Thursday, June 15, 2017

Throw Your Mama’s Smelly Shoe Awards & Other Malaysiana Miscellany

THE DEVIL’S back in town, and these are the darkest days. We are going through hell editing another stupid manuscript. Almost seven hundred pages of pure fire and brimstone. By the time I die editing this nonsensical treatise, I would most probably gain a useless PhD in Stupidology (Hons). Believe me when I say that the deterioration of the modern human mind is real, and has begun. Perhaps we should consider starting a fund to stop the doofus from writing for the rest of his life?
***
WHEN Malaysian writers complain about the tedious editing process, I have only six words of advice for them: “Don’t write. Go watch a movie.”
***
ANOTHER crappy Malaysian “book” is being launched before it is ready to be published. (Not that it was good enough to be published in the first place.) As always, the sumptuous food has been planned, the opulent venue booked and paid for, the entertainers and guests and the press have been invited. All is ready—except the book. They will never learn that that’s not the way to do it. Well, what can I say? People just don’t realize that every time a crappy book is published, the world dies a little bit.
***
I’M close to tearing my hair (not that I have much of it in the first place) and hitting my head against the pillar over a new manuscript (which was initially rejected) that landed with a thud on my desk. I was told it had been “professionally edited” (whatever that is supposed to mean) to perfection. It was supposed to be “good to go”, they said with confidence. But going through it now, it is almost like deciphering hieroglyphics. Why are there no full stops at the end of sentences? Why does the writer start sentences with small letters? Why are commas not employed when required and in all odd places? Why are the hyphens and dashes and colons and semicolons placed incorrectly? Why does he bold or italicize words as and when he feels like it—sometimes both at the same time? Why does he resort to ellipses with random scattering of dots? Why are the definite and indefinite articles and prepositions all wrong? Why leave spaces before punctuation marks? Why are paragraphs of text repeated wholesale? Let’s not go into singulars and plurals; it’s a jungle of a mess over there. Sad to say the so-called writer is not too bothered with his own writing. But he wants to be on the cover of magazines.
***
THIS is not exactly something new. But it is worth talking about to remind us how far we have come as civilized human beings. The date of the book launch has been set and the invitations have all gone out to the most important people in the kingdom. Heck, the cake has already been baked and iced. But the book is yet to be ready. In Malaysia this is never ever a problem. “We will just launch a mock-up of the book then,” they say proudly. Who says dreams don’t come through?
***
“I WAS FORMERLY a Chinese. Now, I am a Christian.” Strangely (and surprisingly), many people don’t seem to know the difference between “race” and “religion”.
***
ONE Malaysian author told me the other day: “I don’t understand why you need to edit my manuscript and make so many amendments. My previous publisher published all my books exactly the way I wrote them without any edits or fact-checking or rewriting. I don’t see the need for this constant back and forth between editor and author.” You should stick with your old publisher, if you asked me.
***
MALAYSIAN “writers” who engage ghostwriters to write for them (because they can’t or are just too lazy to write) should understand that they are supposed to pay them for services rendered. Even though they are called “ghost”-writers, they are really not ghosts. They are human, just like you and me.
***
HSM LUCIFER strides in with his fake drippy-drip smile and asks me why is the Japanese lady on the cover of her cookbook wearing spectacles. I look at him and say: “Perhaps she is short- or longsighted? Maybe she has astigmatism? I don’t know; perhaps she likes designer spectacles? Perhaps it makes her black eyes brown? Perhaps she has yet to go for her lasik? After all she does look good in them. I could give her a call and ask her—if that is really what you want to know?” With his shifty eyes and plumpy apple-ish cheeks, he replies: “There’s no need.” Life’s full of these wasteful, unproductive God-what-was-that-all-about moments! It’s a strange world we live in and it looks like there’s nothing much we can do about it.
***
SO LITTLE TIME, so many terrifying manuscripts to edit. There’s only so much editing one can do to make some of them a tad better. Malaysian university professors and journalists who write like primary schoolers are the worst of the lot. And stop threatening us by dropping names!
***
MALAYSIAN “WRITER”: No, I haven’t written a novel. But I would very much like us to meet up and discuss the story.
Editor: What is there to discuss if you haven’t written it?
Malaysian “writer”: If I write more words, will the novel be thicker?
Editor: Duh! (Of course.)
Malaysian “writer”: How many words must I write?
Editor: One hundred thousand words. Or thereabouts.
Malaysian “writer”: Wah … so many words-ah?
Editor: Why don’t you just give up writing? You are obviously not very good at it.
Malaysian “writer”: But writing a novel is my lifelong dream!
Editor: Looks like you will be dreaming for a long, long time.
Malaysian “writer”: With your experience, what kind of readers do you think will read my book?
Editor: Most probably dumb ones!
Malaysian “writer”: You so bad one-lah!
Editor: I am not bad. Just truthful. Wasn’t it Plato who said that no one is more hated than he who speaks the truth?
Malaysian “writer”: Plato who-huh? Your friend-ah?
Editor: Yes, Plato is indeed my best friend from long long ago!
***
IMAGINE editing an author who gets the spelling of his wife’s name wrong! “I will have to get back to you with regard to the spelling of my wife’s name. I will have to ask her if it is spelt with an ‘a’ or ‘e’. I may have to take a look at her birth certificate to ascertain. You just never know.” Yes, you got it right, you just never know.
***
ANOTHER prize-winning quote from the very people who gave us the ground-breaking QUOTE OF THE CENTURY (see below): “I don’t agree with all of your edits, but I am quite all right with them.” This is absolutely riveting, nail-biting stuff.
***
QUOTE OF THE CENTURY: “Edit, but please don’t change anything, because it is already perfect.” (It was far from perfect.) A classic case of imbecility or existential profundity, perhaps?
***
“I FINALLY learnt to say no. After all these years. And it felt really, really good. I have always been one of those people who had problem saying no. And because of that I have always ended up with more than I could chew. Now, the weight of the universe is lifted off my shoulders. I must continue using it more often.”
***
A SENIOR EDITOR at a Malaysian publishing house received the following e-mail the other day. The message, with typos amended (to avoid embarrassment, of course), reads: “I can’t write very well, but I thought I’d like to try writing a novel. I’ve decided to write one about pirates, but I know next to nothing about pirates. Could you please e-mail me information about pirates: their lifestyle, their eating habits, where they like to chill out in the evenings or during the weekends, what they like to do during the day when most of us are at work, what kinds of books they read, etc., so that I can start working on the novel immediately? With much appreciation and best wishes.”
***
MALAYSIA is not exactly the friendliest country in the world (despite what the paid commercials say): most of the time the people are bloody rude, downright discourteous, boorishly loudmouthed and deeply disrespectful, among other things. Asian values? What Asian values? There is no such thing as Asian values. Malaysia is truly NOT Asia. Give me Singapore any day.
***
SOME MANUSCRIPTS are so bloody horrendous that I literally get sick editing them! I feel feverish, headache-y and all-over-the-body-achy. Seriously, one of these days we must consider giving out a slew of THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest Malaysian books of the year—books we absolutely could not care less about, much less read. I know for sure there won’t be a dearth of contenders for these uniquely Malaysian awards where soul-destroying mediocrity is the only yardstick of greatness and celebrated with customary poop/pomp and ceremony! Perhaps I will start the ball rolling with that pathetic attempt at a book ... yes, that particular pseudo-book! It reminds me of the opening lines to Keir Alexander’s excellent novel, The Ruby Slippers: “She stinks. It has to be said. Stinks to high heaven.” She does, believe me, she does.
***
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS is escalating all the time. Maintaining sales have always been a challenge, now more so than ever. There are not many good manuscripts to choose from in a lacklustre marketplace. There’s nothing much we can do about the decline of the English language or the quality of writing in Malaysia in the short term. We have to accept the fact that the only thing we can do as publishers is to enhance our production values: editing standards and marketing efforts will need to be stepped up. Producing a book is not going to get any easier; editors will have to break their backs editing and rewriting substandard manuscripts to a level deemed publishable in a short time. Not that there are many good editors to choose from in a nation that doesn’t care much for reading and writing in the first place.
***
AT A BOOK LAUNCH in a five-star hotel (nothing less that five stars will do, or an exclusive golf club) in Kuala Lumpur the other day, everyone invited to attend the event was treated to a sumptuous meal of sweet and savoury Malaysian delicacies (including the obligatory curry puffs and all-time favourite mee siam, among other things) and given a complimentary copy or two of the said book of the day. Suffice to say that the food tasted so much better than the book. This is quite understandable. Let’s not beat around the bush; no one in their right frame of mind would use their hard-earned cash to pay for it. The trick is not to take Malaysian publishing too seriously. If you do, you are in for an early grave.
***
WHEN will Malaysian education start focusing on understanding and critical thinking skills? Will it ever? There is a serious dearth of these basic skills: reading, writing, creative thinking, questioning, criticism, creativity and imagination; there is also an absolute lack of interest or intellectual curiosity or empathy about the world we live in. We desperately need graduates who can not only eat but spell chocolate! Education per se is irrelevant; one must have the right mindset to use the knowledge acquired and make one’s life useful and meaningful to society. The idea of education is to make every one of us into critical, empathetic, intelligent, logical and thinking beings. If not, what’s the point of existence? What’s really the point of education if we do not produce intelligent, efficient and productive nation builders? It is frightening when the education system keeps on churning out graduates who don’t read (and have no interest in reading) and can’t write.
***
SERIOUSLY, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? I sometimes wonder, more often lately. A sad fact: Malaysian writers can’t write and don’t want to be edited at all. Those who can, the writing is bland, careless, dead, dispirited, hollow, illiterate, inert, insipid, lackadaisical, lazy, lethargic, lifeless, non-informative, puerile, self-indulgent, shallow, tepid, uninspiring and vague. Most of the time the manuscripts are so execrable, possibly written by someone who doesn’t speak or write the language at all, that editing them is next to impossible. (I don’t pray for much, seriously: just good health and happiness for all creatures big and small, being a better human being ... and good writing to land on my desk.)

