Monday 28 December 2009

Some KL short shorts

I was asked to write for A City of Shared Stories: Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago by someone at the British Council. "I don't do fiction," I sneered, and didn't think about it again.

But for some odd reason, starting yesterday, I have been posting short fiction pieces there. Hope you like, and join in the fun! The only rule (as far as I know) is that each story needs to be less than 1,600 characters long. Oh yes, and they need to relate to some part of KL, which you need to identify on the map (although I didn't do this properly in the first story. Oh well.)

Dorm Horror

1988: Sheila Majid's Niece
1980: Mosque Slippers
Alternate Merdeka Day Commercial
2008: Speed
Kumpulan Pantun (Edisi Pelajar)
Key to the City
Lipstik Babi
1997: My life as an artis
A Tale of Two Cars

What Your History Teacher Would Tell You, to Screw With Your Mind
2010: A God's Eye View
Sesudah Subuh (After the Dawn)
The Subversive Sign-Language Switch of 1998
The Mutant Panda
City Fantasy
The IC Code
Election Candidate

One-Night Stand

The Prefect
Superstar Singh
Six Dates, Seven Nights
Muhammad Ali and the Golden Girl
The Jihadist
I Didn't Know
Our Grandmother's Shah Rukh Khan Remedy

The Sex Thing with the Tempoyak

KL Vice
Taxi Tale on a Rainy Bridge
The Breakup
A Woman's Work
Suicide Blond (Part 1)
The Newly Discovered Audio Recording of the Final Encounter between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat
Feng Shui

The Convert
Money (version 1)
Money (version 2)
Money (version 3)
Money (version 4)
Correspondence (Alternate Take)
The Beef


Tuesday 22 December 2009

The first #1 bestseller for Matahari Books in over two years :-)

MPH Best-Sellers List for Week Ending Dec 20, 2009

Local Authors

1. What Your Teacher Didn’t Tell You: The Annexe Lectures (Vol. 1) by Farish A. Noor (Matahari Books) distributed by Horizon

2. Indahnya Hidup Bersyariat – Panduan Fardu Ain Lengkap Bergambar by Dato’ Ismail Kamus & Mohd. Azrul Azlen Ab. Hamid

3. Membongkar Misteri Dajjal: Berdasarkan Al-Quran & Hadith, Juga Penemuan Saintifik & Artifak-Artifak Misteri Dunia Yang Menggemparkan! by Muhammad Nuraini Maarif

4. You Can Become Rich in Property by Peter Yee

5. Diari Sufi by Siti Munazakiah

6. From Asian to Global Financial Crisis. An Asian Regulator’s View of Unfettered Finance in the 1990s and 2000s by Andrew Sheng

7. Dr Mahathir’s Selected Letters To World Leaders by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

8. Malaysia at Random by Editions Didier Millet

9. Ajaibnya Sedekah: Semakin Bersedekah Semakin Kaya by Muhammad Muhyidin

10. The Budget: How the Government is Spending Our Money by Teh Chi-Chang

* List supplied by MPH MidValley. The last #1 was back in November 2007.

Monday 21 December 2009

The other censored line from MUALLAF

Two lines of dialogue from the film have been muted. I posted the first one earlier. Now this is the second.

You won't get to hear the line or read the subtitle. Other that that, all the dialogue is intact! Yasmin had agreed to both mutes months ago, because she wanted the film to finally be seen by Malaysians.

So do watch Muallaf, which starts on Thursday! Try to watch it by Sunday, because the box-office takings for the first four days are crucial to determine whether the film goes into its second week. So many people say they are here fans, so what better way to demonstrate this than by watching her final film to be released in Malaysia, on the big screen as intended?

The film is rated 18PL; in fact, it's the only Yasmin film to get this restrictive rating, putting it in the exalted company of Bohsia: Jangan Pilih Jalan Hitam and Jalang.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Pre-Malaysian novels in English set in Malaysia & Singapore

Presented in alphabetical order of author. Cut-off date is 1963
a) How many have you read?
b) How many sound like something you'd like to read?
c) Any mistakes/omissions?
This is for an upcoming book I am planning ;-)

Herman C AHRENS:
Give and Take, 1956

Archibald ALLISON
The Real Pirates of Borneo, 1898

A Handful of Rice, 1961

Nightcomers, 1956
Passage of Arms, 1959

Blondes Prefer Tuans, 1934

Snake Wine, a Singapore Episode, 1955

Affair in Malaya, 1958
Malayan Interlude, 1961

John Martin: Miner, 1914

Jungle Leech, 1935
Land of Short Shadows, 1932

K.E. Savage BAILEY
Squ-ee-umph, 1934

Hunter S. BANNER
The Clean Wind, 1931
Flamboyante, 1932
Hell's Harvest, 1934
The Mountain of Terror, 1928
Red Cobra, 1929
Terror Wave, 1935
Thus My Orient, 1947

The Adventures of So Hi, 1950

Malayan Adventure, 1962

Gavin BLACK (pseudonym for Oswald Wynd)
Moon of the Tiger, 1958
The Gentle Pirate, 1951
Red Sun South, 1948
Suddenly at Singapore, 1961
A Walk in the Long Dark Night, 1962

Peter BLUNDELL (pseudonym for FN Butterworth)
The Banja Pirates, 1924
The Confessions of a Seaman, 1924
The Finger of Mr. Blee, 1913
The Little Brown Baby, 1925
Love Birds in the Coconuts, 1915
Princess of the Yellow Moon, 1922
The Sin of Godfrey Neil, 1920
Wanted: A Tortoise Shell, 1920

The Other Side of the Coin, 1958
Sacrilege in Malaya, 1959
The Test, 1957 (also published as White Man's Test)

With the Dyaks of Borneo, 1905

Lady Margaret BROOKE
Cauldron, 1926
Lost Property, 1930
Toys, 1923

The Malayan Trilogy (1964, but published individually from 1956-59).

