Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shih-Li KOW makes it to the Frank O'Connor Prize Shortlist

MALAYSIAN short-story writer Shih-Li Kow has made it to the shortlist of the 2009 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize with her first collection, Ripples and Other Stories (Silverfish Books, 2008). [Last year, Singaporean Wena Poon was longlisted for the same prize for her first collection of stories, Lions in Winter (MPH Group Publishing, 2007).] This is indeed a wonderful achievement for Malaysian and Singaporean literature in English. The Frank O’Connor is of course the world’s richest award for a collection of short stories. Previous winners of this prestigious prize include Yiyun Li, Haruki Murakami, Miranda July and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Others on the shortlist include Petina Gappah for her début collection, An Elegy for Easterly (Faber & Faber, 2009); Charlotte Grimshaw for her second collection, Singularity (Vintage New Zealand, 2009); Philip O Ceallaigh for his second collection, The Pleasant Light of Day (Penguin Ireland, 2009); and Wells Tower for Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Granta UK, 2009); and Simon Van Booy for Love Begins in Winter (HarperCollins US, 2009).

Casualties from the longlist include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mary Gaitskill, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sana Krasikov, James Lasdun and Ali Smith.

The winner of the 2009 prize will be announced on September 20, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jill DAWSON ... The Great Lover (Sceptre, 2009)

Friday, June 26, 2009

2009 PEN/Ackerley Prize for the Memoir

THE FOLLOWING AUTHORS have been shortlisted for the 2009 PEN/Ackerley Prize for the Memoir:

1. Nothing to be Frightened Of (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Julian Barnes
2. The Three of Us (Jonathan Cape, 2008) / Julia Blackburn
3. My Judy Garland Life (Virago, 2008) / Susie Boyt
4. Cold Cream: My Early Life and Other Mistakes (Bloomsbury, 2008) / Ferdinand Mount
5. If You Don’t Know Me By Now: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton (Penguin Viking, 2008) / Sathnam Sanghera

The winner of the best memoir will be announced on July 13, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Colum McCANN

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Edward HOGAN wins the 2009 Desmond Elliott Prize

EDWARD HOGAN has won the £10,000 2009 Desmond Elliott Prize for his first novel, Blackmoor (Simon & Schuster, 2008), a story set during the miners’ strikes in Derbyshire.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Monday, June 22, 2009

What I Found at the Bookshops

1. Map of the Invisible World (HarperCollins, 2009) / Tash Aw
2. The Great Lover (Sceptre, 2009) / Jill Dawson
3. Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder (Piatkus/Little, Brown, 2009) / Shamini Flint
4. The Whole Day Through (Fourth Estate, 2009) / Patrick Gale
5. The Facts of Life (Fourth Estate) / Patrick Gale
6. Rough Music (Fourth Estate) / Patrick Gale
7. Border Songs (Bloomsbury, 2009) / Jim Lynch
8. Molly Fox’s Birthday (Faber & Faber, 2008/2009) / Deirdre Madden
9. Bone China (Harper Press, 2008/HarperPerennial, 2009) / Roma Tearne
10. Man Gone Down (Atlantic Books, 2007/2009) / Michael Thomas

1. Between the Assassinations (Atlantic Books, 2009) / Aravind Adiga
2. Friendly Fire (trans. from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies) (Fourth Estate, 2009) / Alaa Al Aswany
3. The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) / Laura Furman (ed.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Abby WONG ... On apologising to books

A former book merchandising manager at Kinokuniya Bookstores, Suria KLCC, ABBY WONG used to talk to books while displaying them on the shelves. But she is not crazy.

HAVE YOU EVER APOLOGISED TO A BOOK? I have, for not buying it and taking it home with me. I swear it seemed to me that the book winked back in a funny little way. It happens to me all the time whenever I am in a bookstore. As I sashay down the aisles, my eyes dart from one book to another, checking out their titles and pretty covers. The popular books will simply smile and wink when you check them out; the obscure ones scream, “You don’t know what you are missing.”

“Sorry, I can’t,” I reply apologetically to them—in a whisper, lest customers nearby think I am mad. I glide on, still looking for that one book that will keep me alive for another week or so.