Another sad fact: editors don’t know how to edit. (Editing is not just about punctuation, grammar and spelling.) Most of them lack basic editing skills (grammar, spelling and writing); if they can’t even handle basic editing, surely they are in the wrong profession, no? Editors are unwilling to learn and tend to miss more than they spot errors (and constantly introducing new ones at the same time). And many are averse to research, checking facts and figures, solving problems and consulting the dictionary. Punctuating dialogue and inconsistent tenses are major weaknesses. Most of them lack imagination and intellectual curiosity and have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing. Many are not (and will never be) aware of the important aspects of book production like bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, indexing, etc. They do not know what a personal or surname is when indexing, etc. Also, not many editors have a nose for business or finance. Publishing is not just about publishing bad books; it is also about selling the bad books you publish. Both are equally important to sustain the business in the long term.

Another sad fact: designers don’t know how to typeset books and design book covers. Most of them are not designers; when you think about it, they are really more incompetent typesetters than designers. Most, sadly, have no grasp of the aesthetics, whether in the design of covers or the typesetting of pages, are not open to constructive criticism and lack even the most basic of language skills (English and Malay). (“The kind of designs you don’t really need to go to design school to learn. The idea is to do it blindly. ... And hope someone likes it.”) There is absolutely no passion to push boundaries or to have higher expectations, no sense of accomplishment for a job well done. They do not seem to learn anything from experience. Experience makes no difference. They have no idea whether contents pages are required for the manuscripts they typeset; they have no idea what acknowledgements, forewords, prefaces, introductions, appendices, bibliographies, indexes, afterwords, footnotes, endnotes, figures, tables and charts are. They may have moved their mouse for centuries, but they have not gain any relevant experience at all. They have no idea what consistency is.

Another sad fact: translation standards are (atrociously) abysmal. Translation is not just about translating words (linguistics) to another language; it’s also about translating cultural and other creative nuances; the translated text must make sense and transport you to another world or dimension. “Translation,” in the words of Anthony Burgess, “is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” A good translator must not only possess a solid grounding in both languages but a strong grasp of idioms and metaphors as well. Sadly, it’s rare to find translators who are strong in both English and Malay.