Miss Hawkins: the Ocean Boarder, 1933

Alan CAILLOU (pseud. for Alan Lyle-Smythe)
Rampage, 1961

Sunset in the East, 1955

Jackals of the Sea, 1955

Singapore Passage, 1957

CHIN Kee Oon
The Grand Illusion, 1961
Ma-Rai-Ee (later titled The Silent Enemy), 1952

King Rat, 1961

Valentine CLEMOW
My Candle Burns at Both Ends, 1947

A Freelance of Today, 1903
Saleh: A Prince of Malaya, 1926
Saleh: a Sequel, 1908 (I am not sure why this sequel appears several years before)
Since the Beginning: A Tale of an Eastern Land, 1898

The Lovely & The Damned, 1944

Penang Appointment, 1934

Bermadu: a Tale of Modern Malaya, 1911

Joan CONQUEST (Mrs Leonard Cook)
The Sale, 1930

Almayer's Folly, 1895
Lord Jim, 1900
An Outcast of the Islands, 1896
The Rescue, 1920

Arthur Owens COOKE
The Rajah's Ruby, 1929

Chester CORNISH (pseudonym for Alleyne Ireland)
Beating 'em to It; or. The Sultan and the Sausages, 1917

Mark CORRIGAN (pseud. for Norman Lee)
Singapore Downbeat, 1959

The Chandu Men, 1955

Lady in Malacca. 1936 (translated from La Dame De Malacca)

Clive DALTON (pseud. for F.S. Clark)
Always Afternoon, 1933
Island Spell, 1934
The Jesting Fates, 1938
Malay Boy, 1961
Malay Cause, 1962
Malay Island, 1962
Once to Every Man, 1935
The Spacious Days, 1939
Valiant Journey, 1935
White Pagan, 1932

Dawn: a Romance of Malaya, 1926
Echo of a Bomb, 1957
Eyes of the Moon, 1927
The Fetters of Love, 1928
The Return of Gloria, 1926

Mark DERBY (pseud. for Harry Wilcox)
The Big Water, 1953
Echo of a Bomb, 1957
Five Nights in Singapore, 1961
Malayan Rose, 1951
Out of Asia Alive, 1954
Sun in the Hunter's Eyes, 1955
The Sunlit Ambush, 1955
The Tigress, 1959
Trail of Treasure, 1953

Lupa, 1939
Only a Taxi Driver: a Romance of Singapore, 1939
The Princess of Malacca, 1938
Sulaiman goes to London: A Romance of the East, 1938

Michael EAST (pseud. for Morris L. West)
McCreary Moves in London, 1958

(Mrs) Egerton EASTWICK
The Governor's Wife, 1900
The Resident Councillor, 1898

The Golden Sword, 1957

The Soul of Malaya, 1931 (translated from Malaisie, 1930)

G. Manville FENN
Rajah of Dah, 1891
Middy and Ensign: or, a Tale of the Malay Peninsula, 1917
Trapped by Malays: a Tale of Bayonet and Kris, 1907 (PDF)

Malay Woman, 1954

W. Roberts FORAN
The Land of Fear, 1938

"Tid Apa" What Does it Matter?, 1915

The Story of Pigou, a Malay Boy, 1922

The Bamboo Rod, 1951
Bright Moon in the Forest, 1946
Planter's Wife, 1946
The Wiles of Lim Quong, 1943

John GILBERT (pseud. for JB Harrison)
The Buff Envelope, 1958

(Major) Charles GILSON
The Cunning of Quang, 1935

The Beach of Passionate Love, 1961

A Tale that is Told: a Romance, 1949

No News from Helen, 1943

No Time to Look Back, 1950

The Tragedy of the Chinese Mine, 1930

Olive J. GROOM
Jungle Escape, 1957

Pelham GROOM (pseud.)
Latiff Investigates, 1960

HAN Su Yin
And the Rain My Drink..., 1956

Blood on the Leaves, 1953

HARUN Aminurrashid
A Malay Among the Portuguese, 1961 (translated from Panglima Awang, 1958)
The Kedayan Blood: A Borneo Story, 1960 (translated from Darah Kedayan, 1947)

The Gay Sarong, 1926

Simon HARVESTER (pseud. for Henry Gibs)
The Golden Fear, 1957
An Hour Before Zero, 1959
The Yesterday Walkers, 1958

Coast of No Return, 1953
Death in Deep Green, 1952
The Man Who Came Back, 1957

Cocktail Alley, 1933
Exit Mrs Banks, 1935
Runaway Rascal, 1938
A Touch of the Sun, 1933

Among Malay Pirates, 1899
In the Hands of the Malays, 1906

Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, 1957

A. HILLMAN & WW. Skeat
Salam the Mouse-Deer, 1938

The Time of the Locust, 1960

The Men from Singapore: A Romance, 1946

Mingmeo HSU
Five Years in Love, 1959

Stanley Portal HYATT
The Black Pearl of Pieloo, a Tale of the Malay Seas, 1914

Nancy Ford INMAN
To the Ends of the Earth, 1952

The Magician's Daughter, 1922

The Knight Errant, 1936

Biggles Delivers the Goods, 1946

Coconut Wireless, 1948

Tom KAYE (pseud. for Barrington Kaye)
David, From Where He was Lying, 1962

Agnes Newton KEITH
Land Below the Wind, 1939
Three Come Home, 1948
White Man Returns, 1947