Ferocious consumer of books that I am, the written word is my fodder, the smell of books is the scent that keeps me awake. But books are so expensive these days that my monthly allowance does not allow hasty purchases. Isn’t that true for you, too, dear reader?

But every time I walk into a bookstore, stacks of newly published titles warmly greet and cajole me with their shiny grins and lilting chirping, making them impossible to ignore.

The entrance is, naturally, where bookstores tend to display their latest titles, which makes this area the most “deafening”. Attractive and bright in colour, these new books tweet and cheep energetically, each attempting to outshine one another. It is rather vexing to have to ignore Charlaine Harris’s Dead and Gone, but my heart yearns for crafters of beautiful sentences and weavers of enchanting stories. Stride on!

The purring, barking, roaring, and quaking start even before I get to the children’s books section. From afar the animal characters can smell me, a sucker for picture books who will buy anything that makes my daughter laugh.

As she progresses from board books to the more expensive picture books, my hope of buying for each of us a book a week diminishes. And, as mothers do, I usually end up buying a book for her and leave the bookstore aching, full of unsatisfied longing myself.

All the brawling happening elsewhere in the store cannot smother the articulate voices of the storytellers, for they are voices of imposing elegance and style. They seduce me easily into the comfortable Literature nook, a section I am most fond of. I can spend hours browsing around this section, drooling over books that I have not read and feeling nostalgic about those I have.

Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips makes my knees go weak once again, as it conjures up images of Japanese soldiers storming a little village in China and killing unarmed villagers by the thousands. And for how long will Jeffrey Eugenides leave me flabbergasted with his tale of a hermaphrodite in Middlesex? For as long as I live. So resonant are these stories, they enable me to escape momentarily through a secret route from real life’s hustle and bustle to fictitious comfort.

I utter a sheepish sorry to Kazuo Ishiguro for not picking up his latest work, Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. Tucked away on a shelf at almost ceiling height is Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, a book that I have always wanted to read but have never got round to it. That, too, will have to wait. Sorry.

Because paid for and tucked away in my bag now is Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s latest, The Angel’s Game. I swooned helplessly over his first book, The Shadow of the Wind, so I cannot wait to get home and, through that secret route, revisit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where books wake up when no one is around.

Reproduced from The Sunday Star of June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Friday, June 19, 2009

Tim WINTON wins his 4th Miles Franklin

PERTH-BASED Australian novelist TIM WINTON has won his fourth Miles Franklin Award for his eighth novel, Breath (Hamish Hamilton, 2008), a coming-of-age story set in the world of surfing, it was announced on Thursday, June 18, 2009. With this feat, he is the first writer to win Australia’s most prestigious literary award four times. (The late Thea Astley, of course, won it four times, but was a joint winner on two occasions.) Winton won his first Miles Franklin in 1984 for Shallows. He also won the award in 1992 and 2002 for Cloudstreet and Dirt Music respectively. He was shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize for The Riders in 1995 and Dirt Music in 2002.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Faber Firsts

FABER & FABER, one of my favourite publishers, turns 80 in 2009. Here are some of my favourite first books from Faber & Faber:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SINI SANA Travels in Malaysia


THE DIVERSE CULTURES of Malaysia invite travellers both local and foreign to marvel at towering cityscapes where modernity dazzles with luxury or go through old trunk roads surrounded by oil-palm plantations to get to breathtaking mountains, caves, beaches and the tropical rainforests. And, of course, every traveller is amazed by food that can be exotic or a fusion of everything you know!

Perhaps during a jungle trek, you stumbled upon an enchanting place, or had a non-fatal encounter with wild animals. Maybe you once spent an afternoon befriending villagers who had never met an urbanite off the beaten track before. If you were a journalist invited on a ‘famtrip,’ did you encounter something outside the usual itinerary of visiting the most popular marketplaces, skyscrapers and restaurants? You might have enjoyed the tranquillity of a hideaway before it was discovered and destroyed in the name of progress and development. Here is a chance for you to recapture those moments.

