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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Monday, 28 April 2008

The Freedom of Choice by Saradha Narayanan

by Suzan Abrams


Book Title: The Freedom of Choice
Genre : General Fiction, 263pp
Publisher: Melrose Books, UK
Published: March 1, 2008


ZERO VISIBILITY

I enquired of a major bookseller in Dublin but he was surprised and said that there were no plans to stock the title. A quick check revealed that there were none available in its UK branches either. So feeling somewhat puzzled but understanding too that there had been zero visibility on the web so far with regards to interviews, reviews and maybe just one per cent of online promotions up to this time of writing; I ordered a copy with all the usual preliminaries and the bookstore telephoned eventually.

There was also no record of any Malaysian blogger; especially those who are often keen to promote each other's books with a frantic zealous fervour, who had accorded this Malaysian physician turned author, a mention. Where is the supportive blogging camaraderie when you need them, one may well ask? Just one announcement could make a major difference. There was one exception however, with a woman who mentioned the book in the way of passing gossip and later, praised the the colour of the author's dress at a reading. Intellectual, naturally and all to do with the power of pink. :-) But at least, it proved a wee bit of information. Perhaps what would be considered detrimental to the majority of writers - big and small - in Europe in the year 2008 is that this first-time novelist currently commands no web presence at all.


THE LOOK

The first thing I observed with inherent excitement was what a beautifully-bound hardback, The Freedom of Choice turned out to be as it lay heavy in my hands. The bold blend of red and maroon shades only upheld the sophistication of the expensive publishing and printing efforts, paid for by the author. The ingenious design cover was fetching. However, a major marketing flaw too, with the back dust jacket. There was no blurb, no mention of the book in any way. The back cover generally offers tremendous potential for advertising space with the kind of generous flexibility to push the plot forward with some intensity, as a desired read. Unless, of course, the author has no interest in sales and had promptly denounced such an option altogether.


THE PLOT

The story itself failed to spring surprises or narrate something new. The plot was hatched from a common subject; either one you'd catch on a tv mini series or happen upon in general fiction. The usual mystified tale of family secrets, made in this case by an Indian girl, Sangeetha and her reluctant choice to give up a baby - born out of wedlock - for adoption. The fictitious setting is of course, the author's homeland, Malaysia, Descriptions switch from small towns to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, with meticulous ease bearing the strength of the writer and here; the execution of the exposition scenes are superb. However, the drama could have been upheld just as easily anywhere else. There is nothing authentic that celebrates a distinct Malaysian flavour. A swift change of names to places, foods and a touch of history would still allow the reader to plod on.

The adopted baby in question is handed to a childless Chinese couple who raise it as their own. But the teenage son in later years, develops a life-threatening illness from a failed kidney. In desperation, his parents hire a private investigator to track the real mother down. There is immediate dramatic tension from the moment Rohan the PI leaves a note at Sangeetha's office. She has now married a Malayalee Christian (Indians who come from Kerala, South India). He works as a high-ranking solicitor. From a staunch Hindu, Sangeetha is now converted with starry-eyed efficiency into a modern Catholic. All very flamboyant and in some cases, life-threatening by strait-laced Indian standards in case any Westerner wonders, why the fuss. Sangeetha also has had two more daughters that sound properly cherubic and has changed her name to Rachel. Then throw in a loyal maid, a devoted relation, the stereotyped best friend and a so-so job. But Rachel is burdened with the fact that she may have to spill the beans and disrupt her home and marriage.

MY IMPRESSIONS

The plot is laid out with a pessimistic underlying tone claiming tedious day-to-day details. There is a slight melancholic feel which tends to grow on you affectionately after a spell. If only the plot had not been as sedate. With the exception of the protaganist's personality that ressurects in a vivid astonishing fashion somewhere in the middle, Narayanan fails to dig deeply enough, and instead allows her story to welcome the reader, while sounding dry and starched with a hollow ring in certain chapters. The novels gains rapid strength towards the end but perhaps, too late. The author uses her medical knowledge to shape the discussion of illness amongst the characters. But while interesting in parts and where such a situation could have flourished to reinvent the tale as an extraordinary one; even this is sadly, touched upon on a superficial surface.