Ordeal of the Damned, 1951

Michael KEON
The Durian Tree, 1960

Frances Parkinson KEYES
Fielding's Folly, 1940

Guat-Hoom KHAN
The Jade is Green, 1960

Eastern Gate, 1952

The Dark Backward, 1958

Tomorrow to Fresh Woods, 1936

Peter LECKIE (pseud. for Peter Martin)
Eastern Slave, 1927
Malayan Nights, 1927

Silver Nutmeg, 1947

Laurie E. LONG
Ernest Abaft Admidships, 1949

My Two Jungles, 1957

Alastair MACLEAN
South by Java Head, 1958

The Flying Fox, 1956

F. Van Wyck MASON
Singapore Exile Murders, 1939

Joseph W.T. MASON
War Without Mercy

W.Somerset MAUGHAM
The Narrow Corner, 1932

Dorothy MEADE
Fatal Shadows, 1933

Violet Mary METHLEY
Spectre Jungle, 1961

The White Rajah, 1961

Donald MOORE
The Sumatra, 1959

A Maiden in Malaya, 1919

North from Singapore, 1956

Vile Repose, 1950

Homecoming, 1955 (translated from Japanese)

Kanoka of the Pirates, 1958

The Chinese Bungalow, 1923
Jungle Wallah, 1931
The Owl and the Moon, 1922
The Planter's Wife, 1927

Pierre Steplon Robert PAYNE
David and Anna, 1947
Singapore River, 1942

River Grown Deep, 1959

Serene Retreat, 1957

Malay Adventure, 1937

The Nettlebed, 1952

A Handful of Pennies, 1958

The Greatest Game, 1930

Eileen Arnott ROBERTSON
Four Frightened People, 1931
Three Came Unarmed, 1929

Chandu, 1913
The Pirate Wind, 1920
Sepia, 1926 (reprinted as Passion Fruit, 1934)

Denis & Claude SANTRY
Salubrious Singapore, 1920

The Chinese Love Pavilion, 1960

Pabitra K. SEN-GUPTA
Rainbow Over Malaya, 1945

George SHEEN
Malayan Story, 1957

Two Died in Singapore, 1954

Round the Bend, 1951
A Town Like Alice, 1950 (also published as The Legacy)

Key to the Door, 1961

Katherine SIM
Black Rice, 1959
The Jungle Ends Here, 1961
Malacca Boy, 1957
The Moon at My Feet, 1959

In Fear of Silence, 1959

Homer W. SMITH
End of an Illusion, 1935

The White Garland, 1958

Robert STANDISH (pseud. for D.G. Gerahty)
Follow the Seventh Man, 1950
Storm Centre, 1951

In Singapore. The Story of a Strange Search, 1932

The Colonial, 1962

Uneasy Money, 1957

The Death of Lawrence Viving, 1929

Red Bamboo, 1954

Galleon's Reach, 1927

Elleston TREVOR (pseud. for Trevor Dudley-Smith)
The Burning Shore, 1961

Windom's Way, 1952

The Tale of Fleur, 1930

W. Melville WACE
Yolande of Johore, 1929

Winter is Past, 1955 (Mills & Boon!!)

Seven Tickets to Singapore, 1941

The Panglima Muda, a Romance of Malaya, 1894

G.P. WILLIS and M.P. O'connor
It Began in Singapore, 1958
Escape at Dawn, 1961

Roswell WILLIAMS (pseud. for Frank Owen)
Loves of Loh Fah, 1936

Dale WILMER (pseud.)
Jungle Heat, 1954

Blue Jungle, 1928

The Final Victory, `1935

John Vectic Carew WYLLIE
Goodly Seed, 1953

Agency House, 1962
Captain China, 1961 (this is the British title; listed in the US as Capitan China)

Tiger of Bitter Valley, 1957

List edited from a much longer piece by William R. Roff in JMBRAS Vol. 55. Special thanks to Guat!!

Saturday 5 December 2009

This is how I spent the morning of my birthday

At 11:45am today, the first 200 copies of What Your Teacher Didn't Tell You rolled off the printer and were cut and packaged. The launch is tonight! But we in Matahari Books believe in living dangerously ;-)

I think it's the most gorgeous book we have produced! Full credit to Liza Manshoor (the designer) as well Mr & Mrs Heng (the printer) and Fallon (who provided the difficult-to-get, thick 100% recycled paper that we used).

See you tonight, Insya-Allah. Phew!

In my speech, I will reveal how I first met Farish. (Some ulama from north of the country were involved!)

Friday 4 December 2009

All the Malaysian films that will screen in Paris from Dec - Feb.

These are the modern Malaysian films that will screen at the Singapore-Malaysian Film focus in Paris which runs from mid-December to the end of February. In addition to these, modern Singapore films and classic films of the studio era (made in Singapore, but usually in Malay) will be shown, aussi.

Click to enlarge:

All events take place at the Pompidou Centre. (Site not updated yet, methinks.) More on the venue here.

I will be there to blab about my very own The Big Durian and Malaysian Gods.

Plus, my talk on Yasmin Ahmad's Films is there on Saturday, 23 January 5:30pm. Entrance is free but space is limited. Oh yes, the French price for the book has been set at 15 Euros and it will be stocked at the Pompidou Bookshop, one of the largest film-related bookshops in France.