A vicious cycle. Definitely. So, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? Of course not. I believe what we have here is more akin to some kind of stunted, constipated offshoot of public relations, rather than publishing as we know it. Publishing good books (and finding a readership for these books) is constantly a Sisyphean struggle. Books are never published for the right reasons. It never fails to amaze me how publishers always find stupid reasons to justify the publishing of substandard books as though producing as many such books as possible is some kind of noble calling or something!
***
EVIL, THEY SAY, NEVER DIES ... it claws its way back from the pits of hell to haunt the living. We are in the midst of editing perhaps the worst manuscript on the planet … rejected by all who had a chance to look at it but somehow foisted on us editors for the dumbest of reasons. And to think that the British once colonised us, you would expect a certain standard of English. After the last disaster of a book, we thought we had seen the last and worst of horrendous books. No-o-o-o … that’s too good to be true. Ladies and gentlemen, Evil is back in business and is here to haunt the living daylights out of us. Just goes to prove that there are some things money can’t buy … for instance, to write well and tell a wonderful story (fiction or otherwise). Some publishers claim they publish these rejected manuscripts under the pretext of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Seriously, you can call them anything you want; I prefer to pile them under POO and flush them down the LOO where they belong for all eternity. Of course, under normal circumstances these manuscripts would not see the light of day but the dark of the sewers. I always fail to understand what joy these author-wannabes derive from being published under such circumstances!
***
AND THEN there are those so-called Malaysian authors who insist that we do not comply with standards and conventions when editing their so-called manuscripts! As the Backstreet Boys would croon back in the late 1990s, Believe when I say I want it that way! You can have it any way you want, Sweetheart, as long as you pay the production costs and buy up all the stocks and keep them locked up in your bedroom! And maybe toss them in with the carrots, potatoes, onions and tomatoes when Mummy makes chicken soup for the whole family. (Don’t forget the salt and freshly ground black pepper.) The books will also come in handy if you have plans for house extensions. Books, after all, are not just books; they make hardy bricks, too.
***
REMEMBER THE GOOD OLD DAYS when we used to have meals and lovely conversations without interruptions? We used to eat and talk, and eat and talk, all the while enjoying ourselves. Those were the days when we used to really talk with one another and conversations were long, and there were jokes and laughter, and time just passed without us realising it. Those days are long gone. People nowadays are more interested in their smartphones, internet, text messaging, etc., and seem to prefer to communicate with people not dining at the table but elsewhere, reading news updates, taking photos of themselves in all manner of poses, etc. You may have the whole wide world at your fingertips, but you don’t seem to be aware of the immediate world around you. Once in a while, think about the person sitting opposite you.
***
POMPOUS LASS: Only native speakers can edit my manuscript! No Malaysian editors for me, please!
Publisher: You mean someone from Good Olde Mother England?
Pompous Lass: Of course—if English is their mother tongue!
Publisher: Why’s that?
Pompous Lass: Because my book is for the wonderful people of this planet. I want it to be perfectly edited for all my readers from around the world …
Publisher: Would you like to bear the cost of getting someone from England to edit it then?
Pompous Lass: Will that be cheap?
Publisher: What do you think? Everything is cheap except you?
Pompous Lass: I wouldn’t want to spend my money on that! If it’s too expensive, a local editor should be all right, I guess!
Publisher: Yes, cheap local editors are the best!
***
WATERLILY: I want to talk to the editor?
Receptionist: Who’s calling?
Waterlily: Lily!
Receptionist: Lily who?
Waterlily: Water “I-can’t-tell-you-my-real-name” Lily!
Receptionist: How can I help you?
Waterlily: I want to talk to the editor about my manuscript?
Receptionist: What’s your manuscript about?
Waterlily: I can’t tell you that! I don’t know who you are. You may just steal and profit from my hard work! I want to speak to the editor!
Editor: Could you send us samples of your work, Water?
Waterlily: I can’t do that either.
Editor: So what can you do, Watermelon?
Waterlily: My name is Waterlily, not Watermelon! Why do you need samples of my work?
Editor: Duh! So that we could assess your writing and decide whether we want to publish it or not!
Waterlily: Why do you want to review it? I am a famous writer and my work is quoted in all the leading journals all over the galaxy!
Editor: That’s nice and all and I’m happy for you. However, we would still like to assess it.
Waterlily: Will you be distributing my book in the U.S. and the U.K.?
Editor: No. We only sell foreign rights to those markets. And over the internet.
Waterlily: Looks like you are not the right publisher for me then. Goodbye!
Editor: Good riddance.
***
AUTHOR: Would you like to publish my manuscript?
Publisher: Well, it depends …
Author: Depends on what?
Publisher: Well, whether you have a written manuscript?
Author: I haven’t written one. Can you get it written for me?
Publisher: Why is that?
Author: I can’t write.
Publisher: But you have studied for a couple of foreign degrees … and you have lived overseas for many years. With your fake accent and all, I’m sure you could write English.
Author: I’m very bad at grammar. Could you get me a writer whom I could talk to, take down notes and put them all in a book for me? I can talk very well. I just can’t write.
Publisher: I can’t imagine how you manage to pass all your exams over the years!
***
AUTHOR: Could you label me a bestselling author on the cover of my new book?
Editor: No! You are not a bestselling author! And you’ve never have been one!
Author: It’s a way of MARKETING the book!
Editor: I don’t think that’s MARKETING; that’s shameless CONNING. Your first book sold less than a thousand copies in over five years. That, to me, is a disaster of epic proportions! Your book sounds more like the worst-selling book of the century. And with the way it is moving (or not moving), it looks set to be the worst-selling book in the history of humankind. I believe your book will still be around even after the Apocalypse!
***
AUTHOR: And on what grounds are you rejecting my manuscript?
Editor: Well, it sucks, for one!
Author: What! How dare you insult me! Everyone who has read it thinks it a magnificent piece of work!
Editor: Who, pray tell, read your magnum opus?
Author: My darling husband and children, friends and relatives! And my dearest mummy and daddy, too!
Editor: Of course!
Author: So can I take it that you are not interested in publishing my manuscript?
Editor: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ... Duh!
***
AUTHOR: Yahoo! My book is a runaway bestseller!
Editor: How’s that possible?
Author: I got every one of my best friends to buy 500 copies of my book. Yahoo! Time for a reprint?
Editor: What do you expect them to do with all the copies of your book?
Author: Who cares what they do with them? Hide them under the stairs? Perhaps they can make beef or vegetable stew with them?
***
AUTHOR: I would like you to publish my book?
Editor: Your manuscript, you mean? Well, it all depends on the quality of your manuscript.
Author: What? I know your Financial Controller and the TOP HONCHO, you know!
Editor: Ooh, I’m shivering! Of course, we will publish your book—even though it sucks big-time!
Author: What?
Editor: Isn’t that what you want?
***
WISDOM, they say, comes with age. I once thought that wisdom was the exclusive province of the elderly. Now that I am all grown up, I have come to realise that that’s all balderdash. Wisdom is the province of those who possess it; age is simply immaterial. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet young people who are wise beyond their years, and I have also had the MISFORTUNE of meeting old people who have absolutely no wisdom at all.
***
AUTHOR: I don’t like my marriage photograph in the book. We look so bloody fat.
Editor: Of course, both of you are fat. So, what do you want me to do? Both of you should have gone on a diet before getting married. Well, you could always get married again. What’s stopping you?
***
AUTHOR: Make sure all numbers smaller than 10 are in figures, not words, okay?
Editor: Numbers from 1-9 will be in words, not numerals. Anything from 10 and above, I will use figures. That’s the standard editing rule.
Author: But I am your client and you do as I instruct.
Editor: So, what else do you want to go with that? Bad grammar? I can do that. What about factual errors? You want some of those? Weak characterization, perhaps? A plot full of holes? We can add a couple of those, if you like. Why don’t I also throw in as many misspellings as I can for you—on the house, of course?
Author: What?
Editor: For your information, you ain’t my client. You can keep your money and go ask your mummy to search and replace all your 1-9s with figures.
***
“ANYONE can be an author nowadays. You don’t really have to be a good writer or a whizz in grammar and all that nonsense,” so says the marketing consultant. You can’t write? No problem, we will get you a ghostwriter to write on your behalf for a fee, she says. And if you suck big-time at grammar and vocabulary, also no problem. We have the backroom boys (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders and designers) to clean up your writing (or lack thereof) and make all your dreams come true. After all, most people just like to see their names on the covers of their so-called books. And perhaps launching them at one of the hotels or golf clubs (or fast-food/burger joints or shopping-mall concourses). That’s about it.
***
PASSION is, of course, a wonderful thing to have. But let’s talk about ringgit and sense. There is simply no money in editing in Malaysia. I have been editing books for a living for well over 30 years now, and this saddens me a great deal. Perhaps it’s time for me to seriously consider giving it all up and do something else with the rest of my life?
***
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, when all the stars in the heavens are somehow aligned, the perfect manuscript lands on your desk. All is well with the world; the elves and hobbits are having a whale of a time in the playing fields and the flowers are singing and dancing in the wind. There is joy and laughter all over the kingdom. With minimal editing, the manuscript is published to much acclaim and financial success. There are, of course, books that do not capture a readership no matter how good they are or how much they are pushed or promoted. Most of the time, though, bad books fall on your head with a loud thud. Some of these books go on to become successful books after much editing, rewriting, blood, sweat and tears, etc. Publishing is a difficult business; there is no guarantee that a good book will sell. Neither is there a guarantee that a bad book will not sell. Not all bad books sell; most of them end up in the cemetery of lost books.
***
ACCORDING to Andreï Makine, “Language is just grammar. The real language of literature is created in the heart, not a grammar book.” Makine—a Russian novelist who writes not in his mother tongue but in French—is not discounting the importance of grammar in writing. However, good writing is more than good grammar. Good grammar, in other words, is just not good enough when crafting sentences. In our reading, we have occasionally come across writing which is grammatically perfect in every aspect but somehow lacks heart, writing that lacks an emotional core: hollow, meretricious, staid, technical and wooden. Good writers know when and how to break rules for good original prose to emerge. The challenging task is to nudge boundaries and push narrative towards places it has not been before.
***
I WAS EDITING a piece of writing the other day. Writers and editors need to be logical when they write or edit. A baby girl is a baby girl. There is no need to be too specific by calling it a “young” baby girl. Is there such a thing as an “old” baby girl?
***
WE ARE IN THE MIDST of editing another crappy manuscript by a crappy Malaysian writer. It’s just another crappy day in the life of a Malaysian editor. Possibly another worthy contender for the THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest writing in the world? One that would put us to sleep for a thousand years. We can’t wait for the torture to be over ... until another one comes along (like they always do). Please, please forgive us for unleashing this horror upon humanity and the universe. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. ...
***
MOST OF THE TIME book editors reject more than they accept manuscripts simply because there are more bad than good writing floating around. With modern publishing the way it is, where quantity is more important than quality, decisions on whether to accept or reject manuscripts are no longer the sole preserve of editors but marketing consultants. Editors are no longer the literary gatekeepers of the universe like they once were. They are more of a stumbling block in the seemingly unrelenting contemporary marketing process. The role of editors is to edit good manuscripts and make bad ones look good enough for those who do not know better. As literary gatekeepers, marketing consultants think that they document history and human evolution, but most of the time they dress up trash to look like literature. This explains the glut of bad writing you see flooding the marketplace. That’s just what I think.
***
A: Can you read and write English?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Malay?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Chinese?
B: No.
A: So, what are you doing now?
B: Studying Korean.
A: You can’t even handle English, your mother tongue or the national language, why would you even want to take up a challenging language like Korean?
B: I just like the way the Koreans speak and sing-mah!
A: Wah, so clever!
***
AUTHOR: Could you put my husband’s name (and mine) on the cover?
Editor: No, I can’t do that. He is not the writer. You are the author. Your name will be on the cover.
Author: But he helped me with research, fact-checking and proofreading.
Editor: You may credit him in the acknowledgements page.
Author: But I want his name on the cover with me!
Editor: No!
Author: You know, you are not as nice as some people say you are.
Editor: You could always self-publish and put the names of whoever you like on the cover if that makes you happy!
***
ANOTHER turd of a manuscript landed in my lap with a loud thud this morning, turning my life upside down and upsetting the balance in this neck of the universe. Looks like it’s another long month of agony, damnation, sleepless nights, slogging and suffering. A manuscript that is far from stimulating. Somehow one’s opinion of prominent people tend to go down the clogged monsoon drain once you start reading their life stories. Their stories tend to put me to death. What have I done to deserve this? I take care of my family and love all my brothers and sisters (including all my Facebook friends) and buy my mother her 100% Massimo whole wheat bread every other day, yet I still get punished! What have I done to deserve this! What I have done is, I have just edited possibly the worst book of my career. And after countless hours of editing within a tight time frame, it is still the worst book of my entire career.
***
WE were at a popular dining establishment in KLCC the other day. We were disappointed with the stuffed chicken breast we ordered. They were clearly below expectations. Not only were they hard, dry and leathery, they were bland, almost tasteless, more like something left over from the night before warmed up. If you enjoy paying First World prices for food that is below average or worse, then this is the perfect place to waste your hard-earned money.
***
I HAVE NO IDEA where Malaysians get their education from. Their spelling is the pits. They spell “Barisan Nasional” as “Barisan National”, a blend of English and Malay. Even my dear mother knows that it is spelt as either “Barisan Nasional” (Malay) or “National Front” (English). It is one or the other. It is either Malay or English. Be consistent when you write. First, decide which language you want to write in. I know, a tough decision. Malaysians also can’t tell the difference between “reign” and “rein”, “ferment” and “foment”, and when to use them correctly. They tend to use them interchangeably. Other weaknesses include hyphenation (“long term” vs “long-term”, “fairy tale” vs “fairy-tale”, etc.), italicization, prepositions and word order, punctuations, spelling of names, insufficient fact checking, among others.
***
MALAYSIAN authors have the bad habit of editing their books only after their books have been published and distributed all over the universe and beyond. They are never bothered with editing at the manuscript stage. (They submit their manuscripts raw without editing them.) Most of them are so bloody lazy to read their own works. There is nothing much we can do about this because Malaysian writers prefer eating to reading. Most of them can spent the whole day eating but not many can spend the whole day reading. Most of the time I wonder: Why do they even bother to write?
***
I get this a lot … from the moment I was born back in the early 1960s to now in 2016.

