Monday, 18 April 2016

Book Marks: Silly Novels, Boycotts, And Shortlists

I usually avoid certain news portals, which is why I miss gems like this, from the NST (thank you, Sharon Bakar):

With names like Tundukkan Playboy Itu (Dominate the Playboy), Budak Hostel Otaknya Sewel (Hostel Kids Are Crazy) and Mr & Mrs. Sweet, Malay-language novels are riding high on the bestseller lists in bookstores around the country.

However, with themes largely revolving around love, sex, ghosts and gangsterism, parents and teachers alike are up in arms over the effects that 'pulp' Malay novels are having on the development and language of young Malaysians.

Took them long enough. Or this might be the loudest protest they raised thus far about the matter. Though I think some pulp novels are better than others.

"Teachers and parents who try to read these books feel embarrassed by the subject matter," said a language expert from the National Institute of Language and Literature (DBP).

"The direct effect is that we as a nation have become more bangang (stupid) and backward, she added. "Most of the books draw both Malay and Indian teens, between 50-60 per cent of the youngsters who read. Our kids have becoming increasingly shallow over the past 20 years. They were much better off when they were just reading Doraemon comics, at least they were fueled towards invention."

The article says more, which is quite interesting. I hope it stays up for a bit, as online NST pieces used to disappear after a while.

Travel writer and photographer Bani Amor and activist India Harris discuss how travel writing by white people can be problematic. A few passages that stuck out include: "...a backpacker wants to set themselves apart from other tourists because they may have an intellectual or humanitarian interest in a given place and are somehow less responsible for the consumerism and inequality enforced by traveler/tourist communities."

It's supposed to hurt, says John Scalzi on the cultural boycotts over North Carolina's discriminatory law against LGBTs.

Responding to opinions by people who felt "hurt" by the boycott, Scalzi wrote, among other stuff: "I understand the bookseller would like their boycott to pass her by; I understand why the other writer wants authors to think of the children. Let us also make space for the argument that those authors are thinking of the children and are leveraging what they have — their notability and the desirability of their presence — to make sure some of those children are not actively discriminated against by the state."

An author hired a publicist to market her book and is miffed that all she got for US$395 was a tweet. Naturally, she wants her money back. Generally, I wouldn't recommend marketers who charge for publicising books and stuff. But I wonder if this outfit, Ironrod Media, found the title challenging.

"The book didn't sell and yes, I was mean-spirited enough to rejoice." NZ book editor Stephen Stratford wrote the article all editors would eventually write. This is pretty instructional, and as an editor, helpful in my transition from "wanker" to, well, "editor".

I also wonder if Stratford could've saved the book for the previously mentioned author.

An "exhilarating" Man Booker shortlist has been announced, with Turkish Nobel-winner Orhan Pamuk competing with pseudonymous Italian Elena Ferrante and Chinese dissident Yan Lianke. Someone (forgot who) raised an interesting question: Will a pseudonym take home the gong?

Another announced shortlist is for the 2016 International Dublin Literary award, which includes debut novels Academy Street by Mary Costello (Ireland) and Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated from French by Melanie Mauthner), Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers and Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Looks like some people in Spain aren't happy about a series of programmes commemorating William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Lives aims to reach half a billion people worldwide - the first screenings of The Complete Walk, 37 short films to represent the complete body of the bard's stage plays, took place this last weekend. The Spanish government's action plan for [Miguel de] Cervantes, on the other hand, seems far less ambitious... and leans heavily on exhibitions and conferences in big city museums and libraries.

As I understand from the BBC article, the Spanish in general aren't as hot about local boy cervantes than The Bard. But perhaps it's more about the nature of their works.

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room is judged by web site Literary Hub to have the best erotic passage. So there is a contest that's the opposite of Literary Review's Bad Sex Award, which sees more contestants.

Because, according to LitHub, "There is a good reason most awards given for sex writing are for bad sex writing: to commit to words that most intimate and personal act is generally a doomed undertaking," said LitHub. "For even our best writers, to describe sex is to veer between the biological and the euphemistic, the soft-focus and the fluorescent. It rarely works. And yet many have tried, and will continue to do so."


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