My Top 10 films of the decade, to be published in Film Comment magazine

In memory of Alexis Tioseco (1981-2009), for Film Comment, this is my Top 10 Southeast Asian feature films of the decade, listed alphabetically:

Batang West Side (Lav Diaz, The Philippines, 2001)

Call if you Need Me (James Lee, Malaysia, 2009)

Demons (Pangarap ng Puso) (Mario O' Hara, The Philippines, 2000)

Eliana, Eliana (Riri Riza, Indonesia, 2002)

Mendadak Dangdut (Rudi Soedjarwo, Indonesia, 2006)

Mukhsin (Yasmin Ahmad, Malaysia, 2006)

A Poet (Puisi Tak Terkuburkan) (Garin Nugroho, Indonesia, 2000)

(Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom, Thailand, 2004)

(Iskwaterpangk) (*with live musical accompaniment by Khavn and friends) (Khavn, The Philippines, 2007)

Tropical Malady (Sud Pralad) (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2004)

Thursday 26 November 2009

KARAOKE opens today, one week only

I am watching tonight!

Anda bagaimana?

I have a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo, but in case you were blinking, here it is!

Friday 20 November 2009

Launching here, there ....

Later today, Insya-Allah, I will be leaving for Seoul. Because this Sunday at 7pm, Yasmin Ahmad's Films will have a Korean launch as part of a conference on Asian cinema at the Korea National University of the Arts. Gubra will be shown the day before, and also my documentary The Last Communist. (Those of you who have seen both will know why these two are paired.)

Then on the evening of 9 December, it will have an Indonesian launch as part of the Jakarta International Film Festival, right before the screening of Talentime.

On the evening of Saturday, 19 December, the Singapore launch takes place at a cosy shop called BooksActually:

Sometime in late January (I don't have the exact date yet), I will also talk about the book at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which is having a focus on the films of Singapore and Malaysia, from the studio era to the present.

The Pompidou might be the toughest for me because the last time I was there, I was with the Filipino film critic Alexis Tioseco, as well as his girlfriend Nika. They were brutally murdered in September in Manila. I remember the date especially because I started writing this book later the same night. Why? Because we always talked about the books we would write; this was my way of keeping in touch with this good, gentle soul.

So if you are in any of those cities during any of those times, do drop by.

The Malaysian launch on Wednesday was fun! Although it was raining heavily, we still managed to fill up the hall. It was especially nice to see many people who were involved in Yasmin's life and films there: family, friends, colleagues ... but those distinctions seemed to evaporate, because she had a way of making many people, even those she'd met recently or infrequently, feel like part of a raucous family.

You can read a report of the launch, complete with video, at the blog Running With Passion. I am very much open to more events such as these in colleges and so on; do contact me if you have suggestions!

The book will be in most bookshops only in December, but if you want it right now, you can get it from:

Silverfish - online and physical bookshop in Bangsar
Da Huang Pictures - online shop
Kinibooks - online shop

Monday 9 November 2009

YASMIN AHMAD'S FILMS : Malaysian launch & pre-order

My book Yasmin Ahmad's Films will be launched!

18 November
3:00 - 4:30pm
Level 4, Sunway University College

All are welcome.

Why did I choose this college? Because Yasmin had given a talk there in the last weeks of her life, where the people really loved it. And I knew a college venue would somehow be the most appropriate for this book.

We will also be showing the first video she made for MERCY Malaysia; it is 17 minutes long and I am sure you haven't seen it. (My royalties from the first edition of 3,000 copies will go to the MERCY - Yasmin Ahmad Fund for Children.)

This book has pretty much preoccupied me for the past 2 months. We just sent it to the printer a few hours ago, after making the very last changes. It's sad to let it go, but I am also very curious to know how people will react to it. After all, it's not the most conventional of books. This was the first article to ever appear about it:

If you can't make it to the launch but would like us to post you a copy, you can order by emailing before 18 November. The price is RM30, with free delivery anywhere in Malaysia. If you want it autographed, let me know who to address it to :-) The books will then be posted on the morning of 18 November.

Right after the Malaysian launch, the book will also have launch events in Seoul (the Korean National University of the Arts), Jakarta, Paris and Singapore. Alhamdulillah!

Sunday 1 November 2009

Penyertaan untuk antologi ORANG MACAM KITA

Karya-karya Tentang Seksualiti Alternatif di Malaysia
Disunting oleh Azwan Ismail dan Diana Dirani
Diterbitkan oleh Matahari Books

Kami ingin menerbitkan sebuah antologi seperti Body 2 Body: A Malaysian Queer Anthology dalam Bahasa Malaysia.


1. Karya haruslah mengenai seksualiti alternatif di Malaysia.

2. Genre pilihan: cerpen, kisah benar, esei, memoir, petikan novel, skrip teater atau filem. Walaubagaimanapun, puisi tidak diterima.

3. Kategori seksualiti alternatif: homoseksual, biseksual, transeksual, transgender dan dwikelamin. Ini termasuklah gay, lesbian, tomboy, mak nyah dan khunsa

4. Cadangan topik: jatuh hati, pecah lobang, cinta terlarang, kembali ke pangkal jalan, curi makan, homofobia, halangan keluarga, prejudis dan hak asasi.

5. Penyertaan terbuka kepada semua warga dunia asalkan menulis dalam bahasa Malaysia. Penulis tidak semestinya gay.

6. Setiap karya wajib dalam Bahasa Melayu, ataupun sudah diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Melayu. Penulis mesti bertanggungjawab terhadap terjemahan karya masing-masing jika menulis dalam bahasa lain.

7. Penulis perlu menggunakan nama sebenar. Nama pena diterima hanya bila penulis sudah dikenali ramai dengan nama tersebut, contohnya Mama Juwie atau Keris Mas.

