Books are coming out thick and fast, and some of them are of international standard.Why keep making such a big issue of this "homegrown Malaysian author" business? Does being overseas make what they write any less relevant to us? Not a bit of it.
Take the recently published Ripples and other stories by Shih- Li Kow. Amir Muhammad gave it an absolutely positive review, and everyone who has read it is full of praise. This book deserves to be in every Malaysian public and school library. But will it? Or will that space be reserved for a badly edited title of uneven quality by the “right” publisher?
Then, there is the question of the media. Here too, a foreign visitor looking at our literary pages will wonder which country he, or she, is in. I have been told that most book reviewers work freelance, and they choose what they want to read (except for the very famous titles which everyone fights for).
There are many reasons why they are mostly disinclined to choose a local book.
Firstly, foreign books are seen as more glamorous. Secondly, there are the prejudices based on past experiences regarding quality. And thirdly, they will have to write their own reviews, and not be able to do cut-and-paste jobs after lifting stuff off the Internet, as some quite obviously do.
... Malaysian writers do well overseas, so why not at home? I believe that with the right support, a homegrown Malaysian author can become a success internationally. What we need to decide is if that is important (or not important) for the nation.
Shi-Li's book, yes, is very good and does indeed deserve to be in every library and every school. But when Raman talks about :
... a badly edited title of uneven quality by the “right” publisher?is he referring to Urban Odysseys published by MPH? * Why can't he actually say so? Why this pussy-footing around, instead of being clear and direct?
* Amir Muhammad in the comments says he believes he's talking about the books published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Another friend who sent me the link believes it is Urban Odysseys.
Update (7/4/09) :
Apparently wasn't Urban Odysseys. I apologise for getting the wrong end of the stick, as did others who read the article. Still don't know what books is being referred to, I'm afraid!