Wednesday, 26 November 2014

MPH Quill Issue 43, October to December 2014

In this, the last issue of MPH Quill, the cover and main story feature three authors from the MPH Masterclass Kitchens series: dietitian Goo Chui Hoong, baker Ezekiel Ananthan and cooking instructor Sapna Anand. Get to know them.


  • Three more personalities: Daphne Iking, Zlwin Chew and Owen Yap shares stuff they can't do without - books, gadgets and ... stuff.
  • Who are the minds behind Malaysian YouTube video channel The Ming Thing and videos such as "Let Me Sleep", "Your Accent Come from Where", "How to Eat Mashed Potatoes" and "How to know You're a Malaysian"?
  • Regular contributors Ellen Whyte and Shantini Suntharajah share time-saving tips and ways to boost your self-esteem, respectively. Also by the former, the lowdown on collective nouns for animals, six herbs to need to get acquainted with, and a quiz to gauge how romantic you are.
  • Three book launches: Made in Malaysia by freelancer and columnist Alexandra Wong, new and reprinted collections by Datuk Lat, and Sofia Leong Abdullah's guide to the franchising industry in Malaysia.
  • A couple of recipes from another Masterclass Kitchen cookbook: The Fat Spoon Cookbook for the upcoming festive season.

And more.

Soon to arrive at all good bookstores, for the last time.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Book Marks: RA Montgomery, Libraries, And Ursula K Le Guin's Speech

An era died a bit more last week with the passing of Glen A Larson, writer of the series my generation grew up with (Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, BJ and the Bear, etc.); and R. A. Montgomery, author and publisher of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.


  • As part of a conference organised by the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL) in the UK, four young readers talked about the power of libraries and librarians. Author and professional speaker Nicola Morgan was impressed with what they had to say.
  • The publisher of (deep breath, please) Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: The Plane, the Passengers—and the True Story of What Happened to the Missing Aircraft says the new book, coming out early next year, "solves mystery of MH370" - except that author says it doesn't. But seems the publisher also screwed up when selecting the cover.
  • When freelance journalist Mridu Khullar Relph spoke to an editor at TIME, he shares some tips on how to pitch one's queries. Also: writer Catalina Rembuyan put together this basic guide on e-book publishing (in Facebook, so you gotta log in, BOO) for Malaysian authors - more than just a primer for those considering digital publishing.
  • Y'all heard about Ursula K Le Guin's speech at National Book Awards? Here it is.
  • Andrew MacGregor Marshall, author of A Kingdom in Crisis, is apparently "delighted" the book is banned by Thai police. In other words: free publicity.
  • How the religious right bought its way into the New York Times best-seller list. Shocked? Don't be. It's not new.
  • New York Times book critic Dwight Garner on reading, reviewing and avoiding blindness.
  • Publishers get kicked out of the Sharjah International Book Fair over copyright violations and other issues.
  • Publishers Pearson and McGraw-Hill pledge to remove climate change denial from their textbooks.
  • Black-market crime fiction and spy novels are becoming popular in North Korea, where titles are available for rent. Considering the level of intrigue in the Hermit Kingdom, this shouldn't surprise anyone. I remember reading about crime and noir fiction being popular in Cairo because audiences kind of relate to what's in them.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Book Marks: Pioneer Girl, Bezos's Behemoth, And Lang Leav

Howard Yoon, literary agent and partner at the Ross Yoon Agency in Washington DC, admits that:

There's been a lot of talk about this lately, brought about by the much-publicized dispute between Hachette and Amazon. As a nonfiction literary agent, I wouldn't hesitate to agree that this industry has serious problems, and I think most of my colleagues would agree.


As imperfect as our business is, anyone who wants to write a book of lasting value, a book that can change the way people think about the world, a book that can get national and possibly global distribution in real hard copies, knows that the traditional publishing path is still the best path to take.

Let him tell you why.

Though the Amazon-Hachette spat appears to have ended, it's perhaps a matter of time before the next tussle begins.