8. Anda digalakkan menghantar karya antara 1,000 - 4,000 patah perkataan dalam format Word.

9. Tarikh tutup penyertaan ialah 28 Februari, 2010. Tarikh tutup adalah muktamad.

10. Buku ini akan diterbitkan pada pertengahan tahun 2010.

12. Sila hantar karya beserta butiran penulis ke dengan tajuk emel "Orang Macam Kita"

13. Penulis-penulis karya yang terpilih akan menerima royalti dan naskhah buku percuma.


Azwan Ismail lebih merupakan seorang penyair. Karya-karya beliau pernah diterbitkan di beberapa antologi tanahair, salah satunya ialah ‘Aweks KL’ terbitan Stormkitchen. Beliau juga ada menulis mengenai muzik untuk majalah frinjan Elarti.

Diana Dirani ialah seorang penulis bebas. Buku terbaru beliau, ‘Dua Lauk’, kini telah berada di pasaran. Selain itu beliau ada menulis di beberapa antologi dan majalah, serta skrip teater.


Matahari Books ialah sebuah syarikat penerbitan, ditubuhkan oleh penulis dan pembikin filem Amir Muhammad dengan pengkhususan dalam buku-buku bukan-fiksyen tentang Malaysia. Semua buku-buku Matahari dijual di kedai-kedai buku utama Malaysia dan juga di Antara buku terkini terbitan Matahari Books ialah Body 2 Body: A Malaysian Queer Anthology (2009).

Friday 30 October 2009

No Malaysian newspaper has reviewed BODY 2 BODY

One journalist sent me an email: "My editor refused." And an editor at a different publication said: "Someone higher up refused."

Luckily, there is Time magazine. The issue goes on sale next week but the article can already be read here. This is the Asian version that will be sold all over the continent. Since the book itself is sold only in Malaysia, Singapore and one bookshop in Australia, it is hoped that interested readers can make their way to :-)

Monday 26 October 2009

Censored line from MUALLAF

Contrary to popular belief, Muallaf was never banned. But this is a line that the censors requested to be muted:

The picture itself won't be cut, but you won't get to hear the line or read the subtitle.

Malaysians will finally get to catch the film when it's released here from 24 December. To celebrate the fact, my 5,100-word chapter on the film will be in the December-January double issue of Off the Edge magazine. It's actually the shortest chapter in the book, because Muallaf is, at 80 minutes, Yasmin's shortest feature.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Friday 16 October 2009

Typos in international books (2)

Toby Young, media slut, must be a very annoying person to know in real life, but I enjoyed his first book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. (Roger Ebert's review of the film version also acts as a nice intro to what Toby does.)

I picked up the paperback of the sequel, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, at the Penguin sale. It's published by Abacus and this paragraph occurs close to the very end:

Noticing that he'd left his email address at the end of the book, I wrote to him pointing out the typo. He replied:

Thanks. Good spot. Not sure there will be any more editions, but if there are I'll be sure to correct it.

What is the typo that I spotted?

Thursday 15 October 2009

Typos in international books (1)

I think typos are quite charming. This may have something to do with the fact that all Matahari Books titles have them, damnit!

These are two extracts from a book, Tom Rob Smith's Soviet thriller The Secret Speech, published by the very reputable Simon & Schuster UK:

These two sections have the same error. What is it?

Tuesday 13 October 2009

I have a column in this new magazine

I have not yet received my copy so can't comment further. But the column is called Video Ga-Ga and looks at Youtube videos that are related to Malaysia.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Petikan daripada Buku Untuk Filem: PISAU CUKUR

RAFIDAH: Apa yang saya dapat dari filem-filem P. Ramlee ialah
untuk meraikan flirtation dan penggodaan. Ianya mainan asmara, dengan nuansa dan lirikan mata, yang kami (sebagai masyarakat)
dah lupakan. Bila saya tengah cari lagu karaoke untuk Datuk nyanyi, saya cadangkan “Joget Si Pinang Muda” ... Mari-mari cik adik...Saya cari dalam Youtube dan jumpa versi asal daripada Anakku Sazali. Dia tengah nyanyi dengan Zaiton dan semuanya amat fun dan menggoda. Ada satu versi baru oleh budak-budak Akademi Fantasia dan unsur sebegitu tak ada langsung, ia jadi teramat steril.

BERNARD: Diorang tercegat kat pentas macam nyanyi “Negaraku.” Lima dekad kemudian, bayangan kebaya, penggodaan, seduction, semua dah hilang.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Invitation to write one sentence in YASMIN AHMAD'S FILMS

My book Yasmin Ahmad's Films will be available in November. It's my impressions of watching all 6 of her feature-length films, as well as many commercials, in the month of September. It's not an obituary, neither is it a conventional book of film criticism.

We are currently proofreading the manuscript, and it suddenly occurs to me that it would be nice to have the final pages of the book given over to other people's views. People who have watched and been touched, excited, tickled, by the films. (Think of this as the 'viewer's version' of the coda at the end of MUKHSIN).

So I'd like you to have your say! Please write one sentence on any one of her 6 long films:


I think each film will have 1 page, and I will try to cram in as many views as I can. Write about a specific scene, or dialogue, or performance, or the entire film. Write about how it made you feel, or how it related to you, or analyse why it works (or maybe doesn't work) for you.

Some ground rules:
1. The sentence can be in any of the languages used in the films.
2. The sentence should not be more than 20 words. If you are writing in Chinese, then no more than 20 Chinese characters.
3. Send ONLY by email to with the heading MY SENTENCE, together with your name and location. Let's make this international!
4. Deadline for submission: 30 September noon (Malaysian time).
5. You can send in more than one sentence, but I will choose one per person.

Due to space constraints, I may not be able to print all the sentences. But here's a hint: try not to pick one of the more 'popular' films, and you might have a better chance lah.

We haven't decided on the retail price of the book yet. But all my writer royalties from the first edition will be donated to the
Mercy - Yasmin Ahmad Fund for Children.