A: You are mixed, right?
B: Ah … yeah.
A: So what kind of food do you eat?
B: Grass and lalang … and banoffee pie!
A: Huh! I mean: do you eat Chinese food?
B: No!
A: Why not?
B: Duh! I don’t know! Perhaps I don’t like Chinese food?
A: How can you not like Chinese food when your mum’s Chinese!
B: Why not?
***
SELLING BOOKS in Malaysia is a tough business. For most people books are considered non-essential. Bread-and-butter issues take precedence over other matters. My ideal bookshop is one that challenges me intellectually in my reading journey. Not only do I want bookshops to stock the kinds of books I want to read, I also want them to surprise me by introducing me titles or authors I have not heard of before. I don’t buy books online at all, so the local bookshop is where I buy all my books. However, I think nowadays the role of educating the reading public has been taken over by the internet. After all, there are only so many titles a brick-and-mortar bookshop can stock at any one time.
***
HIS SATANIC MAJESTY (HSM) LUCIFER tells the editor that he should edit the manuscript only for grammar and spelling. “Just check the names and spelling, and make sure the grammar is perfect,” he reiterates. HSM goes on to tell the editor to keep his opinions to himself because nobody cares what he thinks about the manuscript. “It doesn’t really matter if the writing is good or bad. Your job is to edit—not to assess or judge the manuscript.” What the heck is he trying to say!
***
PUBLISHER: You have offended Big John with all your spot-on edits!
Editor: But his manuscript was full of errors and other inconsistencies!
Publisher: He isn’t happy because you edited too much of his manuscript. I can’t believe you spotted over a thousand errors! I did tell you specifically not to edit it.
Editor: Yes … not bad for a manuscript which is supposed to have been edited thoroughly and ready-to-print. Shouldn’t he be happy that I spotted so many errors in his book? I would if it’s my book.
Publisher: Yes … but, you know, you made him look real bad! And he is awfully hurt. He doesn’t want to work with you any more!
Editor: I did not make him look bad … he really is bad!
Publisher: You shouldn’t be too brutal with the edits.
Editor: Editorial brutality? That’s a new one. I wasn’t brutal at all. All I did what edit the grammar and corrected the spellings and factual errors. No rewriting whatsoever. A walk in the park, really.
Publisher: Where? What park? Whatever it is, he is offended!
Editor: Idiot that I was, I tried to edit the manuscript as best as I possibly could. If it will make him happy, I could easily restore or reinstate all the errors back into the manuscript. It’s no big deal to me. It’s your call; after all, you are the publisher.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