THE FLAWS & STRENGTHS

  1. Grammatical error on the first page with relation to a single line that confuses the singular term with a plural one.
  2. Grammatical error on a line in the last paragraph on page 3.
  3. IC No.5642646. It must be explained here that every Malaysian citizen is required to have an identity card. These serial numbers have since changed a few years ago with the shape, size and new contents of the card. The numbers are much longer now. But up until then, each card carried a number, 7 digits long. The character, Rachel Thomas is said to be 32 years old in 2004. Which means her identity card number of old should have read as A7.... Old serial numbers that start with 6 were held by citizens who would have been in their 40s in 2004. Old serial numbers that start with 5 were held by citizens who are now in their 50s (the author's age group) in the year 2004. So it doesn't make sense at all that a 32-year old character would have a number that reads as it does, in the novel.
  4. He sounded confident of himself, Wrong. He sounded confident, ...
  5. "It was unseasonably warm despite the air-conditioning." How can that be? Was the air-conditioning faulty? Was it set at too low a volume? No, the author doesn't mention this but the air was warm even while the air-conditioning busied itself, chilling it.
  6. The coastal town of Klang. Wrong. Klang is not a coastal town. The nearest seaside is Morib, several kilometres away and the closest township to it is Banting. Morib is a coastal town. Rather, Klang is much closer to and directly next-door to Port Klang which holds the harbour. Up to a few decades ago, it was called Port Swettenham, named after Frank Swettenham.
  7. One of the major flaws that alienated me from the entire story was Narayanan's almost complete lack of knowledge that made for the Malayalee Christian community in Malaysia or rather worldwide; a culture which also happens to be my direct heritage. Narayanan gave a name like Matthew Thomas to one of her main characters in this case used completely wrong anecdotes on the poor chap with a view to religion and everyday detail. Families with names like George, Abraham, Thomas, Matthew, Mathew, Philip, Koshy, Varughese, Verghese etc belong to a highly traditional, conservative and unique Christian way of worship called the Marthomites or Jacobites. There are churches like these all over Malaysia and all round the world. It's the sort of Christian worship that demands a fair bit of routine ritual attached to the regular and passionate Sunday chants. It is an exception to the rule when any individual from this family joins the Catholic Church and is definitely not a matter of course. So that part should have been made absolutely clear. The closest the majority of Malayalee families with names like these, get to Catholicism is usually the Anglican church. Malayalee catholics have a different set of names altogether and practice a different culture. In this vein, you'll find surnames like Fernandez, Gomez, Pereira and D'Cruz, more forthcoming. That would have been clearly better suited. I'm sure Narayanan would easily be able to hunt down an old colleague to check details. Many Malayalee Christians, whose character Narayanan got wrong, work in Malaysia as surgeons, medical specialists and lawyers.
  8. I remember my malayalee friends and myself in the Convent as little girls. We were never allowed to attend mass by our parents and often incurred the wrath of the nuns to high glory. Had Narayanan done her homework, what a lot of juicy tidbits she could have added in to her book to at least set it apart from the dullness & unintentional errors it finally displayed.
  9. In Malaysia, Singapore and Australia anyway from what I remember rightly, Malayalee Christian children never call their parents Amma. So Matthew calling his mother that was a big boo-boo. That's a tamilian word from Chennai and used by Hindu families in the south. Kerala is in a completely different location, resting on the tip of India. The local dialect is Malayalam. We would also never call a sister Akka. So that proved another boo-boo. That's another tamilian word from Chennai. Mother was simply mummy. And each child in each Christian family had 'house names'. Girls were sometimes called Baby this or Baby that... and ending with ... mol. Or mol-lay. Susie mol, for instance. That's how indulgent parents addressed their children and siblings addressed each other. In this way, Narayanan missed the plot completely. Also, the fictitious daughters hold the wrong names. But let's say that the fictitious mother didn't know any better. Basically in a Christian family that spotted a name like Matthew Thomas, the first daughter would be named after the husband's mother. While these episodes were covered, why were these important things not taken into consideration, to add drama and a sense of realism to a plot that seemed to struggle very hard to trail its way all around realism with the lectures on history and malaysian seasons that seemed so out of place in the book.
  10. And then there was a question of food. Malayalee dishes are cooked in a completely different style to the majority of Indian dishes. When there was so much talk of food in Matthew Thomas' s household, why was this never taken into consideration? It simply served to show up Narayanan's ignorance or careless lack of thorough detail that would have added vital information to her plot overall.
  11. The mention of Malaysian history feels totally unnecessary and should have been scraped off from the novel to make it stronger. It is not involved with the working of the plot and one gets the feeling that the author feels it her utmost duty to inform the reader almost like a school lesson. The characters are dismissed at sudden intervals and at the risk of disintegrating a hyped-up conflict, Narayanan herself steps into the book to playact a teacher bent on lecturing old colonial history which stay painfully juxtaposed against the more valuable chapters.
  12. The author also has a tendency to tell and not show. Especially with people descriptions. Or a thunderstorm. It would have been so much more exciting to describe a thunderstorm scene in full detail than to start explaining the type of different Malaysian seasons to the reader. I would suggest Narayanan reads Anne Enright's Taking Pictures which would be extremely helpful in the shaping of sophisticated and not amateur descriptions. The usual long hair falling to shoulders, ...had a crooked nose, kind of thing.
  13. There is a classic done-to-death Bollywood scene in the way that Rachel first gets pregnant at 18 with a college lad who doesn't want to know. Young lovers running from a thunderstorm. Breasts showing through a wet blouse, passion alights, the thunder rolls on, the lips meet. Scene closes. Lifetime of regret. Several ancient Hindustani films spotted these scripts.
  14. Still, Narayanan managed to take possession of Rachel's character plodding along with its powerful emotional fortitude towards the end excellently indeed; and the character appeared to finally connect with her readers. However, I found the epilogue an overly-ambitious effort with which to escape predictability and trigger a hopeful grandeur. The novel was left with a gaping hole at the end for it had failed to answer the questions it had asked itself along the way. There was a lack of mastery at tying up loose ends. Rachel's personality conjured up from her distinct dialogue and habits were also splendidly championed. And I thought Matthew's thoughts to have been well-organized although his character and its numerous unanswered questions appeared to be left dangling in the air and in a right sorry state. There was commendable philosophical introspection on the subject of adoption and so too, the question of a wife's rightful submission. There was a terrific mulling about by all characters. Rohan, the private investigator dallied along as the weakest character at all.
  15. Saradha Narayanan would be top-class at plays, scripts and pieces of writing that hinged its success on dialogue. But the execution of prose scenes and methods of research still need a lot of work.

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Sunday, 27 April 2008

Wasn't able to do the review- mentioned below - today, Sunday. Will do it tomorrow. Felt a bit out of sorts anyway. I almost twisted my right arm this afternoon and there is a mild injury. It hurts like a bad sprain. Also, had just 3 hours sleep. I did go to the Writer's Museum on Parnell Square earlier on to catch a matinee theatre performance. And I have watched 2 films these last 3 days - Leatherheads and Street Kings. And I bought 6 books in the last 72 hours; 3 being classics. And yes, I'm thinking lots about Africa.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Later today, I'll run a book review on The Freedom of Choice, a 263-page novel written by Malaysian physician-turned-writer Saradha Narayanan and published by Melrose Books in England. It is not a mainstream or independent publisher...the author paid to have her book published in traditional hardback format. And indeed, it is a beautifully-bound book.
Still, anyone in Europe familiar with the protocol of publishing would straightaway guess this venture to have caused a small fortune.
So it's nothing short of a tragic discomfiture that though the novel which proves a commendable debut effort by the mother of two, and one which features a marriage breakdown, was launched on March 1st; there has been zero visibility on the web up to now, with regards to interviews or reviews.

