Monday, 5 October 2015

Book Marks: Sour Notes, Court Battles, And The Hundredth Review

Perhaps the biggest news last week was how a local columnist splashed ice water with a dash of lemon juice on a Facebook group's anniversary celebration. Then comes the broad tar brush: Are these Malaysian writers serious about their craft or is this a self-congratulatory exercise?

One can argue that, if others outside the circle can't or won't acknowledge them or their efforts, where else can they turn to for support? Writers need to earn a living, and it's hard if you're a writer and nobody's heard of or couldn't care less about you. So any kind of buzz is welcome.

I won't say anymore on this, so here's a rebuttal of sorts. And a response from one of the Facebook group's two administrators.

ZI Publications failed in its bid to nullify Selangor Shariah law over seizures of translated editions of Irshad Manji's Allah, Liberty and Love. The Federal Court, according to The Malaysian Insider, ruled "that the Selangor legislative assembly had acted within its powers when making the Shariah law that criminalises the publishing of publications deemed un-Islamic and upheld the state law as constitutional."

So, as I understand it, Ezra Zaid, as head of ZI Publications, could still be fined, jailed or both for publishing that book. What a thing to happen on Banned Books Week. (Here's a small sample of books banned worldwide.)

BFM89.9 marked the end of Banned Books Week in the second half (at 15:00) of this podcast. A couple of revelations: desk clerks or officers at customs, etc., are arbitrary "banning" books and Umapagan Ampikaipakan wrote a book?

Cookbook editor Judith Jones, in her own words. Some phrases after my own heart:

The most important thing an editor can do is be a diplomat. It's not your book, but you can subtly try, and it usually ends up that the writers express themselves so much more clearly. At least, that was my experience.

It's funny, because the harder the books were to edit, the more challenging they were, the more fun, in a way.

If you want to write, write. It has to be a passion. When you edit, you're willing to stay up all night and then be slapped in the face.

Unrealistic as it is, I hope I won't have to be her age to enjoy being that wise and sharp.

Of course, Jones points out that "I still don't think I'm necessarily a cookbook editor."


  • Author Lauren Myracle calls on overprotective parents to stop banning books. Myracle's own books: ttyl, ttfn and l8r, g8r were among the American Library Associations' (ALA) list of frequently challenged books for 2009 and 2011.
  • The Guardian interviews author Elizabeth Gilbert "on creativity, women’s fear of failing and not caring what others think", in conjunction with the release of her latest, Big Magic. On chasing perfection, Gilbert says: "Perfection murders joy. You cut yourself out of the game before you even start."
  • The Margaret Atwood webchat, also in The Guardian, as it happened. Includes, among other things, a nudge for writers and other people in general: "This was the 1950s. I was a teenager. I didn't see why I couldn't do things, so I did them. If I'd known the odds I might have been discouraged. But just this: if you don't try, nothing happens."
  • Oh yes: Fixi Novo has issued a call for submissions for its next anthology, PJ Confidential. Deadline for submissions is on 30 November. Get cracking, people.
  • "Dreadful debut", "plotless", "written in sixth-form prose", "publishers should be ashamed of themselves" ... damn, so much love for Morrissey's debut novel, List of the Lost. "Do not read this book" seems to be the general consensus. But how else will we know it's bad? So yes, this is likely to backfire.

And with this, I've published a hundred book reviews on this blog since I started reviewing.

The hundredth review I'd written since I started reviewing, however, is of another novel, one in another series I also enjoyed that is, while not magic fantasy, is still kind of magical. The review hasn't been published yet.

From the day the hype about Sorcerer to the Crown exploded online, I wondered whether I could say anything different. Turns out I couldn't. I wanted to add a bit more, but what's already there laden with exposition. And this novel packs a lot of stuff; I think I've spoiled a fifth of it already.

So I didn't talk about familiars and how important they are to mages and the plot; those who have read it, however, might recognise the dragon on the red cover from US publisher Ace Books. Am I the only one who finds the UK cover ugly and headache-inducing?

While I hate to be part of any choir (and this one's huge), I think I'd delivered an honest assessment of this novel.


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