. In the Beginning Was the Sea (trans. from the Spanish by Frank Wynne) (Pushkin Press, 2014) / Tomás González
8. Friendship (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Emily Gould
9. Ishmael’s Oranges (Oneworld Publications, 2014) / Claire Hajaj
10. Love, Love Me Do (Piatkus, 2014) / Mark Haysom
12. The Home Place (William Morrow, 2014) / Carrier La Seur
13. California (Little, Brown, 2014) / Edan Lepucki
14. Lay It On My Heart (Mariner Books, 2014) / Angela Pneuman
15. Last Night at the Blue Angel (William Morrow, 2014) / Rebecca Rotert
16. Mating for Life (Washington Square Press, 2014) / Marissa Stapley
17. The Girls from Corona del Mar (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) / Rufi Thorpe
18. Drifting (Akashic Books, 2014) / Katia D. Ulysse
19. The Great Glass Sea (Grove Press, 2014) / Josh Weil
20. Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead, 2014) / Tiphanie Yanique
1. Noontide Toll (Granta Books, 2014) / Romesh Gunesekera
2. The Best British Short Stories 2014 (Salt Publishing, 2014) / Nicholas Royle (ed.)
3. Animals in Motion (Roundabout Press, 2014) / David Ryan
4. England and Other Stories (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Graham Swift
5. Last Stories and Other Stories (Viking, 2014) / William T. Vollmann
1. The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon Press, 2014) / Lee Harwood
2. Second Childhood (Graywolf Press, 2014) / Fanny Howe
1. Pericles of Athens (trans. from the French by Janet Lloyd) (Princeton University Press, 2014) / Vincent Azoulay
2. The Iceberg: A Memoir (Atlantic Books, 2014) / Marion Coutts
3. The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle (Grove Press, 2014) / Francisco Goldman
4. Watching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen from Garbo to Balthazar (Faber & Faber, 2014) / James Harvey
5. The Critic in the Modern World: Public Criticism from Samuel Johnson to James Wood (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) / James Ley
6. My Two Italies (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014) / Joseph Luzzi
7. H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape, 2014) / Helen Macdonald
8. The Removers: A Memoir (Scribner, 2014) / Andrew Meredith
9. The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee (Penguin Press, 2014) / Marja Mills
10. Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (Shatto & Windus, 2014) / Caroline Moorehead
12. World Without End: The Global Empire of Philip II (Allen Lane, 2014) / Hugh Thomas
13. Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do (Little, Brown, 2014) / Wallace J. Nichols
14. Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces (Simon & Schuster, 2014) / Miles J. Unger
15. More Curious (McSweeney’s, 2014) / Sean Wilsey
16. A Broken World: Letters, Diaries and Memories of the Great War (Hutchinson, 2014) / Sebastian Faulks & Hope Wolf (eds.)