A 'teaser' of sorts for the book is my article for the Canadian magazine
Cinema Scope here.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

The cover

I don't want to say too much about the book for now. But a free copy goes to the first person who can correctly guess why I chose this particular image for the cover.

This offer is brought to you by the fact that it's Malaysia Day!

* Design by Alexdrina Chong

Tuesday 15 September 2009

My article in Cinema Scope

Cinema Scope is this rather serious (but frequently gossipy) film magazine based in Canada. I have an article in the current issue. The magazine isn't available in Malaysia (as far as I know) but my article is one of those that can be read online for free free free!

Personally, I'd love to read the piece on Guru Dutt as he's one of my favourite filmmakers of all time. But that one's not online, cis! So I'll have to wait for my copy to wing it from Winnipeg, or wherever they're sending it from.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

The first book to mention (and visually reference on the cover?) BODY 2 BODY

Those of you who have Body 2 Body will, of course, remember Thiam Chin's S & M - tinged story Good Job. It's one of the highlights! Now he has his own collection, which I look forward to getting.

Friday 28 August 2009

I have a chapter in this very serious-looking book.

And I am in the same section as Dr. Mahathir, Musa Hitam, I-Lann's father, Shamsul AB, Nicol David, Huzir Sulaiman and Shanon Shah ;-)

Published by Khazanah Nasional, it was just launched a few hours ago and will be in bookshops next month. It's so new that the price has not been determined yet.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

From screen to page

[From the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2009 issue of Quill magazine]

FROM 2000 to 2009, I made eight movies. Two of these were fiction while the rest were documentaries, hybrids of documentary/fiction, experimental, or however you want to describe things that are not multiplex-friendly. Also, I must have travelled to a few dozen film festivals by now.

In early 2009, I announced, to not much fanfare, that I would be taking a long break from filmmaking. I had a target of publishing 50 books first.

From September 2007 to September 2009, I published 10 books under my modest imprint, Matahari Books. Seven are nonfiction, two are tie-in screenplay books for films made by friends of mine, and one is an anthology that contains more fiction than nonfiction. The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2009 is the first writers’ festival I have ever attended.

Those observant enough to notice the numbers above would see that although I could make less than an average of one movie per year, I could average five books a year (as publisher, not always as writer or editor). Movies take up much more time.

The publicity mill tends to be similar, but on different scales. Film directors and actors are interviewed, as are publishers and writers. The crucial difference is that the people doing the interviews would have either seen the films, or can convincingly say that they want to see the films. People doing the interviews for books invariably would not have had the time to read the whole book. (Journalists have to do many other things, you know, such as watch films.) Even worse, journalists, when interviewing those in the book trade, put on the type of commiserating face they use when interviewing plucky folks with debilitating illnesses, or those soliciting funds on their behalf: 
“You wrote this book? Really? How … brave of you! Please don’t give up the fight! I haven’t had time to read it yet but … I’m cheering you on!”

Speaking of which, movie people actually relish publicity. Aside from the odd Stanley Kubrick or Chris Marker, filmmakers never saw a TV camera they didn’t like. There are many more examples of ‘reclusive’ writers, and even publishers who don’t get interviewed. People who go into filmmaking are invariably more social because:

Movies involve many more people whose functions sometimes overlap to an alarming degree. I once had a ‘financial controller’ tell me that an actress I had just cast was “too short.” This is because everyone needs to look busy to justify their salaries. Writers and publishers are more likely to own only one handphone per person and be seen lunching alone. This isn’t to say that one group of people is more ‘normal’ than another; they each have their own annoying quirks.

Films are pirated. Books aren’t. This means that books are so unpopular that no one wants to steal them! A blockbuster Malaysian film will sell 800,000 tickets in the first month. A blockbuster local novel (usually a Malay romance) will sell 100,000 in the first three years.

Movies need to be seen by many people in the first two weeks or it would be branded a flop. Even the tiny industry of Malaysia has caught on to the Hollywood mania of measuring first-day ticket sales, which can spark off either envy or 
Schadenfreude in time for next day’s breakfast. Books are allowed a bit more time to ‘build’ an audience, because book people aren’t that much into instant gratification, or are just slow to respond.

When filmmakers get together they tend to ask, “What camera are you shooting on?” rather than any deep, philosophical questions. When book people get together, they tend to ask, “What paper are you printing on?” rather than any deep, philosophical questions.

Movies tend to shift formats. We tend to take it for granted that if we miss it in the cinema, we can catch it on TV or buy the (usually pirated) DVD later. Books tend to stay in the same format, aside from minimal cosmetic changes (hardcover to paperback, different editions, new covers). Audiobooks never really caught on, at least in this part of the world. Perhaps the biggest ontological shift will come from those e-readers, when we can afford them. Perhaps the only big format shift associated with books is the alchemical process whereby they are transformed into … movies. The Bible is probably the most adapted book by now; the author must be rolling in royalties!

Among the more conservative families, marriage to someone “in the film industry” is not encouraged, as film people are supposed to be lacking in morals. Among the more commercial families, marriage to someone “in the book industry” is not encouraged, as book people are supposed to be lacking in money.

Movies have to undergo a regimented form of censorship. You even need a permit to start shooting. You don’t need permission from anybody to publish a book in Malaysia. You don’t even need to set up a company; you can do it as an individual. When a documentary of mine (
The Last Communist) got banned, someone asked a Cabinet Minister why the book that I got the facts from (Chin Peng’s My Side of History) was not banned. His reply: “Not many people read books in Malaysia.” Since this is a guy who has written several books himself, I assume he was speaking from bitter experience. This isn’t, of course, to say that books never get banned, just that they are easier to produce and sell, at least initially. This is actually an exciting creative opportunity, but many publishers still choose to self-censor themselves to an absurd degree.

