Sunday, May 06, 2007

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 ...

12 Comments:

Blogger Kak Teh said...

Eric, during my last trip to malaysia, I bought so many books by Malaysian writers and indeed these are the kind of books that I look out for. These are the kind of books to keepme company. I also buy these books as presents to my english friends. They love them.
so,Eric and MPH - keep publishing them!

Sunday, May 06, 2007 2:34:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

I'm very inspired by these recent trends and I hope to keep on nurturing Malaysian writers!

Sunday, May 06, 2007 5:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chet said...

Eric - it's one thing to nurture Malaysian writers, but beyond the writing and the publishing, there's also the marketing and publicity. MPH bookstores need to do something about better displays for Malaysian books, and not just Malaysian books published by MPH!

Sunday, May 06, 2007 6:40:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

You are so right, Chet. All Malaysian books, whether published by MPH Publishing or other publishers, must be promoted equally and must be given a fair share of the market and the readership they deserve.

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local books used to be looked upon with much disdain by Malaysians despite the fact that some Malaysian writers are excellent. There seems to be a change of attitude in recent years. I think this change of attitude is very healthy for the Malaysian publishing industry.

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:02:00 AM  
Blogger Lydia Teh said...

Eric, it's a very encouraging trend indeed. After spending so many years in the publishing industry, don't you feel a sense of satisfaction that at last it is taking off somewhere. I'm sure these past couple of years have seen some exciting changes for you. By the way, are you the only book editor of a publishing house that has a blog? Do you know of others? Thanks for believing in Honk!

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:31:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

After spending so many years in the wilderness of the publishing industry, I do feel a sense of satisfaction that at last things are picking up. But, Lydia, with this encouraging trend new challenges emerge. The bookshops, for instance. But let's not talk about bookshops today, shall we. I am not sure whether I am the only book editor of a publishing house that has a blog. I have not met any other book editors with a blog. Should be fun if they write in. It has been great working with you through the years. Looking forward to many more.

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:41:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

And just when you think it is perfectly save to go back to the waters, more bad manuscripts land on my desk - drowning me in the depths of despair!

Monday, May 07, 2007 5:55:00 AM  
Anonymous richard jacobson said...

eric,

i suspect the explosion of online social networking - particularly the blogging culture - has had a role to play in the increased awareness and interest in Malaysian writing.

Monday, May 07, 2007 6:41:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

Yes, Richard, I think you are right about the explosion of blogging having an impact on Malaysian writing. Not all technology is bad. Technology can be postive too.

Monday, May 07, 2007 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Yvonne Lee said...

Hi Eric! Thanks for the mention of my book.

Yes, local writing is very happening now and please please let me know ASAP when the new travelogue you are handling for Adeline ( is that right?) comes out, in July, right?

I'm just as excited about our homegrown authors and have been buying their books as a show of support.

I must mention too that I have great interest in works of the young writers like the first anthology, "Living It!"

I hope the second anthology, " Forward and Rewind" ( or is it the other way round?) will do very well.

That should encourage the kids to write more. Are they paid?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007 1:39:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

Hello Yvonne - REWIND, FAST FORWARD, the follow-up to LIVING IT!, is already out and selling well. It is great to encourage the young to write because writing can be very fulfilling!

Thursday, May 10, 2007 5:14:00 AM  

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