This issue brings Ann Lee's piece about our two literary space pioneers, Tash Aw and Tan Twan Eng. (I'm sure you can work out which is which in the cartoon!) This piece, putting both authors and their work side by side was positively aching to be written.
And as Ann points out quite rightly, getting onto the Booker longlist is a far harder feat for Malaysians to achieve than being sent off into space:
After all, you can still pay for that to happen.The astronaut analogy works very well, with Tash as:
... the Neil Armstrong of Malaysian authors hitting the high numbers of international readers.As Ann notes too, it's a real shame that there has been no official acknowledgment of their achievement (a phone call from the PM would have been nice!), and the academic community haven't quite yet got round to highlighting their achievements either. Are their works too recent to be considered real literature, perhaps?
I enjoyed Ann's reviews of the two books very much, and found myself agreeing with much she said, as well as enjoying the way she writes. (Hurray for this magazine which gives reviewers the space to do a decent job.)
There's some lovely ephemera about Twan in an accompanying column, especially about his early love of Enid Blyton. (Hey, I loved Mallory Towers too!). There's also a I'd-laugh-if-it-wasn't-so-bloody-tragic column detailing just how hard it is to track down a copy of The Gift of Rain in various branches of MPH. (Remember Glenda's lament?)
There's much else that's really good in the magazine. Siti Nurhaliza looks natural and gorgeous in Vinod J Nair's photographs. Nazim Isa's photographs of the Roma of Sulukule are fascinating. I missed Sharon Chin's exhibition on banned books and am grateful for the pictures and review. Amir Muhammad's Malaysian Politicians say the Darndest Things gets a two page plug. And Ann Lee pops up again reviewing the Ubud Writers' and Readers' Festival and I get to hear about some of the bits I missed.
And much much more ... including one ad I think many of you will be interested in. Time Out, that icon of London culture has been steadily extending its' reach to other world capitals, is now coming to Kuala Lumpur and is looking for freelance journalists and contributors!
Irene Q has problems finding the books she wants at MPH too. Book retailing is one of the trickiest businesses to be in, which is why it requires really on the ball staff!