The internet has altered the way both industries operate. People watch trailers online and get so excited that they rush to the cinema. (Most of us don’t have connections that are speedy or reliable enough to download entire films.) By contrast, people spend so much time reading their many friends’ Status Updates online that they can’t be bothered to then read books.

Cinema staff tend to know about the films playing. They can even make recommendations. One hilarious example was when an usher tried to dissuade a bunch of us from watching a local action flick even after we’d bought tickets. The staff at chain bookshops, alas, can’t say much about their wares. And we really don’t have enough non-chain bookshops. People who staff independent bookshops are more informed about books, but are somehow grumpier!

The final word must go to festivals. People who go to film festivals are there to watch films. You can watch up to five films a day. As a bonus, you may get to meet the filmmakers and cast. Whereas people who go to writers’ festivals are there to watch writers. It would be a bonus to the writer if his or her book had also been read. But this is difficult, because it might take five days to read. So, in an odd way, book people are here more ‘social’ than film people, after all.

Which is another way of saying: perhaps these differences between two media are all contingent and temporary. It’s the stories that are told that will be remembered long after celluloid and pages have turned to similar-looking dust.

Friday 21 August 2009

Our 15Malaysia short: THE TREE

When Pete Teo approached me to do one of the 15Malaysia shorts, the first thought I had in mind was to shoot something in Kelantan. It has always seemed like a special state, even though I hadn't spent much time there. And, although I am not a PAS member, Tok Guru Nik Aziz immediately became the first candidate for interview.

(My review of a book related to him is here. With a further addendum here, since it's dangerous to think that any politician is perfect!)

After just a bit of emailing with his staff, we were granted a casual interview in his office. I had told him to explicate a hadith on the economy, and he chose this one.

The visual backdrop for most of it is Kota Bahru's Pasar Siti Khatijah, a market run primarily by women, an interesting contrast to the more patriarchal image of Islam.

It's really something short and simple. It's probably the least ironic thing I have made -- except for my cameo perhaps. It occurred to me that a hadith is actually like a short film; it can be seen as merely an anecdote, but can be teased out and expanded more if your heart is open to it. Or you can just say: "I don't understand" and get on with your life; that's cool, too.

This modest short was also my chance to work with some of my favourite people, all of whom had shot with me before: Hardesh Singh (The Big Durian, Lelaki Komunis Terakhir, Tokyo Magic Hour, Susuk, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung) on sound; Shan (Malaysian Gods) on camera, Danny Lim (The Big Durian, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung) on still camera, and Azharr Rudin (The Year of Living Vicariously, Lelaki Komunis Terakhir) as editor.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

The 10 Malaysian shops that stock it

Body 2 Body is in limited release. More than 100 Malaysian shops that normally stock Matahari Books titles will NOT be carrying it. Because this is a special book that, erm, deserves special treatment :-)

Let's support the 10 shops that have it:

Kinokuniya KLCC, in the Social Science section (Tel: 03 2164 8133)

2. Times Pavilion (Tel: 03 2148 8813 )
Times Bangsar Shopping Centre ( Tel: 03 2095 3509 )
Silverfish Bangsar ( Tel: 03 2284 4837 )
5. Borders The Curve (Tel: 03 7725 9303)
6. Borders Berjaya Times Square ( Tel: 03 2141 0288 )
7. Borders The Gardens (Tel: 03 2287 4530)
8. Borders Tropicana ( Tel: 03 7727 9203 )
9. Borders Queensbay Mall, Penang (Tel: 04 646 8758 )
10. Bookzone Penang ( Tel: 04 226 5585 )

Update (2010):

Please call ahead to make sure it's in stock, and reserve if you wish. You can cite the title or the ISBN: 978-983-43596-9-0 .

If you want to be absolutely certain of getting it, you can order online from
Kinibooks. Kinibooks is run by Malaysiakini, an organisation whose take on expressive freedom I find more agreeable than the stance taken by, erm, some actual bookshops.

By contrast, it will be more widely available in Singapore from next week. It's primarily the Singapore orders that have ensured that the book goes into its 2nd print next week.

For those outside the region, there's

Thank you for your support lah :-)

By the way the launch was great; we got rid of 256 books, a new Matahari Books record.(The previous record was 188 for Vol 1 of Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things). Perhaps the people who came never realised that the book will be a wee bit tricky to obtain in Malaysia afterwards.

* Launch photo nicked from Jun Kit on Facebook.

Friday 14 August 2009

Read the first story from BODY 2 BODY ...

... right here ;-)

I've written previously about Brian, of course. I am so chuffed that the authors of the two local books I most admired last year (his and Shih-Li's) are in!

Tuesday 11 August 2009

My favourite Spielberg memory

Reading Tom Shone's latest post on his favourite Spielberg shot got me hurtling down memory lane, a process that always involves a few bumps and bruises. 

My favourite Spielberg memory was when Steve (good old Steve!) turned to me at the Polo Lounge and opened his mouth and said, "Excuse me, this seat is taken. Could you bugger off?"

No, I kid.

My favourite Spielberg memory was watching the midnight Jurassic Park at the Rex cinema in KL, which has since been turned into a backpacker lodge. It was indeed the scene where a rampaging dino (of some kind or other) is chasing people who were in the vehicle with a rear-view mirror. The shots kept alternating between the people and the creature. So when we saw the panicky people, nobody make a sound. (Why should we?) But when we saw the creature, the whole hall screamed. It got to a point when there was a sudden cut to ... something not very scary, but a lone person in the hall screamed anyway. And then a selamba voice nearby was heard: "Aiyoh, lambat pick-up la." And then the whole hall laughed and the rest of the film turned into something comedic, which is something ol' Steve (good old Steve!) would surely have not disapproved of. 