Friday, 25 April 2008

This is a wee snippet picked out from an idea for a much longer children's story that I had started writing a few years ago. It's based on my safari expeditions to East Africa.
The wildlife had viewed me with apprehension and the zebras, with a touch of snobbery! The Tatler-strutting flamingos thought my khaki shorts an utter disgrace! The thing is I let go the story when I stopped making trips to Africa. With my coming safari holiday, I hope to revive it as a work of novel-length fiction (children) and send it out to publishers.

by Suzan Abrams

I was on my way to the watering hole.

"Hello Mr. Hippo," I said gamely with which to impress him. "Hello Suzan," he replied carefully with something of an important air about him.

For the longest time, I had been on Mr. Hippo's most wanted list. My binoculars were sought to help Patrolling Hippopotamus Station in their investigations over a peeping Tom, reported hundreds of miles west Dar-Es-Salam. It was debated in grunts and snorts, if I should be charged for spying on a retired Sargeant hippo in his sleepy slumber while little birdlings gave him a good back scratch. This while the Sargeant should have been on intimidating night-watch on the savannah.

My snapshots were confiscated and I got off lightly with a ticking off as my only souvenir. I was warned that undercover zebras looking for Christmas allowances, were observing my movements. The zebras never forgave me for spoiling their morning coffee with my constant Rover trespassing.

My binoculars has to attend trial after the rainy season. I anticipate a small fine and stern hippo stares but am thankful that no petition is necessary. In the meantime, my binoculars has been released on bail. As surety, Mr. Hippo said he would hang on to my camera.

This morning,Mr. Hippo had grunted Hello back with a deep rumble of a RUMPITY-RUMP. He had no time for chit-chat or tittle-tattle, courtesy of The Tanzanian Watery-Hippo Weekly!

The Weekly
offered a free subscription to all hippos brave enough to bathe in the sticky Manumi watering hole 3 times a day. Besides, the watering hole was filled with a gang of grumpy snake thugs who threatened a painful sting or two for any suspicion of privacy invasion.
It goes without saying that wise Mr. Hippo qualified very easily for the courageous assignment.

Now, he tried to make himself look bossy, heavy and busy all at once.

Mr. Hippo's real name was Hippo the Huggie. That was his spy name when he was on a secret mission and pretending to be something else. Just like an elephant in disguise or a rhinoceros that had lost the sharp curly horn which sat on its head like a twisted comb.

For Mr. Hippo to pretend to be Polly the Parrot, his good friend who dropped by from Rio to pass on classified information was of course, a silly thing to do.

Polly had family in Kampala, Uganda but they were all snoops. They relied on the national phone card that was called Satellite Wings and offered discount benefits to speedy chatterboxes. Polly's family had a stack of phone cards to last a whole migratory season. Their gossip travelled first-class all over Africa.

Besides, Polly had just graduated from the Pretty Birdy Spy School in Brazil and was hard at work, considering her options. Working for a company of greedy lions would mean good money. One of the perks included annual space flights with personal galaxies provided. Often, she stuck her beak in the air. She felt somewhat uppity.

If she ever knew that Mr. Hippo had assumed her identity, she'd BEAK him and PECK him and BITE him and SNIPE him until he bellowed for mercy. Then she'd call him a silly dopey-head...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

My Terribly Pink Fish - a picture book story



by Suzan Abrams

When I was 4, Daddy bought me a plastic pink fish. It cost but a dime and was so tiny it fitted into half my palm.
It was terribly pink and I loved it.
It had a pink fan tail, pink fins, pink scales and round plastic eyes that looked like glass.
I carried it everywhere, stored it in my fussy lacy pocket next to a tangled stowaway ribbon, and showed it to my friends next door when I felt in the mood for a comeuppance boast.
In the evenings, where we lived in the suburbs, we used to play out on the porch and on the street where it was safe.
There were a noisy gang of us. Alice Tan, Sushila and then I forget.
We played all kinds of games. Hopscotch, Catch, 5 Stones and What-Is-The-Time-Mr.Wolf.
Sometimes, a garden bee came to join in the fun and would sting us merrily.
I remember my mother rubbing comforting ointment on the nape of my neck while I howled in pain.

The bee lived in our small garden patch, made up of rows and rows of bright zinnias.
I enjoyed looking at the flowers but I loved my terribly pink fish.
Once Alice ran along the gravel after sundown, ignoring the summons to dinnertime and slipped and fell with such a violent thud, she spotted blue-black bruises, a strange yellow medicine, indigo and snowy bandages all over her leg.
My mother often pointed her out as a painful example of what would happen to naughty little children who did not listen to their good, clever mums.
I observed all the colours on Alice's knee with morbid fascination.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The whistling balloon man stopped by with his funny assortment of rainbow coloured balloons.

I observed the balloon man with relish.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The old toothless tinker man, used to cycle along shouting out his wares made up of brooms and gaudy coloured dusters.
I watched him pass by, a happy sight for my eyes.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
One day, it rained and puddles came to visit us from the sky.
They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes but they were muddy and brown.
My pink fish disappeared mysteriously into a puddle.
It decided it was time for a swim and escaped from my pocket with a leap and a dare.

