Friday, 17 October 2014

Book Marks: Excerpts, Endings, Etc

Author Raja Azmi Raja Sulaiman was reportedly barred from UIAM Kuantan over her novel's content (I mistakenly referred to the author as "he" when tweeting this for the first time).

The article is in Malay, but the gist is that Raja Azmi was supposed conduct a dialogue session about her writing career and her novel Karkuma with students at the International Islamic University campus in Kuantan during its open day tomorrow (18 October). The university's administration apparently cancelled the event over certain elements in that novel. The author is, understandably, disappointed (also in Malay).

Part of an excerpt from The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang by Jonathon Green, which reads thus (paragraph split):

Slang's literary origins are widespread and ever-expanding. Its social roots, however, are narrow and focused: the city. If, as has been suggested, the story of standard English is that of a London language, so too is that of English slang. And the pattern would be repeated elsewhere as colonies became independent and rural settlements became major conurbations.

London's chroniclers had always noted the urban vocabularies, though none before the eighteenth century had rendered their discoveries lexicographical. The pioneer of such investigations, John Stow, laying out Elizabethan London in his Survey of London (1598), had barely touched on language (his text offers gong farmer, a latrine cleaner, night-walker, a thief, and white money, meaning silver coins). In time those who told London's story would offer a far more central position to the city's speech, alongside its population and topography.

India's home-grown thriller writers are sneaking up on international names on the best-seller lists. Some possible reasons:

Some attribute the rise of the thriller to publishers being more willing to take risks in what was once a very conservative market; others to the hundreds of millions of young, literate people in India who for the first time can afford books priced at about £1. There has also long been a strong pulp fiction tradition in local languages, particularly Bengali, Urdu and Tamil.

The thrillers also provide a sense of accountability, which resonates with readers in a country of deep inequality where systems of justice are profoundly flawed. Many feature investigative journalists on the trail of corrupt big businesses or politicians in league with the police or judges.

Apparently, Benjamin Hale (The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve, 2011)) can't review a novel because he didn't like it. So he wrote a letter, presumably to an editor, to explain:

This book has been an anchor around my neck ever since you sent me a galley back in the winter. I have finally clawed my way out to page 700-something and still the remaining 300-some pages loom ahead, foreboding and without promise. At some point in the more than six months it's taken me to get this far into the book, I started forcing myself to read it by taking it to the gym with me. It made sense for the task of reading this book to accompany my trying to lose weight on the stationary cycle: both are joyless, laborious, repetitive chores done in a state of squinty-eyed perspiration and only in the distant hope that, eventually, I will finally get rid of something heavy.

No clue as to which novel he's referring to (I really want to know!). But it sounds like one of those that are laboriously difficult to read - and possibly write. A "good" book by some standards but "difficult" by others.

Could this be a creative way of commenting on whether "good" books must also give the reader some pleasure in the slog, or merely a rant by someone who can't finish a book and wants out of a commitment?

From how The Sopranos ended, an anatomy of endings. Why do we seem so hung up over "The End"?

Endings haunt us because they are our mortality formalized. They give us a simulated symbolic version of our own endings, which are either the Clincher, sudden and unexpected and ironically right, or else the Closer, the deathbed gathering. The grim trick, of course, is that, as long as we maintain the sense of an ending, it isn't over.

...As long as a sense of the ending hovers, the story goes on. We close the book, leave the theatre, shut off the screen, and return to the world, bewildered, maybe, but still breathing. In this way, a bad finish is a great gift, indignation at an unsatisfying ending being the surest sign of life.

Australian novelist Elizabeth Harrower is "rediscovered" through her re-issued works. What to expect:

Harrower's writing is witty, desolate, truth-seeking, and complexly polished. Everything (except feeling, which is passionately and directly confessed) is controlled and put under precise formal pressure. Her sentences, which have an unsettling candor, launch a curling assault on the reader, often twisting in unexpected ways. And although her novels can feel somewhat closed, and tend to repeat themselves in theme, her prose is full of variety.

"North America is a crime scene"? An excerpt from An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. A taste (paragraph split):

Jodi Byrd writes: "The story of the new world is horror, the story of America a crime." It is necessary, she argues, to start with the origin of the United States as a settler-state and its explicit intention to occupy the continent. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. Any true history of the United States must focus on what has happened to (and with) Indigenous peoples—and what still happens.

It's not just past colonialist actions but also "the continued colonization of American Indian nations, peoples, and lands" that allows the United States "to cast its imperialist gaze globally" with "what is essentially a settler colony's national construction of itself as an ever more perfect multicultural, multiracial democracy," while "the status of American Indians as sovereign nations colonized by the United States continues to haunt and inflect its raison d'etre."


  • Fixi is calling for entries for Cyberpunk: Malaysia, the next Fixi Novo anthology, which will be edited by Zen Cho (Spirits Abroad (Fixi Novo, 2014)). The deadline's 31 December. The first entries came in several hours after the announcement. It's like these writers have something lying in wait somewhere for just such an occasion.
  • In The Guardian, The Man Booker Prize in numbers. The Prize is significant this year because it's been opened to American authors, but it was Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North that scooped up this year's award.
  • From The New Yorker, some chef stories, including Anthony Bourdain's "Don't eat before reading this", plus pieces on Mario Batali, David Chang, Julia Child, Alice Waters and Grant Achatz.
  • Why do books come out in hardback before paperback? The Economist explains:

    Known as "windowing", this sales strategy is also used in the film industry, where titles are released in the cinema several months before being sold on DVD. Like cinema tickets, hardcover books generate more profit per unit than paperbacks. And just as cinephiles like to see films on the big screen, collectors enjoy the hardback's premium quality. ...Hardbacks' durability means they are also popular with libraries. And they hold a certain snob value, too: literary editors traditionally don't review paperbacks.

    Also from The Economist: the future of the book.
  • Ten grammar mistakes that aren't - sort of.


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