MPH GROUP PUBLISHING is looking for true travellers’ tales, preferably on places outside the tourist hubs of Malaysia. Stories should be in the form of travellogues with rich, firsthand descriptions of sights and sounds and smells and even tastes. We want engaging stories that will move us to visit the places for ourselves and also to understand why we should preserve the beauty of such places. This is not a travel guide; we do not want to know just where to visit and how to get there. We do not want photographs; the words in the story should be more than enough to capture all the wonders and splendours. We want the literariness in travel writing; we want the poetry of travel. Tentatively titled Sini Sana: Travels in Malaysia, we aim to publish the anthology in 2010, depending on the number and quality of submissions we receive.

Travel stories must be original, nonfiction, between 3,000 and 5,000 words, must not have been previously published and must be in the English language. We invite submissions from both emerging and established writers. Manuscripts must be edited, typed double-spaced with a 12-point font and emailed to editorial@mph.com.my. Please include your name, address, telephone number and email address. You may submit as many pieces as you wish. Faxed or handwritten submissions will not be entertained and manuscripts will not be returned. We will contact you only if your piece has been chosen for inclusion in the collection. Writers whose submissions are selected will be expected to work with the editors to polish their stories.

Deadline: September 30, 2009
Payment: A small flat fee and two copies of the published collection

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

John HO ... Scary Ever After (MPH Publishing, 2009)

A Collection of Horror Comics

Written and Illustrated by John HO

SCARY EVER AFTER is MPH Group Publishing’s very first graphic fiction. It is a collection of seven horror comics depicts the supernatural and the mysterious, the other dimensions of our lives largely unexplored until they jump out at us from the darkness.

You will meet vampires and werewolves, visit Fairyland and an eerie haunted house with dire consequences, see five teenagers stuck in an unexplained ring, and watch earthly and unearthly worlds collide.

John Ho’s début collection will definitely intrigue fans of intricate artwork and stories that disturb and leave a lingering, uncanny feeling in the mind.

Monday, June 15, 2009


LOOK OUT for my interviews with Janice Y.K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher (Viking/Harper Press, February 2009); Simon Robson, author of The Separate Heart and Other Stories (Jonathan Cape, 2007), a collection of ten stories that was shortlisted for the 2007 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and a forthcoming novel, The Observatory by Daylight (Jonathan Cape, 2010); Mo Zhi Hong, author of The Year of the Shanghai Shark (Penguin New Zealand, 2008), which recently won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Southeast Asia & South Pacific); Lau Siew Mei, author of Playing Madame Mao and The Dispeller of Worries (Marshall Cavendish, March 2009); Charlotte Bacon, author of the novel, Split Estate (Picador USA, 2008), and a story collection, A Private State, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction in 1997; Jim Lynch, author of The Highest Tide and the forthcoming Border Songs (Alfred A. Knopf, June 2009); Alice Pung, author of the family memoir, Unpolished Gem: My Mother, My Grandmother, and Me, and editor of the collection, Growing Up Asian in Australia; Shamini Flint, author of the brand-new Inspector Singh Investigates crime series; and Miguel Syjuco, winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize for the forthcoming novel, Ilustrado (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010).

TAN MAY LEE has interviewed Sydney-based Antony Loewenstein, author of the best-selling book, My Israel Question, a controversial discussion of one of the most important issues of our time, as well as The Blogging Revolution, a searching examination of the ways the Internet is threatening the rule of some of the planet’s most repressive governments. Also her interview with Tash Aw, author of The Harmony Silk Factory, who was recently in Kuala Lumpur on a book tour in conjunction with the publication of his second novel, Map of the Invisible World.

DEEPIKA SHETTY has also interviewed Vikas Swarup, best-selling author of Q&A (Slumdog Millionaire) and Six Suspects.

JANET TAY has interviewed Brian Leung, author of Lost Men and World Famous Love Acts; Yiyun Li, author of the prize-winning A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Vagrants (Random House/Fourth Estate, 2009); Mohammed Hanif, the Man Booker Prize-longlisted author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Jonathan Cape/Random House, 2008) and the recent winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book; and Nobel Prize-winner J.M. Coetzee, who has a new novel, Summertime (Harvill Secker/Random House), coming out in September 2009.

SHARON BAKAR has interviewed Hari Kunzru, author of My Revolutions, Transmission and The Impressionist.