What a muddle for my confusion.
I screamed and cried and searched in vain for my terribly pink fish.
Daddy comforted me with sweets but it was no use.
Mum promised me a double helping of shortbread for tea but it was no use.
Sushila came to help. Alice came to help. And other friends too, whose names have fled with the wind. All arrived for the rescue mission.
But it was no use. No use at all.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a *cangkul to try and whip my fishy friend out.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a broomstick to try and sweep my fishy friend back to land.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought a dipper to clear the puddle of water, with which to view my fishy friend.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a long stick with which he hoisted about the leftover puddle to see if my fishy friend would feel a poke.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and came out without his shoes to try and splash about the puddle in case my fishy friend jumped out angrily.
It was no use.
Finally, Daddy got his hands dirty, scraping his fingers in the wet muddy sand to try and find my fishy friend.
It was no use.
My terribly pink fish was gone forever.
Sushila hugged me and went away.
Alice got scared when she saw it was sundown and went away.
All my friends whose names I long forgot, patted me on the back and went away.
And then I was left alone for a time to mourn.
Daddy carried me in his arms back into the house.
With his daddy-desire to pacify me, he had forgotten the cangkul, the broomstick, the dipper, the stick and his own shoes. He had forgotten his wet hanky with which he had wiped his hands.

Now, many years later, that crystal-clear memory strikes home as clear as day.
Of all the expensive toys I would receive as presents, I remember none with more fondness than my terribly pink fish.
And if ever on a cold dark day, I want to remember how much my father may have loved me, I only have to think once more of my long vanished endearment and the little girl comfort of her father's tired arms.



* cangkul: a long instrument with a large flat metal blade at the end of a stick with which to dig soil, normally with the instrument extending out of the body range and being swung in a half-moon circle

My Terribly Pink Fish



by Suzan Abrams

When I was 4, Daddy bought me a plastic pink fish. It cost but a dime and was so tiny it fitted into half my palm.

It was terribly pink and I loved it.
It had a pink fan tail, pink fins, pink scales and round plastic eyes that looked like glass.
I carried it everywhere, stored it in my fussy lacy pocket next to a tangled stowaway ribbon, and showed it to my friends next door when I felt in the mood for a comeuppance boast.
In the evenings, where we lived in the suburbs, we used to play out on the porch and on the street where it was safe.
There were a noisy gang of us. Alice Tan, Sushila and then I forget.
We played all kinds of games. Hopscotch, Catch, 5 Stones and What-Is-The-Time-Mr.Wolf.
Sometimes, a garden bee came to join in the fun and would sting us merrily.
I remember my mother rubbing comforting ointment on the nape of my neck while I howled in pain.

The bee lived in our small garden patch, made up of rows and rows of bright zinnias.
I enjoyed looking at the flowers but I loved my terribly pink fish.
Once Alice ran along the gravel after sundown, ignoring the summons to dinnertime and slipped and fell with such a violent thud, she spotted blue-black bruises, a strange yellow medicine, indigo and snowy bandages all over her leg.
My mother often pointed her out as a painful example of what would happen to naughty little children who did not listen to their good, clever mums.
I observed all the colours on Alice's knee with morbid fascination.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The whistling balloon man stopped by with his funny assortment of rainbow coloured balloons.

I observed the balloon man with relish.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The old toothless tinker man, used to cycle along shouting out his wares made up of brooms and gaudy coloured dusters.
I watched him pass by, a happy sight for my eyes.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
One day, it rained and puddles came to visit us from the sky.
They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes but they were muddy and brown.
My pink fish disappeared mysteriously into a puddle.
It decided it was time for a swim and escaped from my pocket with a leap and a dare.

What a muddle for my confusion.
I screamed and cried and searched in vain for my terribly pink fish.
Daddy comforted me with sweets but it was no use.
Mum promised me a double helping of shortbread for tea but it was no use.
Sushila came to help. Alice came to help. And other friends too, whose names have fled with the wind. All arrived for the rescue mission.
But it was no use. No use at all.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a *cangkul to try and whip my fishy friend out.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a broomstick to try and sweep my fishy friend back to land.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought a dipper to clear the puddle of water, with which to view my fishy friend.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a long stick with which he hoisted about the leftover puddle to see if my fishy friend would feel a poke.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and came out without his shoes to try and splash about the puddle in case my fishy friend jumped out angrily.
It was no use.
Finally, Daddy got his hands dirty, scraping his fingers in the wet muddy sand to try and find my fishy friend.
It was no use.
My terribly pink fish was gone forever.
Sushila hugged me and went away.
Alice got scared when she saw it was sundown and went away.
All my friends whose names I long forgot, patted me on the back and went away.
And then I was left alone for a time to mourn.
Daddy carried me in his arms back into the house.
With his daddy-desire to pacify me, he had forgotten the cangkul, the broomstick, the dipper, the stick and his own shoes. He had forgotten his wet hanky with which he had wiped his hands.

Now, many years later, that crystal-clear memory strikes home as clear as day.
Of all the expensive toys I would receive as presents, I remember none with more fondness than my terribly pink fish.
And if ever on a cold dark day, I want to remember how much my father may have loved me, I only have to think once more of my long vanished endearment and the little girl comfort of her father's tired arms.


* cangkul: a long instrument with a large flat metal blade at the end of a stick with which to dig soil, normally with the instrument extending out of the body range and being swung in a half-moon circle

My Terribly Pink Fish



by Suzan Abrams

When I was 4, Daddy bought me a plastic pink fish. It cost but a dime and was so tiny it fitted into half my palm.

It was terribly pink and I loved it.
It had a pink fan tail, pink fins, pink scales and round plastic eyes that looked like glass.
I carried it everywhere, stored it in my fussy lacy pocket next to a tangled stowaway ribbon, and showed it to my friends next door when I felt in the mood for a comeuppance boast.
In the evenings, where we lived in the suburbs, we used to play out on the porch and on the street where it was safe.
There were a noisy gang of us. Alice Tan, Sushila and then I forget.
We played all kinds of games. Hopscotch, Catch, 5 Stones and What-Is-The-Time-Mr.Wolf.
Sometimes, a garden bee came to join in the fun and would sting us merrily.
I remember my mother rubbing comforting ointment on the nape of my neck while I howled in pain.

