Monday, March 15, 2021

Double Preeta

I picked up two magazines today which both contain articles I've written on Preeta Samarasan. And both also have a plenty more great book related stuff to read.

Preeta is cover girl of MPH's Quill magazine (free to cardholders, RM8 to others, at branches of MPH) with a gorgeous portrait photo taken by top New York-based photographer Miriam Berkley who talks about her work and about what makes a great author photo inside.

The piece on Preeta here is an e-mail interview in which I ask her about the starting point of her novel, how far the family in the novel is based on her own (perish the thought!), how doing an MFA helped her and whether writing from outside the country gives her more freedom to write honestly. Do go pick up a copy to find out the answers! Preeta herself writes a very interesting piece - No More Dirty Laundry : In Defence of Fiction.

In other pieces I enjoyed, Chet writes about her "torrid affair with digital books" (!) ; Lydia gives poor, mistreated books a voice; Amir Muhammad (who seems to have the scary ability of getting everywhere these days!) reviews Adibah Amin's Glimpses; Daphne Lee writes about one of my favourite Scottish folk heroes Tam Lin; Yang May Ooi talks about her encounters with British food and Saradha Narayanan talks about hanging up her stethoscope to become an author.

The other magazine is Off the Edge and my piece about Preeta here is a review of Evening is the Whole Day. I am so happy that Jason Tan gave me the space I needed.

There are the usual thought-provoking articles about politics and the arts, and the more literary things include another episode in the life of Kam's Datuk, and the second extract from Kee Thuan Chye's The Swordfish and Then the Concubine, as well as reviews of two recent publications from The Edge Publications, Shape of a Pocket by Jacqueline Anne Surin, and Tipping Points : Viewpoints on the Reasons for and Impact of the March 8 Election Earthquake. Benjamin McKay reviews Shanon Shah's play Air Con.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah is the cover boy here, and the subject of a very lengthy interview with Jason. I wonder if he will still be able to mount a challenge for the presidency of UMNO and really hope so.

* (The piece is not online at the moment - but may be later.)


Chet said...

The original title was "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways", but I guess it was not spicy enough to boost an otherwise boring article.

bibliobibuli said...

not boring.

i am "indefatigable" again and feel exhausted just looking at the word.

Anonymous said...

a few months ago i wrote some rather harsh words on ms preeta in one of bibliobibuli posts in response to her sarcastic comments on me. and bibliobibuli said that i'm about to eat my sambal belacan for ms preeta will be a very wellknown writer soon and suggested me to read preeta's book (which at that time i was completely ignorant of)

and i said i'm a fair man and will eat my belacan if i am wrong and also as a malaysian i'll always support and wish well for all malaysian writers. and also, i will tell what i feel about the book in this bibliobibuli blog.

i do ocassionally keep my promise and this is one of them.and perhaps this is as good a time as any for me to give my view of my feeling about ms preeta's book.

and so, i googled and read as much as i can about preeta. and i found all the write-ups floating in the net are very impressive indeed. i've yet to read any outright negative welldone.(i suppose i must eat a bit of belacan here). but one thing i noticed is that most of the reviews were by indians and perhaps some were by persons who are personal friends of preeta(as the case of sharon here for example). and i suspect some of these reviews are not a bit without bias and probably a little bit of cheerleading and show of support. as such what reviews i read did not really give any good idea if it is really good or if i will like the book.

and so, a week or so ago i went to mph and saw preeta's book (several copies) nicely stacked and shrink wrapped.
i normally don't bother with ANY fictions that are shrinkwrapped but this is the first time i actually requested the mph girl to unwrap it for me and so i stood there and read the first page or two and my first impression was "ah! sounds like national geographic." and so i stopped.

although first page can't be used as a measure of how good a book is, i personally like books that grab me by the balls from the first page. and i usually know if i like the writing style from the first page or two. (so in this case, no belacan here).

but the real clincher for me is this review from one amardeep singh. this is the only review that i read so far that really gives me some idea about the book.

when i read the excerpts of the dialogue my impression is "ah! dina zaman went wild".

as amardeep said:

If you find dialogues like these interesting (they are, I should say again, not fully representative), you’ll probably enjoy Evening is the Whole Day.

below is the excerpt from amardeep's review.

[Appa] “The problem with their racial politics,” he began, “is that—“

[Amma] “Aiyo, all this politics I don’t know lah,” she said. “Whatever they want to do as long as they leave us alone it’s okay isn’t it?”