  • "For generations, the Little House books have stood as the canonical versions of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood story," writes Ruth Graham in Slate. Now comes her autobiography, first drafted in 1930 and annotated and published after more than 80 years later.
  • "Anthony Powell's bleak first book is the funniest novel you've never read." This review almost made me run out and get a copy.
  • The poet Lang Leav will be in town on 30 November. Get to know her and her work (a little) before then.
  • Amir Muhammad was at the Sharjah International Book Fair to, among other things, talk about translating works in other languages. We're all familiar with how Amir's ability to ... lighten things up, but Publisher's Weekly could have picked better soundbites.
  • A Q&A with Lydia Millet, author of Mermaids in Paradise.
  • Mexico's "most erotic poet and its most dangerous nun"? A look at a new translation of the works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
  • "I think this is one of the strongest shortlists in recent years, containing some real literary heavyweights," said Literary Review magazine's Jonathan Beckman about this year's candidates for the Bad Sex Award.

    Among the lucky ones are The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, The Age of Magic by Ben Okri and Desert God by Wilbur Smith.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunshine On A Plate

My preoccupation with pasta dishes might have something to do with how versatile I find them. Plus, pastas are becoming a great alternative to rice in my kitchen.

I haven't come up with a name for one pasta dish I cooked up, but I suspect it might already have one: this thing with fresh tomatoes, anchovies (not ikan bilis), garlic and the optional lemon zest and hot sauce.

Let's call it sunshine pasta.

"Sunshine", because it's bright in colour and taste and relatively light. I don't know what I'd call it if you threw in, say, a few lardons of bacon or lamb ragù.

But the lemon zest fits, and I've wanted something with anchovies aka orang putih punya ikan bilis for a quick throw-together when I can't decide where to eat out.

I'd go easy with the hot sauce, though; too much and you'd have a plate of scorching Sahara rather than the tepid tropics.

Mise-en-place for "sunshine pasta"

First, your mise en place (prep): chop or dice a tomato or two, seeds removed. Thinking of keeping the wet jelly-like mess next time. Then, mince two to three cloves of garlic and slice three or four shallots (which you can substitute with a medium-sized red onion).

Pour some hot sauce (maybe two tablespoons) into a bowl and mash an anchovy or two in it, depending on the size. Some anchovies can be as big as small sardines and salty as heck. If that's the case, I won't salt the pasta water.

Boil your pasta as usual. I like mine al dente. Whether it's fusilli, shells or spaghetti, I'd add several extra pieces to test the texture - which is why I don't bother with timing here.

When it yields under your teeth like a stick of chewing gum (without the crunch of the uncooked stuff), take it out of the water. If you're going to throw the pasta back into the pot to cook with the sauce, take it out sooner, maybe a couple of minutes.

You can mix a bit of the pasta water to the hot sauce-anchovy mix but plain water's also fine. Give it a taste; if it's too salty, junk some of the sauce. Otherwise, you can adjust the seasoning later.

Sunshine on a plate, whatever the weather

Plate the pasta and toss it with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking. Some would run the whole lot through cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further (from the residual heat), but I don't. Often, it's not necessary.

Fry up the garlic for several minutes in oil, then throw in the tomatoes, followed by a little water. Let the lot simmer for a few minutes, then start mashing with a fork until you're satisfied with the texture. I usually lift the pot off the heat for this.

Onto the heat for one more stir and in goes the hot sauce-anchovy mix. Give it a quick stir - beware of any fumes from the hot sauce - and toss the pasta in. Stir for a minute or two to let the flavours get in before plating it.

The lemon zest can go in before or after plating, but be sure to toss and stir well before serving.

Sunshine on a plate.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Book Marks: Wylie Guy, Touchy Pianist

At the at the International Festival of Authors, Andrew Wylie talks about the state of the publishing industry. He said a few other things as well, elsewhere, and they're worth noting.

  • A touchy pianist asks The Washington Post to remove a 'bad' review of one of his concerts under the EU's "right to be forgotten" ruling - and now everybody knows why it 'sucked'.
  • Literary agents share some of the worst ways to start a novel, just in time for NaNoWriMo.
  • The Boss reveals the books and authors that inspired him.
  • Not "Waitressrant" - Stephanie Danler and her six-figure novel Sweetbitter.

...Yes, not much from the book world interested me last week. Work's picking up again, and I'm hitting a trough in the creativity department.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Book Marks: Cli-Fi, Horror, And Mainstreaming Fan Fiction

Climate fiction (a.k.a "cli-fi") is hot right now; just ask Paolo Bacigalupi, who told Salon:

"I'm definitely writing my fears," Bacigalupi says. "It's almost therapeutic to at least voice a terror, to say, ‘I'm worried that Lake Powell looks low and Lake Mead looks even lower.' My brain was always wired to worry about what happens if this goes on, what happens if this gets worse?"