Erm, OK. End of flashback. Carry on with your lives.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Publishing BODY 2 BODY

After some research, I can reasonably confirm that ‘body 2 body’ is a slippery form of massage which refreshes the parts that conventional physical therapy cannot reach. But although the ninth title from my modest publishing house Matahari Books is called Body 2 Body, it is by no means a how-to guide. The big clue comes from its subtitle: A Malaysian Queer Anthology.

The germ of this idea actually began in 2003 when two friends of mine, Jerome Kugan and Pang Khee Teik, started an Internet mailing-list (yes, kids, this was before Facebook groups!) devoted to the idea of publishing a local gay anthology. There was a lot of discussion on the group but not many people discussed the actual anthology! When it came to submissions, the book (which didn’t have a confirmed title) received 15 but the editors decided that most were too lame. The anthology never happened.

Fast forward five years, and the country had changed. Well, the three of us had changed, at any rate. In 2003 I was making little documentaries; Jerome and Pang shared the same Brickfields flat (with two other free spirits). In 2008, I was now publishing books; although Jerome and Pang no longer lived in the same place, they now worked together, thus providing the opportunity for even more mischief.

I floated the idea of resurrecting such an anthology by sending out a fresh Call for Entries. Jerome was quite skeptical at first, saying we won’t get many entries, and that most of them would be lame. But I said we should give it a shot and see if we had a book on our hands.

So in November 2008, we sent out a Call for Entries. It appeared only online, through blogs such as mine and Sharon Bakar’s, and of course on Facebook. The only print publication to give it publicity was KLue. I decided to stick to the deadline and not give extensions. We were pleasantly surprised that we received 59 entries. Since I wanted each of the editors to have a story in there (because they write so well!), we can say it’s 61 entries.

What were we looking for? Our Call for Entries included these lines:

Writings should depict queer or alternative sexuality in Malaysia, or of Malaysian queers' experience in the world.

Possible Genre: fiction, true-life accounts, essays, memoir, excerpts from novel or play. We do not accept verse.

Queer includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transvestite, transgendered, intersexed.

Writers can be Malaysian or non-Malaysians. Writers can be queer or straight.

Writers should use their actual names. A pen name is allowed when the writer has been publicly associated with that name.

The word ‘queer’ was chosen because it’s catchier than the politically correct GLBTQ, which stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer. We figured that most Malaysians probably didn’t even know what LRT stood for, so we couldn’t expect them to recognise GLBTQ.

Someone complained about the word ‘queer’ in her blog, saying that the book will then perpetuate the idea of ‘weirdness’. We encouraged her to write an essay about this for the book itself, and she agreed but never submitted. But this is an expected hazard for any anthology.

The whole process of getting entries involved a bit of drama that, when looking back now, had the tinge of slapstick. Three of the writers in particular kept bugging me online, literally on a daily basis, to find out two things: when the selection would be made, and whether the book was going to be banned. For the first question, I kept giving the same date; and for the second, I said that I lacked a crystal ball. Despite their eagerness, these were the three men who kept expressing reservations about appearing in such a book, and kept threatening to withdraw, and then changing their minds. Talk about drama queens!

Luckily for my mental health, the editors (from whom the identities of the writers were kept a secret) decided that the entries sent by these three were too lame for inclusion. There’s a moral in there somewhere, I guess.

Here’s something: by insisting on no pseudonyms, this anthology actually received a much better response than the earlier, aborted 2003 one, which had indeed allowed anonymity. Perhaps the 2008 political tsunami had made Malaysians braver? Or perhaps the era of Pak Lah did herald a new openness? Or maybe it’s just a happy coincidence.

Insisting on real (or at least identifiable) names helped to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. When we floated the Call for Entries in a gay personals site, the thread had hundreds of comments. Many of them were by people who wanted to submit, but under a fake name. We told them that we would make an exception only if the entry was particularly strong. Guess what? Not a single entry was sent.

But then again, we weren’t seeking a book BY gay writers. (“Don’t worry,” I told a blogger friend, “we won’t check your credentials.”) The pieces could be written by anybody, as long as they related to queers and queer issues.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get many essays. The few that we received were in the ‘coming out of the closet’ subgenre but in whiny, corny form; we felt like shoving the writers back in the closet, where they could do some reading to improve their prose.

A minor but thematically significant point: we decided, while editing, not to italicise non-English words. So you can read about pondan and pengkid, for example, without having their ‘foreignness’ shoved in your face. I think it’s important because this isn’t merely an English book but a Malaysian English one. And also to show that it’s about time we accepted that we have difference (or to use the Tourism Malaysia word, ‘diversity’) in our midst, whether sexual or linguistic!

This is the first anthology of its kind in Malaysia. Homosexual sex is, according to the Penal Code, illegal. And although transvestites and transsexuals are very much part of the Malaysian fabric, discussions on them are deemed taboo, thus allowing discrimination to fester.

This collection of 23 pieces (19 fiction, 3 essays, and one really strange mock-essay) perhaps isn’t going to change any laws or even many perceptions. At the time of writing this, it wouldn’t even have been launched, so I have no idea how people will take to it. But it’s a worthwhile idea whose time had come, and what better way to find out than by doing it?

Any anthology is a mixed bag: so you get the raw and the cooked, the rough and the smooth, the cat and the canary. But we think it’s a fun package. There’s merriment, murder, mutton curry and even massage – but not actually of the ‘body 2 body’ type. Perhaps some things should be kept off the printed page, after all.

PS. The launch is in exactly a week ;-)