The bee lived in our small garden patch, made up of rows and rows of bright zinnias.
I enjoyed looking at the flowers but I loved my terribly pink fish.
Once Alice ran along the gravel after sundown, ignoring the summons to dinnertime and slipped and fell with such a violent thud, she spotted blue-black bruises, a strange yellow medicine, indigo and snowy bandages all over her leg.
My mother often pointed her out as a painful example of what would happen to naughty little children who did not listen to their good, clever mums.
I observed all the colours on Alice's knee with morbid fascination.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The whistling balloon man stopped by with his funny assortment of rainbow coloured balloons.

I observed the balloon man with relish.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The old toothless tinker man, used to cycle along shouting out his wares made up of brooms and gaudy coloured dusters.
I watched him pass by, a happy sight for my eyes.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
One day, it rained and puddles came to visit us from the sky.
They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes but they were muddy and brown.
My pink fish disappeared mysteriously into a puddle.
It decided it was time for a swim and escaped from my pocket with a leap and a dare.

What a muddle for my confusion.
I screamed and cried and searched in vain for my terribly pink fish.
Daddy comforted me with sweets but it was no use.
Mum promised me a double helping of shortbread for tea but it was no use.
Sushila came to help. Alice came to help. And other friends too, whose names have fled with the wind. All arrived for the rescue mission.
But it was no use. No use at all.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a *cangkul to try and whip my fishy friend out.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a broomstick to try and sweep my fishy friend back to land.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought a dipper to clear the puddle of water, with which to view my fishy friend.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a long stick with which he hoisted about the leftover puddle to see if my fishy friend would feel a poke.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and came out without his shoes to try and splash about the puddle in case my fishy friend jumped out angrily.
It was no use.
Finally, Daddy got his hands dirty, scraping his fingers in the wet muddy sand to try and find my fishy friend.
It was no use.
My terribly pink fish was gone forever.
Sushila hugged me and went away.
Alice got scared when she saw it was sundown and went away.
All my friends whose names I long forgot, patted me on the back and went away.
And then I was left alone for a time to mourn.
Daddy carried me in his arms back into the house.
With his daddy-desire to pacify me, he had forgotten the cangkul, the broomstick, the dipper, the stick and his own shoes. He had forgotten his wet hanky with which he had wiped his hands.

Now, many years later, that crystal-clear memory strikes home as clear as day.
Of all the expensive toys I would receive as presents, I remember none with more fondness than my terribly pink fish.
And if ever on a cold dark day, I want to remember how much my father may have loved me, I only have to think once more of my long vanished endearment and the little girl comfort of her father's tired arms.


* cangkul: a long instrument with a large flat metal blade at the end of a stick with which to dig soil, normally with the instrument extending out of the body range and being swung in a half-moon circle

My Terribly Pink Fish



by Suzan Abrams

When I was 4, Daddy bought me a plastic pink fish. It cost but a dime and was so tiny it fitted into half my palm.

It was terribly pink and I loved it.
It had a pink fan tail, pink fins, pink scales and round plastic eyes that looked like glass.
I carried it everywhere, stored it in my fussy lacy pocket next to a tangled stowaway ribbon, and showed it to my friends next door when I felt in the mood for a comeuppance boast.
In the evenings, where we lived in the suburbs, we used to play out on the porch and on the street where it was safe.
There were a noisy gang of us. Alice Tan, Sushila and then I forget.
We played all kinds of games. Hopscotch, Catch, 5 Stones and What-Is-The-Time-Mr.Wolf.
Sometimes, a garden bee came to join in the fun and would sting us merrily.
I remember my mother rubbing comforting ointment on the nape of my neck while I howled in pain.

The bee lived in our small garden patch, made up of rows and rows of bright zinnias.
I enjoyed looking at the flowers but I loved my terribly pink fish.
Once Alice ran along the gravel after sundown, ignoring the summons to dinnertime and slipped and fell with such a violent thud, she spotted blue-black bruises, a strange yellow medicine, indigo and snowy bandages all over her leg.
My mother often pointed her out as a painful example of what would happen to naughty little children who did not listen to their good, clever mums.
I observed all the colours on Alice's knee with morbid fascination.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The whistling balloon man stopped by with his funny assortment of rainbow coloured balloons.

I observed the balloon man with relish.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
The old toothless tinker man, used to cycle along shouting out his wares made up of brooms and gaudy coloured dusters.
I watched him pass by, a happy sight for my eyes.
I still loved my terribly pink fish.
One day, it rained and puddles came to visit us from the sky.
They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes but they were muddy and brown.
My pink fish disappeared mysteriously into a puddle.
It decided it was time for a swim and escaped from my pocket with a leap and a dare.

What a muddle for my confusion.
I screamed and cried and searched in vain for my terribly pink fish.
Daddy comforted me with sweets but it was no use.
Mum promised me a double helping of shortbread for tea but it was no use.
Sushila came to help. Alice came to help. And other friends too, whose names have fled with the wind. All arrived for the rescue mission.
But it was no use. No use at all.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a *cangkul to try and whip my fishy friend out.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a broomstick to try and sweep my fishy friend back to land.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought a dipper to clear the puddle of water, with which to view my fishy friend.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and brought out a long stick with which he hoisted about the leftover puddle to see if my fishy friend would feel a poke.
It was no use.
Daddy went into the house and came out without his shoes to try and splash about the puddle in case my fishy friend jumped out angrily.
It was no use.
Finally, Daddy got his hands dirty, scraping his fingers in the wet muddy sand to try and find my fishy friend.
It was no use.
My terribly pink fish was gone forever.
Sushila hugged me and went away.
Alice got scared when she saw it was sundown and went away.
All my friends whose names I long forgot, patted me on the back and went away.
And then I was left alone for a time to mourn.
Daddy carried me in his arms back into the house.
With his daddy-desire to pacify me, he had forgotten the cangkul, the broomstick, the dipper, the stick and his own shoes. He had forgotten his wet hanky with which he had wiped his hands.

