Saturday 27 November 2010


There's a brand-new newspaper in the country, Selangor Times. It's a weekly (available every Friday) with a circulation of 100,000. It's so new that its website is not even up yet -- but you can read a news report about it in theSun here.

It's a free newspaper; the first issue was given out yesterday at all LRT stations in Selangor, and is now completely gone. There weren't enough copies to be sent to 7-Eleven stores, but I am told this will be rectified by the time the next issue is out. 

This paper has me particularly psyched because it is now the only regular venue for Malaysian fiction in English. All the main Malay papers have published short stories and even serial novels for decades, but fiction has so far been absent from the oghe putih press. Why? Because English has been complacently assumed to be merely a utilitarian, upwardly-mobile device rather than a language that you can embrace, tickle and otherwise get naughty with.

I was initially approached by the editor to write a column, but I think there are already so many hand-wringing columns about The State of the Nation; what's the point of adding to the chatter? So I proposed instead a Fiction section. My own short story *ahem* is the first to be published. Click to enlarge!

Subsequent issues will use stories that other people send in. Do email the Chief Editor Chan Kok Leong at Length should be 800 words, and the target audience is, well, anyone in Selangor today. Yes, there is pay!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

I'm a fan of movie posters, but I have never seen one quite like this

Is this the first movie poster in the history of the universe which features no cast members, but instead TWO pictures of its rather flamboyant producer? (That's also him right at the top, in a chair.)

Well, it's certainly better than the first poster for this movie, which was marred by an unfortunate act of plagiarism.

I have not seen the movie yet and so will not comment.

There will be many people Googling the movie's title and the producer's name in the next few days, to see if he will reach his oft-brayed box-office target. But, blushing little wallflower that I am, I am not gonna mention the title and his name.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Hello there, Luang Prabang!

I'm trying not to accept so many film festival invitations (oh, you should hear how some of them beg and beg!), what with me now being a book publisher and all. But I've never been to Laos, so I didn't want to turn this one down. (And it's not just because I'm a fan of the Dr. Siri Paiboun crime novels.)

Luang Prabang itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, promises to be a beaut!

Laos has no film industry to speak of but I admire the effort the organisers took to come up with this inaugural, albeit low-key, event. Contrast that with the slapstick dodginess of the well-sponsored Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival (which was supposed to take place this month but just got postponed, apparently). Everyone involved in KLIFF should really be ashamed of themselves -- but since its organisers include a certain Malaysian filmmaker who has a habit of never paying his crew members, I don't suppose they're the kind to embarrass easily.

Monday 1 November 2010


Islam in Malaysia: Perceptions & Facts is the translation of Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin's book Mengemudi Bahtera Perubahan Minda. The translation and annotations were by U-En Ng.

The synopsis begins: 

While still in his 30s, Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, former Mufti of Perlis, earned a reputation as a popular, and sometimes controversial, public intellectual on the subject of Islam in Malaysia. This collection of his articles seeks to identify and celebrate the true Islamic essence of simplicity, rationality and justice; and to separate it from superstition, prejudice and taklid (blind adherence) to self- serving 'religious' leaders.

At 343 pages, this is the second-thickest publication by Matahari Books (after 120 Malay Movies, which is 432 pages). You may download 3 of the 47 chapters as a free PDF at the end of this link here.

The bad news is that the main bookshops will only stock this book at the end of the month; they're still making up their minds. The good news is that you may order it right now! 

Here are the four methods:

1. Bank in RM40 to Maybank 014105120512 (Amir Muhammad) and email with your proof of payment, your address and phone number. Delivery will be by City-Link courier, three times a week. (Free delivery anywhere in Malaysia.) 10% of the proceeds from this postal order will be donated to the MERCY Malaysia - Yasmin Ahmad Fund for Children. You may also, of course, order any of the other books in the Matahari Books catalogue as well, while you're at it!

2. Order directly from the distributor, Gerakbudaya, here.

3. Get it in person at Silverfish Books in Bangsar.

4. Pre-order on here.

This is totally different from the other Matahari Books titles so far. For one, it's a compilation from a newspaper column (his articles originally appeared in Mingguan Malaysia); but since these are newly translated, with over a hundred extra footnotes and a Glossary, it is a venture very much worthwhile. 

The subject of Islam in Malaysia (the title of the book came from the author, who politely declined my own suggestion, What the Mufti Saw) will grow in size and importance in the coming years, and this book will, I hope, be part of the discussion. I certainly learned a few things from it, and although his world-view is essentially more, shall we say, traditional than mine, I admire the way he can cut through the racialised, culture-bound and divisive BS that so often obfuscates popular Islamist discourse here. Just read the 3 sample chapters and you will get what I mean.

I will also be posting on Twitter a few dozen self-contained extracts from the book, so stay tuned!