“Leave us alone? Leave us alone? You call this leaving us alone? Their bloody article 153 and their ketuanan Melayu, yes yes I know you’ll insist you can’t understand a word of Malay, so let me explain it to you, let me tell you what it means: it means Malays are masters of this land, do you understand? Our masters! With that kind of language—“

“Tsk, after all it’s their country, what, so why shouldn’t they be the masters? Just because you cannot sit at home and keep quiet means—“

“But it’s our country just as much as the bloody Malays’! Do you realize some of our families have been here longer than theirs? Ask the Straits Chinese—“

“Tsk, all these grand ideas…”

***and here's another***

For now he, a Malay man seated across the aisle and behind Uma and Amma, concentrated on correcting certain misperceptions. “Eh thanggachi!” he called out softly, leaning sideways in his seat, his teeth yellow under the black velvet of his songkok. “Thanggachi!”

Thanggachi meant little sister in Tamil, but Uma, six years old, in stockings and a smocked dress with a sash, knew two things without having to think about them: 1) the Malay man didn’t really speak Tamil; and 2) she wasn’t anyone’s little sister.

“I’m not thanggachi,” she said, and, by way of honest-but-friendly introduction: “I’m Uma Rajasekharan.” Only implied, but keenly felt by all present: And who are you, audacious songkok wearer with yellow teeth?

“Tsk,” said Amma, one hand flicking Uma’s knee, “don’t be rude.” She shut her eyes against the green glare streaming through the curtains and leaned against the headrest.

“Oh oh, so sorry lah thanggachi,” said the Malay man,” but I tell you something, okay?”

[…] “Keretapi Tanah Melayu mean railway lah thanggachi,” the man went on. “Means Malay Land Railway.” Malay Lands means Malaysia lah, thanggachi, that also you don’t know ah? Looking at me with eyes so big, your own country also you don’t know the name is it? Aiyo-yo thanggachi, your own Na-tio-nal Language also tak tahu ke? No shame ah you, living in Malay Land but cannot speak Malay? Your mummy and daddy also no shame ah, living in Malay Land and never teach their children Malay?” (116)

ah pong

Anonymous said...

Ah Pong --

Despite what you might expect, not all persons of Indian descent are personal friends of mine :-) .

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Preeta, on your book! My best wishes!

Warmest regards,
Twan Eng

bibliobibuli said...

some of these reviews are not a bit without bias

mine is from the heart!

Anonymous said...

eh how did i get dragged into this lah?!

i have yet to get preeta's book, many apologies. buried in work.

have a good weekend everyone!

Anonymous said...

Preeta is a very good nonfiction writer, too. Read her opinion piece in Quill and you will know what I mean.

Unknown said...

Hi Sharon - I read this edition of Quill almost from cover to cover and gained tidbits from your interview with Preeta, which I also shoved to my eleven year old son who is showing promising signs of a potential writer (ah..if Mummy never gets to write her book, maybe the son can...). Thanks for being "indefatigable" again - heh heh. I haven't read Preeta's book but am keen to try it. I liked her piece on fiction, esp as I am most reluctant to read "true stories" (labelling them that for some reason turns me off).
Chet, I liked your piece very much and am intending to check out the website you mentioned, once I have a KINDLE in my hands!!!! I think being able to lug your whole library AND being able to control font size are two great pluses of digital books.
Dina - urm - you're a celebrity so you get mentioned everywhere!

Adline Writes said...

Hi Sharon, congrats on the articles. I just got Quill, will look out for the Edge one. Also, congrats Preeta! More power to you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sharon! And Twan Eng and Anonymous and Eliza for your kind comments.

Looking forward to reading the other pieces in Quill and Off The Edge.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your postings regarding my play. I'd like to invite you to its premier staging in Singapore in August. Please let me know you can come. Reply to my rocketmail address, please.


Spot said...

I promised myself that I wouldn't read any reviews until I'd read Evening is the Whole Day myself...(which is why Sharon's review is the remaining article in Off The Edge that I haven't read)...but less than half-way through and I've broken that promise. :(

In my defence I have to say that I sought out reviews only because I needed an outlet for my feelings of "I'm SO savouring this book, it's a fab read innit?".

And so to Ah Pong I must not have been reading the same reviews as I, because most of those I read were by non-Malaysians and persons who weren't of Indian descent.

As a Malaysian, I'm grateful that Ms. Samarasan wrote this book. It's making me smile, laugh out loud, pensive and sad all at the same time.