SHOOTING THE BREEZE
HOMEGROWN WRITING TAKING OFF?
By Eric C. Forbes
THE RECENT OUTPUT of homegrown Malaysian books, fiction or otherwise, written by Malaysians for Malaysians and others have been scaling great heights in terms of press coverage and encouraging sales in Malaysian bookshops.
Books such as Lydia Teh’s Honk! If You’re Malaysian (MPH Publishing, 2007), Adibah Amin’s two-volume reissue of As I Was Passing (MPH Publishing, 2007), Tunku Halim’s 44 Cemetery Road: The Best of Tunku Halim (MPH Publishing, 2007), Dina Zaman’s I Am Muslim (Silverfish Books, 2007), Farish A. Noor’s The Other Malaysia (Silverfish Books, 2002) and From Majapahit to Putrajaya (Silverfish Books, 2005), Kam Raslan’s Confessions of an Old Boy: The Dato’ Hamid Adventures (Marshall Cavendish, 2007), Yvonne Lee’s The Sky is Crazy: Tales from a Trolley Dolly (Marshall Cavendish, 2005) and Xeus’s Dark City (Midnight Press, 2006) are obvious testament to this recent phenomenon, perhaps pointing to a growing demand for and appreciation of books by Malaysians. Such a trend has been a long time in coming and hopefully augurs well for the Malaysian publishing industry in the future.
All these in the wake of literary successes of Malaysians overseas: Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory (HarperCollins, 2005), Tan Twan Eng’s The Gift of Rain (Myrmidon, 2007), Tinling Choong’s FireWife (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2007), Rani Manicka’s The Rice Mother (Hodder & Stoughton/Sceptre, 2002) and Beth Yahp’s The Crocodile Fury (Angus & Robertson/HarperCollins Australia, 1992). And poet Shirley Lim, too, of course, one of our perennial favourites, especially Among the White Moon Faces: Memoirs of a Nonya Feminist (Times Books International, 1996).
And who could forget two of my favourite Malaysian books of all time, Rehman Rashid’s self-published A Malaysian Journey (1993), a stylish and nostalgic documentation of the complex Malaysian psyche, and Lee Su Kim’s Malaysian Flavours (Pelanduk, 1996), a dissection of the Malaysian psyche and its quirks and idiosyncrasies.
It is good to know that Malaysian bookshops are taking greater interest and effort to promote Malaysian books by giving them prominent displays and organising book talks and signings. However, more still need to be done, especially in educating the public on the merits of reading and appreciating good literature. The Malaysian press has also been very supportive of Malaysian books in recent years through more book reviews and press interviews. Hopefully, all these efforts will go towards encouraging the flowering of Malaysian English-language literature.
nurture and nourish your spirit and soul with books ...