Now, many years later, that crystal-clear memory strikes home as clear as day.
Of all the expensive toys I would receive as presents, I remember none with more fondness than my terribly pink fish.
And if ever on a cold dark day, I want to remember how much my father may have loved me, I only have to think once more of my long vanished endearment and the little girl comfort of her father's tired arms.


* cangkul: a long instrument with a large flat metal blade at the end of a stick with which to dig soil, normally with the instrument extending out of the body range and being swung in a half-moon circle

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

I am going back to Africa.
By the way, I have deleted my wordpress site with my stories and poems on it.
It was 'messed about' with by someone from a books blog and after that, nothing about my quiet writing world on that spot, felt the same anymore.
I decided it was better all gone.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

FactoryHand, a wordpress site for my new writings. (prose updated) - 22nd April 2008

More readings this evening at Trinity

(Pictured is playwright Gina Moxley)

This is not a review but a journal record.

Just came back from the last series of Trinity College readings to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing. Among the readers were the popular Irish novelist Claire Kilroy, playwright Gina Moxley and Scotsman, Andrew O' Hagan. Literary agent, Jonathan Williams made the introductions.

I would love to do a post sometime, bearing the theme of live performances in reading aloud excerpts of the novel. Having been to several readings, it is easy to see after a spell, what works to capture the audience and what doesn't. Many of the younger novelists don't have a clue.

Hagan doubled up as a delightful comic actor, performing a brilliant mimicking act, featuring a few colourful and heavy-accented countryside characters in his novel. Picture old ladies with teacups and disgruntled couch potatoes. On the contrary, Moxley's prose contained a humour that was wry and sardonic. She was clearly naturally gifted.

I had no idea until the lady beside me mentioned really really softly, that Man Booker winner, Anne Enright was sitting directly behind the two of us. I saw her once more - as I already had last week - when we finally got up to leave. And I must say that I really liked the swirl of Enright's elegant black dress that looked like something picked out from Armani.

Each member of the audience was given 5 free anthologies of fiction and poetry as a gesture of appreciation that felt the ideal Christmas treat for book lovers.

I'll have five poems displayed on a Catalan site next month. I use my real name. The works are mostly in Spanish. Mine are one of the few in English. It's a late attempt to remedy efforts at sending my work out. This has been the first in months. I get terribly lazy at manuscript submissions; a situation I need to fix.

Monday, 21 April 2008

In the way of my reads...

In the way of books, I've enjoyed them as a real solace of late. Recently, I finished reading Samuel Beckett's episodic prose that also doubles up as a theatre monologue, called Company, The many scenes of childhood through the windows of an old man's eyes, were subdued, melancholy, lightly-humoured, deeply profound and engaging.

I followed this up with Anne Enright's The Gathering and was able to learn about creative writing techniques from the way she presented a well-crafted family story on the brink of destruction with an astonishing inventiveness . This, as well as being suitably entertained. I'm now reading Andrea Camilleri's Rounding the Mark - one of several stories detailing the Inspector Montalbano Mystery series. I love sleuth stories. Love, love, love them! In this vein, I enjoy British, French and Italian thrillers when I have the time. My favourite British crime writer is probably Ruth Rendell. I also make it a point to catch the hardy old British sleuth stories on telly everytime.

The day before while window-shopping at Waterstone's on Jervis Street, I had treated myself to a rare display find; The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. The paperback stayed a bookseller's choice and at 15 euros, was the last copy left on the shelf. I will probably get started on it next thing... I find the prospect exciting and must painfully ignore, for the moment, the other marvellousl 'unread' reads fast piling up on my shelves.

I meant to open a literary blog to talk about my reads and other growing interests like the opera, cuisine and theatre plays with a far more studied intensity but I haven't yet had the time. I must try and open that blog tonight.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Zimbabwe Memory

When I flew to Harare from Johannesburg, one October weekend about 3 years ago, I wasn't allowed into Zimbabwe initially because I was a writer. I was told by immigration officials at the airport that Mugabe hated writers. Fullstop. The officials were extremely apologetic.
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and I had hoped to explore Zimbabwe and journey onto a few more safari expeditions.
In their kind way, the officials appeared exasperated. They didn't know what to do with me. The thing was to speak to someone in the government, put a call through, present my details and with any luck, I would be let in. But it was a Sunday.
After some time spent at a careful interview, they decided I had no political inclinations after all, used their discretion and allowed me into the country. I was also advised to playact a nurse, secretary or "better still, a housewife" in future if as a visitor, I wished to avoid interrogation. One immigration officer drew me a map of St. George's Street, where I would stay at the George Hotel. I discovered later that it was exquisite, although his personal recommendation was the Holiday Inn. I told him I had a prior booking. He then explained about the taxis and of how many people would be out to cheat me and that I had to be very careful.
On the contrary, by the time I left, I was deeply moved by the warmth and hospitality of Zimbabweans and I had made good friends who took me to visit outlying villages.
Still, I had to fill a form and my month's stay was cut short to a fortnight. I also had to carry an important slip of paper everywhere, failing which I could be arrested without question. If I did not leave the country on the date and time stated, I would be thrown into jail.
People in Zimbabwe talked to me about Botswana as the promised land. I did see the lazy leopards leaning on some heavy branches. I did catch the eagles that flew all morning over Lake Chivero. In a sanctuary park nearby, the snooty flamingos did the obvious and snubbed me.
Today, I still remember the dusks in Harare as the most memorable of all twilights. It was just the way the light shaped and shadowed the trees against the vast skyline. Sheer beauty summoned the night.

