Book Review: Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

rag and boneFirst published on 26th January, 2014 in The Star


Author: Various

Editors: Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt

Publisher: Little, Brown

I DO love a good re-telling of an old tale, and I like collections of reinterpreted stories because it’s interesting to see how different writers tackle the task of re-presenting classic stories. In fact, I would like to read a collection in which the focus is just one story. For instance, the legend of Mahsuri told by the 12 different authors. How unique would each version be? What aspects of the tale would each author choose to highlight? From whose point of view would each account be told? Would readers recognise the source of these reinterpretations? Would the stories be repetitive and boring? I think not, so long as the authors are chosen for their distinct styles and perhaps even according to the genre they specialised in. Just imagine, the versions might include a sex-and-shopping Mahsuri by Jackie Collins; a murder mystery by Michael Connelly; and maybe something with vampires from Anne Rice. How about it, Little, Brown? Random House? Fixi Noir?

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Book Review: KL Noir Red

KL NOIR REDFirst published on 14th April, 2013 in The Star


Editor: Amir Muhammad

Publisher: Fixi Novo

FIXI NOVO is the English language imprint of Amir Muhammad’s hugely successful Buku Fixi. Actually, I lie: according to the description on Fixi Novo’s Facebook page, the imprint publishes books in the American language, while its Manifesto declares that American spelling is used because “we are more influenced by Hollywood than the House of Windsor”. Fair enough, not that the distinction hits you like a ton of bricks or anything: Malaysians seem to use American and British spelling interchangeably and, if we’re talking terminology, most of us are, I believe, equally comfortable with bonnet and hood, lift and elevator, biscuit and cookie, and so on … and probably wouldn’t even be able to identify which term is American and which British.

The point is to position Fixi Novo as an unabashedly non-literary imprint (“pulp fiction”) that’s supposed to appeal to the unpretentious, unwashed masses – in particular the “young, the sengkek and the kiam siap” – no italics please!Read More »

Book Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

lemon grovesFirst published on 5th April, 2013 in StarMag

Author: Karen Russell
Publisher: Knopf, 243 pages

YOU’D be forgiven for thinking that this book might be another romance featuring an undead geriatric lusting (chastely) after a 16-year-old airhead, but sorry, if that’s what you were hoping for, you really should have known better, from the title, not to mention the bright yellow book jacket.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove is just one story in a collection, and the only one about vampires, although all are as unsettling and uncanny as vampire stories should, but have, recently, ceased to be.Read More »

Book Review: Matanya Teleskop, Hatinya Kapal Dalam Botol Kaca by Sufian Abas

matnya-teleskopFirst published on 23rd August, 2009 in The Star


Author: Sufian Abasa

Publisher: Sang Freud Press

ALTHOUGH HE doesn’t write specifically for adolescents, I think Sufian Abas has the sort of weird and wonderful imagination needed to create the sort of romantic fantasies teenagers would be only too eager to lose themselves in. They would most certainly identify with Sufian’s love-sick characters, his delusional young men and wide-eyed young women, all wandering through a world lit by fluorescent strips and filled with dusty roads, stuffy LRT coaches and gaudy fast food joints.Read More »

Interview: Shih-Li Kow, on ‘Ripples’

First published on 5th July, 2009 in The Star

shih-liIN 2007, Silverfish Books published News from Home, a collection of short stories by three Malaysians, Chua Kok Yee, Rumaizah Abu Bakar, and Shih-Li Kow.

The writers were participants of the Silverfish Writing Programme, and had been chosen to contribute to the anthology because they showed promise and commitment. Each had a different style of storytelling, but Kow’s stories stood out as the most original and interesting, and also because her voice was the most confident and natural of the three.

A year later, Kow published Ripples and Other Stories, a collection of her own, to critical acclaim locally. On Monday, that acclaim became international when Ripples was shortlisted for the world’s richest short story prize, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

The winner of the £35,000 (RM175,000) prize will be announced on Sept 30, at the culmination of the annual Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, which begins on Sept 16.

The other titles shortlisted are An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah; Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower; Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy;Singularity by Charlotte Grimshaw; and The Pleasant Light of Day by Philip Ó Ceallaigh.Read More »