June 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. Prague Lights (Viking, 2017) / Benjamin Black
2. Pages for Her (Picador, 2017) / Sylvia Brownrigg
3. The Lie of the Land (Little, Brown, 2017) / Amanda Craig
4. The Gypsy Moth Summer (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Julia Fierro
5. The Night Brother (The Borough Press, 2017) / Rosie Garland
6. Grief Cottage (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Gail Godwin
6. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (HarperCollins, 2017) / Balli Kaur Jaswal
7. The Nakano Thrift Shop (trans. from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell) (Europa Editions, 2017) / Hiromi Kawakami
8. Crimes of the Father (Sceptre, 2017) / Thomas Keneally
9. A Fugitive in Walden Woods (Bellevue Literary Press, 2017) / Norman Lock
10. Black Moses (trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson) (New Press, 2017) / Alain Mabanckou

11. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Random House India, 2017) / Arundhati Roy
12. River Under the Road (Ecco, 2017) / Scott Spencer
13. Everybody’s Son (Harper, 2017) / Thrity Umrigar

FIRST NOVELS
1. Under the Harrow (Penguin Books, 2017) / Flynn Berry
2. Standard Deviation (4th Estate, 2017) / Katherine Heiny
3. Conversations with Friends (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Sally Rooney
4. Ornithology (Confingo, 2017) / Nicholas Royle
5. Flesh and Bone and Water (Scribner, 2017) / Luiza Sauma

STORIES
1. Disasters in the First World (Grove Press, 2017) / Olivia Clare

POETRY
1. Scribbled in the Dark (Ecco, 2017) / Charles Simic

NONFICTION
1. The Hate Race: A Memoir (Corsair, 2017) / Maxine Beneba Clarke
2. The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / Lynn Freed
3. The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017) / Edward Luce

Friday, May 19, 2017

Discovering Cuba

Cuba may be a faraway Caribbean island but TUTU DUTTA-YEAN discovers that there is a connection between that island and Malaysia

Vintage cars on the Malecón; in the background is Havana harbour

WHEN I FIRST HEARD that we were going to be posted to Cuba, it occurred to me, “Surely there is nothing to connect Malaysia to this faraway Caribbean island ...” But I found out that the hypothesis of ‘six degrees of separation’ applies to countries as well as people. The first connection, we were informed at a diplomatic dinner party, is that one of the best-known Spanish songs among Malaysians originated in Cuba: ‘Guantanamera’ (‘Lady from Guantanamo’). Significantly, the lyrics to the song is based on a poem by José Martí, the Cuban poet and national hero who fought against the Spanish for the country’s independence.

A peacock struts its stuff in the inner courtyard of the Havana City Museum, located at the Plaza de Armas. The statue in the background is that of Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering Cuba

Even more surprising came the revelation that many Cubans of the older generation have heard of Malaysia, thanks to a book called Sandokan, the Tiger of Malaysia. Not surprisingly, the mention of this book produced enthusiastic nods from the Cubans and mystified expressions from the Malaysians ... could it be about a tiger from Sandakan?

After a bit of Internet research, I discovered that Sandokan was written by an Italian writer named Emilio Salgari in the late 19th century. The book was translated into Spanish as Sandokan, La Tigre de la Malesia and is about the adventures of a heroic pirate chief called Sandokan! The book was a childhood favourite of Cuban revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (who was actually born in Argentina) and became popular in Cuba as well. Apparently Guevara suffered from asthma as a child and was quite the bookworm! Never having read it, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of Sandokan with regard to Malaysia but it seems that Salgari was well informed about the East as he committed ritual suicide in the manner of the Japanese ... but I digress.

The Cieba tree and El Templete, located at the Plaza de Armas, commemorate the founding of Havana in 1519

Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. However, the Conquistador of Cuba was Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, who founded the first Spanish settlement at Baracoa, a town close to Havana, in 1511. Havana itself was founded by Panfilo de Narvaes in 1519; the original name of the city being San Cristobal de le Habana. On every anniversary of the city, followers of the Santaria faith light candles around an ancient Cieba tree, planted beside a monument called El Templete, at the stroke of midnight.

Due to its strategic location, protected harbour and the fact that the island is close to the Gulf Stream, Havana Bay became the meeting point for Spanish galleons crossing the Atlantic. Merchant ships carrying riches from the New World would assemble at Havana harbour, before making the journey to Spain. Havana became the principal port of Spain’s New World colonies and a royal decree in 1634 gave Havana the title Key to the New World! But the city’s wealth attracted the attention of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’- English, French and Dutch sea marauders attacked the city in the 16th century.

El Morro Castle, as seen from across the Malecón sea wall. El Morro is the oldest colonial fortress in the Americas

This led to massive fortifications to protect the harbour and the city. As the only entrance to the harbour is through a narrow inlet from Havana Bay, two fortresses were erected in the 16th century to protect the entrance—El Morro Castle guards the western flank while La Punta Castle guarded the eastern flank. A long chain stretching across the inlet, from one castle to the other, was raised at sunset every day to prevent pirate ships from entering the harbour after dark and lowered at sunrise the next day!

A third fortress, La Real Fuerza Castle, located at the historic Plaza de Armas, guarded the city. La Real Fuerza Castle used to be the Spanish Governor-General’s Residence but is now the Maritime Museum.

A fourth fortress, the San Carlos de la Cabana, was constructed in the 18th century. This massive fortress, the largest in the Americas, was constructed not to keep out mere pirates but the British Navy itself. Cuba fell to the British in 1762; eleven months later, Britain returned Cuba to Spain in exchange for Florida. British occupation is definitely the third connection we have with Cuba!

The massive ramparts of San Carlos de la Cabana

Upon regaining Cuba, the construction of La Cabana was initiated to make sure Havana never fell into enemy hands again. Despite its enormous cost, the fortress never engaged in any major battle. San Carlos de la Cabana is now a museum and a popular destination for tourists.

Havana’s strategic location also made it part of a dark chapter in the history of the New World—the transatlantic slave trade. It was the British who introduced slave labour to Cuba in 1762. In less than a year, the British transformed the island’s economy and society by opening trade with its American colonies and introducing slave labour. Thousands of slaves from West Africa were transported to the island to work in the sugar plantations. Havana became an important part of the Slave Route—ships carrying slaves from West Africa would stop at the harbour for supplies. Some would be sold in Havana itself.

The pai fang at Calle Dragones marks the entrance to Barrio Chino

Most of the slaves were from the Yoruba nation and brought their cultural practices with them, which combined with Catholicism, eventually evolved into Santaria. African heritage is pervasive throughout the Caribbean and it is believed that up to 50 per cent of Cubans are followers of this faith.

