TASH AW IN KUALA LUMPUR
The toast of Kuala Lumpur
HAD THE HONOUR and privilege of meeting Tash Aw in person and having him signed my copy of The Harmony Silk Factory at MPH Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur. Sadly, there weren't any hardbacks so we had to make do with paperbacks. (As an avid collector of signed first editions, this was indeed a major disappointment.) However, I was lucky enough to get an invite to his launch party on Monday, June 20, 2005! A personable young man, Tash Aw had much to teach Malaysians on how to get their manuscripts published in the United Kingdom and beyond. Believe me, it is no easy feat. First, we had Rani Manicka with the The Rice Mother (2002), now we have Tash Aw, putting Malaysia on the literary map. It is a great feeling seeing fellow Malaysians basking in their success. And with the way things are going, things can only get better!
BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY
And while browsing at the bookshop, I bought a couple of good books:
The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) / Tash Aw
Yes, I bought another copy of this book! And this time it’s for me! An enduring, compelling piece of fiction that deserves to be widely read. Set against the colourful and tumultous backdrop of 1940s Malaya, a crucial period in Malayan history, Tash Aw’s novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, is an engrossing portrait of the mysterious antihero, Johnny Lim, an illiterate tin miner turned textile tycoon, told in three spare, interlinked narrative strands dissecting Lim's psyche and his moral ambiguity. Malaysia's literary pride, Aw's début, a colourful, gripping story told in lucid, uncluttered prose, is not only ambitious and comic, but emotionally engaging as well. He has managed to pull off a remarkable feat of the imagination. What a pleasure it is to read such an accomplished and promising début! A tangled tale that displays intermittent flashes of luminosity.
The Secret Purposes (2004) / David Baddiel
British comedian David Baddiel takes a serious turn with this haunting tale of bigotry, displacement, love and loss. And he succeeds at it.
War Trash (2004) / Ha Jin
Published in 2004, War Trash is the winner of the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; it was also shortlisted for the 2005 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction. Ha Jin clearly demonstrates the fact that language belongs to whoever masters it and make it their own. For instance, how do you explain the fact that Ha Jin has turned out a string of remarkable prize-winning novels and short-story and poetry collections within a period of 15 years, considering the fact that he left his native China in 1985 to study in the United States and only began writing in English in the late 1980s; his first book, a collection of poetry, was published in 1990. Imaginative and full of originality and historical details, Ha Jin writes with dark humour and an economical yet evocative prose style, and has given birth to a powerful treatise on the human condition and on what being human means.
A Change of Climate (1994) / Hilary Mantel
A profound black comedy that poses moral questions that can never be resolved.
Fludd (1989) / Hilary Mantel
The Turning (2004) / Tim Winton
Neither a novel nor a collection of stories in the traditional sense, Tim Winton’s latest work is a beautiful collection of interlinked short stories set in small-town Western Australia. Jem Poster in the Guardian calls Tim Winton “a writer … whose work is informed by an intimate but unsentimental connection with a particular landscape and the lives it sustains. Rich in specific and sharply realised detail - the mingled smells of wild lupins and estuary mud, sparks struck at twilight from scuffed white sand, the haze of banksia scrub in the rolling swamplands - these stories convey the quiet authority of a man at ease in a fictional territory he can legitimately call his own.”
AW Tash [1972-] Novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: winner of the 2004 Whitbread Award for First Novel; shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize for First Fiction, Southeast Asia and South Pacific; longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Guardian First Book Award)
BADDIEL David [1964-] Novelist, comedian, critic. Born in England. NOVELS The Secret Purposes (2004); Whatever Love Means (1999); Time for Bed (1996)
JIN Ha [1956-] Novelist, short-story writer, poet. Born Jin Xuefei in Liaoning, China. NOVELS War Trash (2004: winner of the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); The Crazed (2002); Waiting (1999: winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); In the Pond (1998) STORIES The Bridegroom (2000: 2001 Asian American Literary Award); Under the Red Flag (1997: winner of the 1997 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and shortlisted for the 1998 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); Ocean of Words: Army Stories (1996: winner of the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction) POETRY Wreckage (2001); Facing Shadows (1996); Between Silences: A Voice from China (1990)
MANTEL Hilary [1952-] Novelist, short-story writer, memoirist. Born Hilary Thompson in Glossop, Derbyshire, England. NOVELS Beyond Black (2005: longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Giant, O’Brien (1998); An Experiment in Love (1995: winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize for Imaginative Literature); A Change of Climate (1994); A Place of Greater Safety (1992: winner of the 1992 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award); Fludd (1989: winner of the 1990 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the 1990 Cheltenham Literary Festival Prize and the 1990 Southern Arts Literature Prize); Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988); Vacant Possession (1986); Every Day is Mother’s Day (1985) STORIES Learning to Talk (2003) MEMOIR Giving Up the Ghost (2003: shortlisted for the 2004 Duff Cooper Prize for Nonfiction)
WINTON Tim [1960-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Perth, Western Australia. NOVELS Dirt Music (2001: winner of the 2001 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, the 2002 Miles Franklin Award and the 2002 NSW Premier’s Literary Award; shortlisted for the 2002 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); The Riders (1994: winner of the 1995 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Novel in the Southeast Asia and South Pacific region; shortlisted for the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction); Cloudstreet (1991: winner of the 1992 Miles Franklin Award, the Banjo Award and the Deo Gloria Prize); An Open Swimmer (1982: joint winner of the 1981 The Australian/Vogel Prize); Shallows (1984: winner of the 1984 Miles Franklin Award); That Eye, The Sky (1986); In the Winter Dark (1988) STORIES The Turning (2004: winner of the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Award/Christina Stead Prize for Fiction); Blood and Water (1993); Minimum of Two (1987); Scission and Other Stories (1985: winner of the 1985 West Australian Council Week Literary Award) NONFICTION Down to Earth (with photographs by Richard Woldendorp) (1999); Local Color: Travels in the Other Australia (1994); Land’s Edge (with Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood) (1993) CHILDREN’S The Deep (with illustrations by Karen Louise) (1998); Blueback: A Contemporary Fable (1997); Lockie Leonard, Legend (1997); Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster (1993); The Bugalugs Bum Thief (1991); Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo (1990); Jesse (1988)