Thursday, April 14, 2005

Postscriptum Tashum

POSTSCRIPT: Seems Tash Aw has not been ignored at all. Apologies for my over reaction! Apparently the book is due for launch here in June, and The Edge and The Star (and I suppose the NST and others) will be interviewing him. And I now have a review copy of the book in my hands, so I'm happy at last.

I like what Elizabeth Wong wrote in reply to my post in mywordup: "There are plenty of great writers from here and on occasion, and some do 'make it' like Beth Yahp, Rani etc. who had great reviews abroad and their work translated. Tash isn't the first and he won't be the last. And these are just the ones who write in English... So let's give mucho support to those who are trying to write here and who are trying to make a difference. Go Pang! Go Kam! Go Neohikayat! Go to Darling Muse this Saturday!"


Leon Wing said...

It's so good to hear of a Malaysian getting kudos for his writing overseas. I've read some reviews from American reviewers, who gave Aw's book thumbs up. However, most Americans have never heard of Malaysia, much less Malaya, nor its history during the 2nd World war. So, for them, an exotic, a mysterious, and a strange setting makes for great backgrounds and plotting. I say this as even their own American Asian writers use such similar backgrounds and plottings when writing about strange Chinese customs and lores - very interesting to non-Chinese, but rather pedestrian to especially overseas Chinese readers. There was a similar kind of Asian reaction to such Asian stories not so recently when Monica Ali's Brick Lane was published in the US. Personally I love the book. And so do most Americans. Except one Indian reviewer for Time magazine. For him its "done that, seen that, read that".

I hate to say this, but the theme of Aw's book is so old-fashioned for such a young(-ish) writer. And the Malaya theme has been taken on lots of times by quite a few local writers who lectured in Malaysia.

What I would like to see is a novel from Kee Thuan Chye. His extract from his work in progress was so funny and touching, actually so Malaysian in the dialogue and sentence construction.

And perhaps a different kind of Malaysian writing? I support Elizabeth and maybe we can hope to see a gay novel from the likes of Pang and members of gendergenre?

As for British reviewers, not all review it that glowingly. Guardian reviewer Alfred Hickling:

"There were long passages of Aw's narrative where I felt quite a long way adrift of the shores of understanding myself. He writes with what seems like effortless fluidity, yet the dazzling haze of the construction seems ultimately designed to deflect attention from the fact that it frequently demands patient re-reading without really deserving it."

I haven't read the book yet, so I'm ready to discount Hickling's review for the time being, and still take a hopeful view to Aw's writing - he can't be that one-offish.

Would we see occasional insights and snippets of review (of course we'll be waiting to read your full review in the papers as well) in this blog?

And once again, congrats to Aw. Can't wait to read him, or to meet him, if possible.

bibliobibuli said...

Leon, thanks so much for this - plenty here to think about and tip into the cooking pot for debate. I hope I enjoy this book - I'm reading with my fingers crossed ... and first few chapters in am having a great time.

Like you, I don't want to read of an exoticised East - the reality we live with is far removed: the drains smell, there are social issues that need to be addressed, and when it boils down to it, Malaysia is no more (or less) exotic than anywhere else on the earth's surface. I too pray for the local writer who hits veins of relevance for readers here ...

Speaking of which Leon, a guy who loves books as much as you, and talks so eloquently about them must have a novel somewhere in the writing desk drawer ...

I loved Brick Lane becasue i felt that it gave a voice to the Bangladeshi community in Britain who seem to be to be less visible and more powerless than other Asian groups. And it was a wonderful story about a woman learning to take charge of her life.

Leon Wing said...

a novel somewhere in the writing desk drawer ... ?

Gosh, you've drawn me out ... perhaps some day I would put up a bit of work-in-progress in my blog. I'm not that ready yet.

Enjoy reading Aw, and tell us more about what you have read so far. Can't wait.