Picture courtesy of Zimparks.com

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Just very quickly. We went to the New Theatre in Temple Bar this evening to watch the final performance of Beckett's Outbursts, presented by The Godot Company, presently on tour from London. There is so much to say but that will have to wait for another day. Samuel Beckett's humour, follies, obsessions and oddities were splendidly captured by publisher John Calder, tv actor Michael Howarth and Oengus MacNamara in a glorious comic vein, which resulted in a piece of fine acting that kept the audience in stitches for an hour and a quarter straight. There was no interval. Narrations involved selected episodes from some of the late Nobel Prize winner's finest works, The Unnamable, Watt, Mercier and Camier, Molloy and Worstward Ho. The touring company's next destination is Belfast. I was as Des observed, "totally enraptured and loving it."

I came across this today which made a world of difference to me and lifted the heart:

"Sometimes I will write badly, draw badly, paint badly and perform badly. I have the right to do this to get to the other side. Creativity is its own reward." - Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

This evening, Des took me to the Naked Lunch open mic poetry event at Carnival Bar, an intimate club setting to read my poetry live. I had downed one wine glass too many while peforming my work. Of course, I hid it well and no one knew. That was the only way I could secure my merriment and snub any signs of nervousness. There were also some very exciting musicians flaunting their jazz and ballad compositions. It was all so cool.
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Watching Anne Enright Read at Trinity

This evening, I went to listen to current Man Booker Prize winner, Anne Enright read from her new collection of short stories, called Taking Pictures, at Trinity College.

The lively session had commanded two other established poets as well, one of them being Bernard O Donoghue who with his natural flair for high comedy, read and chuckled with equal succession from a collected selection of poetry just published by Faber&Faber. There was also the distinguished poet and publisher Peter Fallon of The Gallery Press who provided a pensive treat. The event forms part of a weekly series of readings to highlight 10th anniversary celebrations for the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing.

All were respectively introduced by Gerald Dawe.

I had already purchased Taking Pictures in January and remember the mostly taciturn women characters, as being melancholy and mournful while the prose had stayed true to its course with Enright's razor-sharp dose of black humour. The fictitious tragedies that depict Ireland today, are also heavily imbued with Enright's acerbic wit.

In fact,I had joked with a member of the audience that after reading the stories, a woman may be bound to have second thoughts about marriage and demonstrating understanding, she had laughed.

With dark and haunted themes of family secrets similar to The Gathering locked into Taking Pictures, I watched Enright playact one of the poignant tales; the polished actress performing to perfection and lost to the rest of us with an absorbing enigma. Now the cynic character seemed darker, larger than life, slightly frightening and thoroughly gripping. At that point, Anne Enright had the audience completely mesmerised.

As a swift introduction beforehand, she had remarked that people often asked if she didn't mind constantly repeating herself by having to read the same stories or answer memorable questions. She said that she would reply in good humour that she didn't as most of us were constantly repeating ourselves consciously anyway, whether we realised it or not.

I also found her fascinating to watch.

She was often restless in her seat, bright-eyed and observant and while spotting brisk movements, expressed the same buoyant energy as the tone of her stories. She was petite while her voice boomed. She wore a no-fuss suit with a gorgeous piece of eye-catching jewellery at her neck. She looked attractive, her face a picture of candid animation while devoid of pretension and I got the impression that photography simply did not do her justice. She was far more striking than any studied snapshot may have revealed.

One got the feeling that Enright did not believe in wasting time either as she dashed swiftly to the podium reflecting the mastery of a no-nonsense manner, even as the first poet was still on his way back to his seat. Straightaway, she reminded me of a stylish if not slightly sombre schoolteacher, somewhere in my Convent past.

An intimate atmospheric setting completed the picture.

I was the second person to ask Enright if she would sign my books very early on, as soon as the event had finished. She found it difficult to sit in one place to do any signings but moved around. After a blonde called Penny who had her book signed while it was held up high in the air like a suspenseful magic act, Enright would take my copy and dart with alacrity from one end of the room to the other, looking for a good spot to sign my book.

It was an unexpected thing and while she strode about with lightning speed, I had run behind her with a slight trepidation, so as to keep up. I felt I was an errant pupil handing in some late homework and that I was now being marched without further ado, to the Principal's office. The exception here of course, was that I was no more in pinafore and that far from wearing a frown, Enright's eyes were twinkling.

Later, I saw her bent over her scrawled signature in deep concentration while stationed precariously close to a computer. This explained the slight impatience and restlessness I had picked up and her desire to be constantly on the move.

It was a splendid evening surely but if I could make one more personal observation, Anne Enright is not a woman you'd want to cross. Don't ask me how I know though. I'd just blame it on a miraculous foresight.

Author says he plagiarized Lonely Planet's guidebooks

An author for Melbourne's famous Lonely Planet guidebooks has said that he plagiarized and made up large sections of his books. Author Thomas Kohnstamm also claimed in his new book "Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?" that he accepted free travel against company policy.

"They didn't pay me enough to go to Colombia. I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating.... You can read more from the article in Reuters over HERE.

By chance, I found another link where Lonely Planet has just spoken out against Kohnstamm's claims and provided updated material to which Kohnstamm is said to have had no involvement with contributions. This for countries, the author claimed he had written about like Brazil and which he had faked like Colombia. Do read Lonely Planet's comment over HERE.

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Penguin India launches 2000 titles in the UK

Benedicte Page writes in the latest edition of the Bookseller that Penguin India will launch its 2000 strong backlist in the UK and Europe, via Gardners, one of Britain's largest distributors. Its ambition is to target the UK's Indian population as well as readers who enjoy an interest in India. This in a matter of the next few weeks.
The launch titles are mostly English and will include Arundhati Roy's non-fiction title, 13th December that spoke about the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. There are all sorts too which include fiction, children's and non-fiction stemming from categories like biography, religion, travel and the must-have cookbook.
Meru Gokhale, the London manager for Penguin Books India has said that since people were ordering these titles online from all over Europe, they would now be able to save on extra costs like shipping as the books became easily accessible.
It's certainly exciting news for me as I look forward to reading more contemporary Indian voices.