When slavery was abolished in 1886, the role of the African slaves was taken over by the Chinese coolies. The upheavals in the Middle Kingdom towards the end of the Qing Dynasty forced many Chinese to look for a better way of life overseas—they were looking for ‘tai ping’ but ended up almost enslaved with very harsh living and working conditions. These indentured labourers were mainly Cantonese speaking and the first shipment of 209 coolies arrived in 1847. Most of the coolies were put to work in sugarcane plantations; however, in Havana itself they were forced to work in the construction of the railways, together with Irish and Mexican workers. Conditions were so harsh that it was estimated that each kilometre of railway line came at a toll of 16 lives! Although the consequences were dire for some, by the dawn of the 20th century, Havana had the oldest and largest Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in the Americas with 60,000 inhabitants. (I definitely see a fourth connection here!)

Woman in traditional dress walking across the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis

Eventually, most of the Chinese became integrated into the fabric of the country and many fought in the war of independence from Spain. A few even achieved prominence—among them, the late Wilfredo Lam who is counted among the foremost of Cuban painters. However, many Chinese Cubans left the country for the United States during the revolution of 1959. At present, the Chinese Community Centre is located at the former Casino Chung Wah at Calle Amistad, Centro Habana. A member of the clan association said that the number of Chinese (of pure Chinese descent) still living in Havana now totalled only 200. However, there are over 150,000 Chino-Cubanos of mixed heritage living in Cuba today.

Entrance to the restaurants row in Barrio Chino

In an exception to the rule, the Chinese restaurants in the Barrio Chino are allowed to operate as private enterprises; however, visitors tend to comment that the food offered in these restaurants is Cuban and not Chinese! However, intrepid Malaysians living here have managed to find one restaurant in Barrio Chino offering real Chinese food—Tien Tan. There is also an excellent Chinese restaurant in Marina Hemingway, a few miles outside the city. (Chinese food is the fifth connection we have with Cuba.)

Facade of the Ambos Mundos Hotel

The most famous writer associated with Cuba is Ernest Hemingway. He lived in Havana for the last 22 years of his life and wrote the Nobel Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea here. This novel is based on the lives of the fishermen he observed in Cojimar, a fishing village a few miles north of Havana. Hemingway actually lived in the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Old Havana for seven years (1932-1939). The famous Room 511 in the hotel, which appeared rather small and spartan to me, has been converted to a museum and preserved for posterity. After his marriage to Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway moved to a farmhouse called La Vigia, located in a village a few miles outside of Havana. The farmhouse is now the Museo Hemingway. This is the sixth connection as I read The Old Man and the Sea as a teen!

TUTU DUTTA-YEAN was born in India but grew up in Malaysia. She has travelled and lived in Japan and France as a student and later in Singapore, Nigeria and New York as the wife of a diplomat. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Universiti Putra Malaysia and a Master’s degree from Universiti Malaya before embarking on a career in public relations. Her lifelong interest in culture, folklore and children’s literature inspired her to research, write and illustrate her first book, Timeless Tales of Malaysia. She is the author of Eight Fortunes of the Qilin and Eight Jewels of the Phoenix, and the co-author of Twelve Treasures of the East, a retelling of legends and folk tales from Asia. She currently lives in Havana, Cuba, with her husband and daughter.

Reproduced from the October-December 2010 issue of Quill magazine

Monday, May 01, 2017

May 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. Love Me Not (Michael Joseph, 2017) / M.J. Arlidge
2. Behind the Moon (City Lights Publishers, 2017) / Madison Smartt Bell
3. New Boy (Hogarth, 2017) / Tracy Chevalier
4. The Fortunes (Sceptre, 2017) / Peter Ho Davies
5. The Other Hoffmann Sister (Little, Brown, 2017) / Ben Fergusson
6. There Your Heart Lies (Pantheon, 2017) / Mary Gordon
7. The Early Birds (Quercus, 2017) / Laurie Graham
8. Gravel Heart (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Abdulrazak Gurnah
9. Into the Water (Doubleday/Riverhead Books, 2017) / Paula Hawkins
10. The Children of Jocasta (Mantle, 2017) / Natalie Haynes

11. Frost at Midnight (Bantam Press, 2017) / James Henry
12. Need You Dead (Macmillan, 2017) / Peter James
13. When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (Atlantic Books, 2017) Meena Kandasamy
14. The Baker’s Secret (William Morrow, 2017) / Stephen P. Kiernan
15. The Nothing (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Hanif Kureishi
16. Rich People Problems (Doubleday, 2017) / Kevin Kwan
17. Before We Sleep (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Jeffrey Lent
18. Black Moses (trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson) (The New Press, 2017) / Alain Mabanckou
19. The Wild Air (Hodder & Stoughton, 2017) / Rebecca Mascull
20. ’Round Midnight (Touchstone, 2017) / Laura McBride

21. Inheritance from Mother (trans. from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter) (Other Press, 2017) / Minae Mizumura
22. Music of the Ghosts (Simon & Schuster, 2017) / Vaddey Ratner
23. No One Can Pronounce My Name (Picador USA, 2017) / Rakesh Satyal
24. The Awkward Age (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Francesca Segal
25. Evensong (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Kate Southwood
26. Saints for All Occasions (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / J. Courtney Sullivan
27. Mother Land (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Paul Theroux
28. House of Names (Viking/Scribner, 2017) / Colm Tóibín
29. Flights (trans. from the Polish by Jennifer Croft) (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017) / Olga Tokarczuk
30. A Talent for Murder (Simon & Schuster UK, 2017) / Andrew Wilson

FIRST NOVELS
1. Salt Houses (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Hala Alyan
2. How to Be Human (Metropolitan Books, 2017) / Paula Cocozza
3. Strange Heart Beating (Granta Books, 2017) / Eli Goldstone
4. A Small Revolution (Little A, 2017) / Jimin Han
5. Peculiar Ground (4th Estate, 2017) / Lucy Hughes-Hallett
6. Standard Deviation  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Katherine Heiny
7. Ginny Moon (Park Row Books, 2017) / Benjamin Ludwig
8. You Don’t Know Me (Michael Joseph, 2017) / Imran Mahmood
9. The Dead House (Brandon Books/O’Brien Press, 2017) / Billy O’Callaghan
10. See What I Have Done (Tinder Press, 2017) / Sarah Schmidt

11. Mr. Rochester (Grand Central Publishing, 2017) / Sarah Shoemaker
12. Mothers and Other Strangers (Prospect Park Books, 2017) / Gina Sorell

STORIES
1. The Dinner Party (Little, Brown, 2017) / Joshua Ferris
2. Bad Dreams and Other Stories (Harper, 2017) / Tessa Hadley
3. Peculiar Ground (Fourth Estate, 2017) / Lucy Hughes-Hallett
4. Fen (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Daisy Johnson
5. Jane Austen: The Secret Radical (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Helena Kelly
6. We Could’ve Been Happy Here (MG Press, 2017) / Keith Lesmeister
7. All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury USA, 2016) / Alison MacLeod
8. Men Without Women (trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen) (Alfred A. Knopf/Harvill Secker, 2017) / Haruki Murakami
9. Trajectory (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Richard Russo
10. Tender (Small Beer Press, 2017) / Sofia Samatar

