Sunday, April 02, 2006

Raman's Newspaper Rant

Raman has updated his website with some tasty news and an extremely interesting opinion piece about the local newspapers: don't they have a role to play in promoting reading?:
The two main papers publish more than a thousand pages each week (I wonder how many trees that is). One has two pages of book news, the other has no fixed schedule. Local book news? Forget it.
There is slightly more than that in the Star. Thor's column on Tuesdays which is sometimes spot on (especially when he talks about local writers), but at other times loses me and my eyes glaze over. (Sorry!) ... Perhaps an article on something literary gleaned from the Guardian which I've already read online (but if you are going to take literary articles from any newspaper in the world, please, make it this one). ... A page of short reviews on Thursdays - a pretty mixed bag . Yes, a little more in Starmag on Sunday, I enjoy the reviews and Daphne's articles about kids' books are excellent because written by someone with a passion. I don't read the NST 'cept on Sundays, but used to buy the Wednesday edition when there were literary pages.

Book pages don't attract readers? If you take books as your starting point, you can write about almost anything in the world anyway (I've visited sado-masochism, greasy spoon cafes, the Iraq War, issues of gender, millinery, cookery, and the female orgasm in the last few days!)

Blogging has taught me this: there is a readership for news and opinion pieces on books and authors ... providing that the writing is lively and takes the reader into account. Trying to be deep level literay (and the NST's pages tended to veer that way) will just make books seem lightyears away from the interests of most people. Drop the L word! But at the same time, don't underestimate your local readers. who are capable of a deeper level of intellectual engagement than the newspapers throw at them.

But yes, I agree with Raman's bottom line ... if a nation of readers is to be created, the newspapers must play a significant role.

I'm hungry for more than the local papers provide. I stick them on the recycle pile or use them as disposable plates for my cats after 5 minutes skimming ... and then spend hours online reading the book pages from overseas newspapers ... and reading blogs.

Was very interested in what Raman says about a local Chinese newspaper taking literature seriously and sponsoring an award :
A Malaysian Chinese daily (I have spoken to their CEO) has a biannual international literary competition and award for fiction, poetry and journalism which has been touted as the Chinese equivalent of "The Booker'. This project apparently attracts top writers from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and all other countries in the world, and Malaysian writers in Chinese are most definitely world class. This same newspaper also has regular literary pages with discussions on a diverse range of topics by local and foreign writers. I was shown a page where the discussion was on the works of Borges and Bukowski. (Note to readers of English newspapers: no, they were not the villains in the last Star Wars movie.)
Amazing! I really didn't know. (Please tell me more if you did.)

Raman accuses a local newspaper of merajuking during the Literary Festival.

I actually don't know the truth of any of this, and I don't know how the publicity could should have been managed differently (I was coordinating the sessions and speakers so was mentally elsewhere during the lead-up) ... but it broke my heart that despite bringing something this enormous to KL and putting the country on the world literary map, despite months of hard work and stress ... there was next to no publicity for the whole venture and no write up in the press about it afterwards (just a mention in the education pages of the Star!).

Even those publications which pride themselves on having a finger on the pulse of the arts scene largely ignored us. Where else in the world would that happen? Though all the papers were happy to interview the writers we'd invited ... Hijuelos, Paul Bailey, without mentioning the Litfest ... or just in passing.

Maybe Raman stood on toes (he's pretty good at that!) ... maybe Raman didn't get the publicity machinery into place in time ... but the silence from the press hurt deeply.

Hurt me, anyway. Am I too sensitive?


starlight said...

no sharon, you're not overly sensitive. it hurts deeply to pour your heart into your passion, have people rave about it beforehand and when the actual time comes, there's nothing but silence from the so-called supporters. i've been there too. but don't give up and don't be too disillusioned. if you're ever involved with the litfest again, do let me know how i can help you out.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem is: EDITORS ARE STUPID.

Again, i cant leave my name or nick here. But i think u know who i am.

dreamer idiot said...

I am absolutely ashamed that there isn't a big enough literary pp here in M'sia. Off course, there are many, many passionate and 'deep' readers out there who take books seriously, but the point is that there should be more... Perhaps, that is why there isn't a market for pp like me.

I was in a part of China recently, not Beijing, Shanhai or Guangzhou, but an area not really frequently visited by Westerners, and I visited some of their bookshops. I can hardly read Chinese these days, but I was totally gobsmaked to see the books these people are reading. There were a couple of translated poetry books by well-known international poets...and a book on the study of French/English prosody and versification. I also saw translated books of French philosophers Derrida and Foucault. I tell I really felt damn small there, mravelling at the breadth of their reading...Their literary productions also far surpasses our own in quality....and u know what, one of their bookshops open till 1130pm, with a nce tea and coffree corner, while some light jazz music pipping in the background.

What is wrong with Malaysia? I feel so sad...we can do much better

lil ms d said...

sb. am kinda in a daze from the l.a. but read this and feel for you. i agree with the comments above.
when i was a kid, i told my teacher i wanted to be a librarian ( ihad a marvellous one when i was a kid and til today i have this mary poppins/madeleine thing going), and she said that librarians were not useful to society and i should stop daydreaming about books and get back to work.

it all boils down to the education system, imho. my parents always tell me stories about their lond dead english teachers and readings, writing contests and concerts they held.

aiyah our papers these days. sigh. i guess mawi/siti nurhaliza are literary for them.

if no one udnerstands this comment, blame it on the l.a!

The Visitor said...

hello, dz, can pls dont speak in abbreviations or not? what da heck is l.a.?

n.m.f.l., t.n.s., n.m.c.h.!

Greenbottle said...

a yes... i do miss nst wednesday's literary pages...all those insane ramblings of salleh ben joned, and later his worthy successor the cheeky but erudite amir muhammad...who now goes on to make unfortunately crappy movies...(but i have great confidence that he'll go on to make some fine movies in the near future...)

can't understand why everything suddenly stopped ...

lil ms d said...

local anasthetic.

is that the correct spelling?

bibliobibuli said...

starlight - many thanks - both for support and the offer of help IF ...

anonymous - i bow to your greater experience here.

also true is the fact that editors are also hardpressed sometimes to find writers to cover events. perhaps part of that comes from the payment for articles is so tiny compared to the amount of time and effort that goes into writing ... you get what you pay for

dreamer idiot - that's interesting ... not something i would have expected at all ...

since you read chinese, what do you think about the coverage of things literary in the local chinese press

ms d - i hope not still feeling woozy and on the mend ... but see where your word hunger has lead you in life! and it's good you didn't become a librarian or would we ever have heard of you?

visitor - hey you're here! i saw you has a new look blog and must go back and read in detail ... sure missed your bloggy presence

The Visitor said...

i have two currently active blogs....and many other inactive ones(i lost count!).

the one Eyeris showed you was an April Fool's joke. the blighter! i'm going to get him good!

bibliobibuli said...

i got april fooled by eyeris?????????

but then again, he pinged it in the afternoon and anything after noon means you are an april foll yourself! tell me for me, would you?

lil ms d said...

i really would like to be a librarian. i could give all this up to live in the british library. kl can be sooo exhausting...

Anonymous said...

"Again, i cant leave my name or nick here. But i think u know who i am"

Yes, the writing style does give you away.

Anonymous said...

_the_ British library ? :)

amir said...

Well, keep your fingers crossed.