Bacigalupi says he's happiest when unaware of what's happening around him. "I think we've all found that. That's why really good news reporting is in decline and why BuzzFeed quizzes are on the rise. We're all happier when we know less, because the details are frightening and haven't really improved much. The more you pay attention, the more horrifying the world is."

What Bacigalupi has written (The Windup Girl, Ship Breaker) can be considered "cli-fi". The term was apparently coined by Dan Bloom, a journalist and self-described "public relations climate activist")

But what does Bacigalupi feel about that? "I didn't think of myself as writing ‘cli-fi' but I'll take the label," he replied. "I'll take any label that makes someone think they might be interested in my stories."

"Finding light in China's darkness: Why Yan Lianke writes:

I am reminded of Job, in the Old Testament, who after experiencing countless misfortunes said to his wife as she was urging him to curse God, "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" This simple response demonstrates that Job understood that his suffering was merely God's way of testing him, and was evidence that darkness and light must exist together.

I don't pretend that I have been uniquely selected by God, as Job was, to endure suffering, but I do know that I am somehow fated to perceive darkness. From these shadows I lift my pen to write. I search for love, goodness and a perpetually beating heart.

A book by investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez might shed new light on the murder of Matthew Shepard, reports The Guardian:

Jimenez found that Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He also took significant sexual risks and was being pimped alongside Aaron McKinney, one of his killers, with whom he'd had occasional sexual encounters. He was HIV positive at the time of his death.

"This does not make the perfect poster boy for the gay-rights movement," says Jimenez. "Which is a big part of the reason my book has been so trashed."

From Fifty Shades to After: Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream. From The Washington Post:

"The books we love the most are the ones where you close the book and you're still thinking about those characters," said Carrie Bebris, author of the "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries," in which the main characters of Austen's beloved "Pride and Prejudice" solve mysteries together. "We want to be drawn into their lives again, because we didn't get enough the first time."


  • Three horror writers: Tunku Halim, Julya Oui and Eeleen Lee on Malaysian horror fiction - and maybe why it's time for our authors to look into the crypts in our backyards for a good scare. Just in time for Halloween.
  • Someone wrote to The Star asking for improved accessibility to online Malay literature. Can someone make this happen?
  • Two books: Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia by Swiss human rights campaigner Lukas Straumann and The Peaceful People: The Penan and their Fight for the Forest by Aussie journalist Paul Malone were launched in Kuching. "Surprising", considering the former contains criticisms of a former Sarawak chief minister. Then again, "the book, sold at RM105 a copy, is only available from November 3 by mail order," reports The Malaysian Insider. Didn't take long for the former Sarawak chief minister to act on the book's release.
  • Haunted by his role in the bombing of the abbey of Monte Cassino, this US airman wrote a novel that became a sci-fi classic.
  • The history of gay publishing in one career: Slate's Q&A with editor Michael Denneny.
  • Of all the evil figures in literature, does Sauron stand supreme? If he does, it might have a lot to do with his depiction in the Lord of the Rings saga, or a lack thereof: "Throughout The Lord of the Rings Sauron is never described ... All we see is his influence: the endless armies of orcs who ripple forth at his command; the tribes of men who fall beneath his sway; the scorched and blasted plains of Mordor, where nothing grows; the way his malignancy intrudes on the counsels even of the allies ranged against him."
  • Has foodism gotten out of hand? Here's John Lanchester on what's wrong with our food culture. "The intersection of food and fashion is silly," he writes, "just as the intersection of fashion and anything else is silly. Underlying it, however, is that sense of food as an expression of an identity that's defined, in some crucial sense, by conscious choice. For most people throughout history, that wasn't true. The apparent silliness and superficiality of food fashions and trends touches on something deep: our ability to choose who we want to be."
  • "Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers," says Matthew Yglesias Yes/No? (Hint: NO - not just because I'm with one). Oh, and Amazon's crowdsourced publishing programme Kindle Scout has been launched. Writer Beware lays out some of its pros and cons.
  • This might be news to some but the swastika wasn't always a symbol for evil. But is it too late to take it back from the Nazis?