POETRY
1. Injury Time (Picador, 2017) / Clive James
2. Said Not Said (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Fred Marchant
3. Silage (Indigo Dreams, 2017) / Bethany W. Pope

NONFICTION
1. Paradise Lost: A Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2017) / David S. Brown
2. Ernest Hemingway: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Mary V. Dearborn
3. Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Claire Dederer
4. Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z (Library of America, 2017) / Jonathan Lethem & Kevin Dettmar (eds.)
5. Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters (Little, Brown, 2017) / Harold Evans
6. Between Them: Remembering My Parents (Ecco/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Richard Ford
7. The Inky Digit of Defiance: Tony Harrison: Selected Prose 1966-2016 (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Tony Harrison
8. Turning: A Swimming Memoir (Virago, 2017) / Jessica J. Lee
9. Passchendaele: A New History (Viking, 2017) / Nick Lloyd
10. Priestdaddy: A Memoir (Allen Lane, 2017) / Patricia Lockwood

11. The Retreat of Western Liberalism (Little, Brown, 2017) / Edward Luce
12. The History of the Future (Coffee House Press, 2017) / Edward McPherson
13. October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Verso, 2017) / China Míeville
14. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: The Boom in British Thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed (HarperCollins, 2017) / Mike Ripley
15. Goethe: Life as a Work of Art (trans. from the Russian by David Dollenmayer) (Liveright, 2017) / Rüdiger Safranski
16. The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery (Constable, 2017) / D.J. Taylor
17. Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation (Harper Perennial, 2017) / Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman (eds.)
18. The Boy Behind the Curtain: Notes from an Australian Life (Picador, 2017) / Tim Winton

Saturday, April 01, 2017

April 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. The President’s Garden (trans. from the Arabic by Luke Leafgren) (MacLehose Publishing, 2017) / Muhsin Al-Ramli
2. Endgame (trans. from the Turkish by Alexander Dawe) (Europa Editions, 2017) / Ahmet Altan
3. The Golden Legend (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Nadeem Aslam
4. Beartown (trans. from the Swedish by Neil Smith) (Atria Books, 2017) / Fredrik Backman
5. Chronicle of the Murdered House (trans. from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson) (Open Letters Books, 2016) / Lúcio Cardoso
6. Let Go My Hand (Picador, 2017) / Edward Docx
7. Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge (trans. from the Arabic by John Peate) (The American University in Cairo Press, 2017) / Ezzedine C. Fishere
8. The Boy in the Earth (trans. from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell) (Soho Press, 2017) / Nakamura Fuminori
9. The Devil and Webster (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Jean Hanff Korelitz
10. The Valentine House (Sceptre, 2017) / Emma Henderson

11. The Forbidden Garden (William Morrow, 2017) / Ellen Herrick
12. The Evening Road (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Laird Hunt
13. Pussy (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Howard Jacobson
14. The Shadow Land (Ballantine Books/Text Publishing, 2017) / Elizabeth Kostova
15. White Tears (Hamish Hamilton, 2017) / Hari Kunzru
16. Black Moses (trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson) (Serpent’s Tail, 2017) / Alain Mabanckou
17. I See You (Berkley, 2017) / Clare Mackintosh
18. When Light Is Like Water (Penguin, 2017) / Molly McCloskey
19. Reservoir 13 (4th Estate, 2017) / Jon McGregor
20. Burntown (Doubleday, 2017) / Jennifer McMahon

21. Penance (trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel) (Mulholland Books, 2017) / Kanae Minato
22. Music of the Ghosts (Touchstone, 2017) / Vaddey Ratner
23. Ghachar Ghochar (trans. from the Kannada by Srinath Perur) (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Vivek Shanbhag
24. The Stars Are Fire (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Anita Shreve
25. Anything Is Possible (Random House, 2017) / Elizabeth Strout
26. The Maids (trans. from the Japanese by Michael P. Cronin) (New Directions, 2017) / Junichiro Tanizaki
27. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (Tinder Press, 2017) / Hannah Tinti
28. Father’s Day (Harper Perennial, 2017) / Simon Van Booy
29. Grace’s Day (New Island Books, 2017) / William Wall
30. The Book of Joan (Harper, 2017) / Lidia Yuknavitch

FIRST NOVELS
1. The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times (Salt Publishing, 2017) / Xan Brooks
2. How to be Human (Hutchinson, 2017) / Paula Cocozza
3. American War (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Omar El Akkad
4. Lilac Girls (Ballantine Books, 2017) / Martha Hall Kelly
5. The Barrowfields (Sceptre, 2017) / Phillip Lewis
6. One of the Boys (Granta Books, 2017) / Daniel Magariel
7. The Witchfinder’s Sister (Ballantine Books, 2017) / Beth Underdown
8. Foxlowe (Penguin Books USA, 2017) / Eleanor Wasserberg
9. No One Is Coming to Save Us (Ecco, 29017) / Stephanie Powell Watts

STORIES
1. What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Lesley Nneka Arimah
2. Living in the Weather of the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Richard Bausch
3. A Moral Tale and Other Moral Tales (Dzanc Books, 2017) / Josh Emmons
4. Things We Lost in the Fire (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Portobello Books, 2017) / Mariana Enriquez
5. All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury UK, 2017) / Alison MacLeod
6. The Ghost Who Bled (Comma Press, 2017) / Gregory Norminton
7. The Collected Short Stories (Penguin Classics, 2017) / Jean Rhys
8. Swimming Among the Stars (Picador, 2017) / Kanishk Tharoor

POETRY
1. Collected Poems (trans. from the German by James Reidel) (Seagull Books, 2017) / Thomas Bernhard
2. Waiting for the Nightingale (Carcanet Press, 2017) / Miles Burrows
3. Selected Poems (Picador, 2017) / Colette Bryce
4. Inside the Wave (Bloodaxe Books, 2017) / Helen Dunmore
5. Doves (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Lachlan Mackinnon
6. Galaxy Love (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Gerald Stern
7. Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Mai Der Vang
8. Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Ocean Vuong

NONFICTION
1. London’s Triumph: Merchant Adventurers and the Tudor City (Allen Lane, 2017) / Stephen Alford
2. Strange Labyrinth: Outlaws, Poets, Mystics, Murderers and a Coward in London’s Great Forest (Granta Books, 2017) / Will Ashon
3. Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017) / Eula Biss
4. Falstaff: Give Me Life (Scribner, 2017) / Harold Bloom
5. Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year (Basic Books, 2017) / Peter Brooks
6. Love of Country: A Journey Through the Hebrides (The University of Chicago Press, 2017) / Madeleine Bunting
7. Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/HarperCollins Publishers, 2017) / Durga Chew-Bose
8. The Correspondence (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / J.D. Daniels
9. Hemingway’s Brain (The University of South Carolina Press, 2017) / Andrew Farah
10. The Village News: The Truth Behind England’s Rural Idyll (Simon & Schuster UK, 2017) / Tom Fort

