This month Off the Edge is celebrating it's first anniversary as a separate entity from the financial newspaper which spawned it. Congrats to Jason Tan and team for producing a glossy mag which is both intelligent and visually delicious, which talks art and literature and politics, which isn't shy to be appropriately subversive at times, which isn't afraid to feature the occasional piece of locally written fiction, and which is prepared to explore issues in depth. Happy birthday!
My only wish (and a selfish one at that) is that more of the features were available online so that I could pick them up and run with them on this blog, and that they were archived. (Some articles from previous issues can be found here.)
Anyway ... in the current issue there is a (very!) lengthy interview with Datuk Johan Jaafar who in Deputy was former Editor-in -Chief of Utusan Malaysia and is now deputy chairman of the Malay literary board Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. The whole thing is worth a read, but I give you this snippet because it is most quoteworthy:
Are we producing good works of literature now? Ask yourself, what was the last good malay novel you read? If you ask me I would say Hujan Pagi (by A. Samad Said) published more than 26 years ago. Where are the tomes, the canons, the masterpieces? Sadly, today's literature has little time for the poor, the downtrodden, the rakyat or even the successful. We are still nostalgic for Shahnon Ahmad and Samad Said's works becasue we're not producing good contemporary novels.Picisan? A Malayisation of "fiction"? Nice!
The most-read Malay novels are the popular ones - picisan, they call it. At least 20,000 copies of any one of these titles are printed. one such novel, retailing at RM49 is selling more than 50,000 copies, and it will take at least five years to finish the stock. People don't read serious stuff anymore. Period.
(It occurs to me to ask though ... where are these classic Malay novels? I never see them in the bookshops and I would like to buy them. Raman tells me it is very hard to get copies and even he doesn't have them on sale! Don't DBP need to get their finger out and actually promote their books???)
Other good stuff in this issue includes an article on Goenawan Mohammad, Indonesian poet and man of letters (also by Eddin), Rahel Joseph's review of Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, and an interview with Leow Puay Tin about her curatorship of texts for Second Link. And much much more.
So thanks Off The Edge for keeping this litbuff happy. Each issue is a keeper. But please, celebrate your birthday with a decent website!
* If you find insulting the assumption made by local newspapers that being young and cool equates having nothing between your ears, it's time you started making your voice heard, I think. I certainly don't believe it to be true.
Stumped by Salina (26/1/06)