11. Miłosz: A Biography (trans. from the Polish by Aleksandra Parker and Michael Parker) (Belknap, 2017) / Andrzej Franaszek
12. Somebody With a Little Hammer: Essays (Pantheon, 2017) / Mary Gaitskill
13. Jumping Over Shadows: A Memoir (She Writes Press, 2017) / Annette Gendler
14. Sunshine State: Essays (Harper Perennial, 2017) / Sarah Gerard
15. The Durrells of Corfu (Profile Books, 2017) / Michael Haag
16. Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands (Allen Lane, 2017) / Stuart Hall
17. The Shortest History of Germany (Old Street Publishing, 2017) / James Hawes
18. The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (Allen Lane/Penguin Books, 2017) / Ian Johnson
19. The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century (Columbia Global Reports, 2017) / Adam Kirsch
20. The Outrun: A Memoir (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Amy Liptrot

21. The Mesmerist: The Society Doctor Who Held Victorian London Spellbound (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Wendy Moore
22. The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington (Virago, 2017) / Joanna Moorhead
23. Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River (Riverhead Books, 2017) / David Owen
24. East London (Thames & Hudson, 2017) / Charles Saumarez Smith
25. History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town (trans. from the Polish by Sean Gasper Bye) (Restless Books, 2017) / Filip Springer
26. Island Home: A Landscape Memoir (Milkweed Editions, 2017) / Tim Winton
27. On Empson (Princeton University Press, 2017) / Michael Wood

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

March 2017 Highlights

NOVELS
1. All Grown Up (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Jami Attenberg
2. A Piece of the World (The Borough Press, 2017) / Christina Baker Kline
3. The River of Kings (St Martin’s Press, 2017) / Taylor Brown
4. The Hearts of Men (Ecco, 2017) / Nickolas Butler
5. Ill Will (Ballantine Books, 2017) / Dan Chaon
6. The Death of All Things Seen (Head of Zeus, 2017) / Michael Collins
7. In the Name of the Family (Virago/Random House, 2017) / Sarah Dunant
8. Birdcage Walk (Hutchinson, 2017) / Helen Dunmore
9. The Arrangement (Little, Brown, 2017) / Sarah Dunn
10. Compass (trans. from the French by Charlotte Mandell) (Fitzcarraldo Editions/New Directions, 2017) / Mathias Énard

11. Edith & Oliver (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Michèle Forbes
12. The Confessions of Young Nero (Berkley/Macmillan, 2017) / Margaret George
13. Our Short History (Algonquin Books, 2017) / Lauren Grodstein
14. Exit West (Hamish Hamilton/Riverhead Books, 2017) / Mohsin Hamid
15. The Memory Tree (Cheyne Walk, 2017) / Glenn Haybittle
16. Celine (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Peter Heller
17. From the Heart (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Susan Hill
18. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (HarperCollins, 2017) / Balli Kaur Jaswal
19. The Weight of This World (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017) / David Joy
20. A Separation (Clerkenwell Press, 2017) / Katie Kitamura

21. The Devil and Webster (Grand Central Publishing, 2017) / Jean Hanff Korelitz
22. White Tears (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Hari Kunzru
23. The Night Ocean (Penguin Press, 2017) / Paul La Farge
24. Black Moses (trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson) (Serpent’s Tail, 2017) / Alain Mabanckou
25. Girl in Disguise (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017) / Greer Macallister
26. A Book of American Martyrs (Ecco, 2017) / Joyce Carol Oates
27. Minds of Winter (Quercus Books, 2017) / Ed O’Loughlin
28. In Extremis (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Tim Parks
29. A Natural (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Ross Raisin
30. The World Made Straight (Canongate, 2017) / Ron Rash

31. The Woman on the Stairs (trans. from the German by Joyce Hackett & Bradley Schmidt) (Pantheon, 2017) / Bernhard Schlink
32. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Scribner, 2017) / Lisa See
33. The Woman in the Castle (HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2017) / Jessica Shattuck
34. Ties (trans. from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri) (Europa Editions, 2017) / Domenico Starnone
35. The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley (The Dial Press, 2017) / Hannah Tinti
36. Bright Air Black (William Heinemann, 2017) / David Vann
37. The Explosion Chronicles (trans. from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas) (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Yan Lianke

FIRST NOVELS
1. Stay With Me (Canongate Books, 2017) / Ayobami Adebayo
2. Taduno’s Song (Pantheon, 2017) / Odafe Atogun
3. The Idiot (Penguin Press, 2017) / Elif Batuman
4. Larchfield (Riverrun, 2017) / Polly Clark
5. The Same Old Story (trans. from the Russian by Stephen Pearl) (Bunim & Bannigan, 2017) / Ivan Goncharov
6. The Impossible Fairy Tale (trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong) (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Han Yujoo
7. Himself (Atria Books, 2017) / Jess Kidd
8. The Barrowfields (Hogarth, 2017) / Phillip Lewis
9. One of the Boys (Scribner, 2017) / Daniel Magariel
10. Ithaca (Picador, 2017) / Alan McMonagle

11. The Lucky Ones (Spiegel & Grau, 2017) / Julianne Pachico
12. Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / George Saunders
13. Fever Dream (trans. from the Spanish by Megan McDowell) (Oneworld, 2017) / Megan Schweblin
14. Temporary People (Restless Books, 2017) / Deepak Unnikrishnan
15. The Girl from Rawblood (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2017) / Catriona Ward

STORIES
1. All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Alison MacLeod
2. The Lucky Ones (Spiegel & Grau, 2017) / Julianne Pachico
3. Swimming Among the Stars (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Kanishk Tharoor
4. Wait Till You See Me Dance (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Deb Olin Unferth
5. The Last Bell (trans. from the German by David Burnett) (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Johannes Urzidil

POETRY
1. The Unaccompanied (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Simon Armitage
2. Magdalene (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Marie Howe
3. Selected Poems (ed. Dermot Bolger) (New Island Books, 2017) / Francis Ledwidge
4. Simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017) / Airea D. Matthews
5. Box (Penguin Books, 2017) / Robert Wrigley
6. Orbit (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Cynthia Zarin

NONFICTION
1. The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / David Bellos
2. Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom (Allen Lane, 2017) / Erica Benner
3. South and West: From a Notebook (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Joan Didion
4. Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England (Bloomsbury Continuum, 2017) / Eamon Duffy
5. Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital (trans. from the German by Amanda DeMarco) (The MIT Press, 2016) / Franz Hessel
6. The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Gish Jen
7. An Arrangement of Skin: Essays (Counterpoint, 2017) / Anna Journey
8. Havana: A Subtropical Delirium (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Mark Kurlansky
9. More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers (ed. Christopher Boucher) (Melville House, 2017) / Jonathan Lethem
10. The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir (Random House/Fleet, 2017) / Ariel Levy

11. The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Cork University Press, 2017) / Vincent Morley
12. Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism (Pantheon, 2017) / Camille Paglia
13. Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem (Other Press, 2017) / George Prochnik
14. Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (Random House, 2017) / Lyndal Roper
15. Confessions of a Heretic: Selected Essays (Notting Hill Editions, 2017) / Roger Scruton
16. Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India (C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2017) / Shashi Tharoor