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Monday, 14 April 2008

It was a cold afternoon. Today, I wanted to be still within myself, to be quiet...to read and to hear my thoughts. As I held a Samuel Beckett in my hands, flipping over the pages of what has appeared to be the classic version of a theatre monologue called Company, I wanted to switch off all else. Reading has made me restless. Here lingers an intensity to want to finger as many books as I can. I simply couldn't feel more urgent about the prospect. And far from my interests narrowing, it has widened like a tree having blossomed late...its branches crawling in various directions towards a new sky.

What if I don't have enough time? What if the last breath arrived without warning? I adore world literature like never before, I like the classics and stay faithful to British fiction but I also enjoy multicultural voices. Why must it all happen now? This rush towards enlightenment as if it was a promising gold-mine...this restless affectionate pursuit for the fulfillment of the inner self that may have been whipped up from nothing but the glutinous palate of zeal. And reviews. Reviews in journals, magazines and newspapers. I have started to collect them all like a hobby. Or investigative features. Like the tragic story of the late literary agent, Rod Hall, that ran in The Observer magazine yesterday. Of how he was murdered by a gay lover. I want to absorb everything. The cruxifications and the resurrections. I cringe at my melodrama.

At this point, I dare not even contemplate my virgin interests in opera, musicals or the culinary arts. Or of world cinema and exquisite gardens. Think the humble flower bulb. Everything has come to a head. And I could collapse from exhaustion from reflecting too long on thoughts signifying celebration through the root of domesticity and other delicate pleasures.

I want to be very quiet within myself. But it is hard. One's love for life is never stagnant. All sorts of contemplations from many different spheres of a positive energy may flood the heart all at once. If you want to live a full life to the last breath, I realise that an individual has to turn selfish in a way that demands such total absorption, there'll simply never be time to be nasty to anyone or anything. You want to conserve that valuable energy like a buried treasure chest.

Des comes in. He wants to talk and tell me stories of this and that. I smile and listen. Today, he is chatty when he can be so very terse. Especially when he's writing or working on his poetry. Then I could call his name a hundred times and he'd be so absorbed, he simply wouldn't hear. So today, I concentrate on his voluble mannerisms with amusement and interest. I put on some music. The silence doesn't happen. Maybe another mood caught in another hour on another day.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Today was a slightly mad day for me. I was quite upset because everything's coming up roses for me these days that just one thing out of the rhythm, creates a sting. My computer wire went bust and it's a good thing that Des saw it in good time or I might have got myself a pretty good electric shock as I hadn't even noticed the fraying wires that sparked off a noisy hiss. I am quite reckless with the handling of electrical appliances and am trying to be more careful. Naturally, I was agitated and upset. I'm pretty lost without my laptop. A silly little thing always drives the neurosis up the wall, whereas in a major crisis, I am often calm and collected, seem to think my way clearly out of a maze and know exactly what to do. So today, I went downtown to Maplin Electronics on Jervis Street where I found the exact substitute for 8.99 euro. It's a fabulous electronics shop by the way. You can find all sorts for a bargain and be sure of a friendly service. All afternoon the sun shone, the rain fell and every hour or so, it snowed. Balmy weather to be sure!

My living room is pretty full of books at the moment, and I've built an untidy library of sorts. I go out almost every day and I'll always return with a book of some kind. A dusty fossil of a paperback or at stone-heavy hardback title. I need to buy the new authorized biography of V.S. Naipaul which I still haven't done. The Observer has run an enticing feature on the Nobel Literature prize winner this weekend. I have stacks now in scattered piles everywhere and just watching the scene in the golden nightlight or browsing through my own motley collection while the background soaks up a piano tune or two, makes me feel strangely safe. Books are my sanctuary for the moment while I make plans to travel again for a month or so; silent companions, very good company when one seeks a solace or an atmospheric mood. I will choose a book to read depending on how I feel.
At the moment, it's Samuel Beckett. I'll write more about it later. I still haven't had the time to open my new literary/books blog but I will. I will.
I'm thinking of another East African safari this May or June. It's been a while and just recapturing the memories feels like a tonic about to do me a world of good.

Friday, 11 April 2008

I went to see 27 Dresses at the Savoy this afternoon. I cry for every silly thing and it was only fitting that I would sob my eyes out at a romantic afternoon matinee. What a pity that there was no Kleenex handed with our tickets. The old-world cinema soaked in the lively mood of the film. A genius comedy indeed from a screenplay that dumped soppiness, honed its inspiration close to Bridget Jones and yet prided itself on inventiveness. There were no signs of the usual predictability. Rather, it's the sort of film that records splendid Kodak-memory entertainment for families. Much of the time, I laughed loudly. I could hardly stay still in my aisle seat. It's easy to take liberties when the small audience is made up of a women-who-do-lunch crowd, lone homemakers snatching a bit of peace and quiet and starry eyed couples who may range from 17 to 70. At the end, I felt girlish and weepy. I also forgot my popcorn. There was no telling that where the warm sunshine had bathed patrons as we waited for the doors to open, it had now turned dark with cloud and that the snow was falling. How I love it when the shiny pavements on Upper O'Connell Street glisten like a skating rink. On the way to Arnotts on Henry Street for tea, I dared myself to a run.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Sorry no time today to blog or answer comments. Will do as soon as I can. Going to Belfast for a few days. Went to a series of readings this evening at Trinity College. Held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Oscar Wilde Centre for the writing of Irish fiction, we were well entertained to writers who read novel excepts and poetry. This included the novelist Sebastian Barry who was a wonderful actor when it came to the narration of his prose and Douglas Dunn the Scottish poet. Also bought my tickets to listen to Man Booker winner Anne Enright, at Trinity next week who will be reading from Taking Pictures. I'm only relieved that I've managed to finish her book of short stories where I found the women characters to be mostly mournful and melancholy in their acceptance of everyday life.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Winter Snap

The sun came out today. And there were no signs yet of April showers. But just before and sometime in the late afternoon, it had snowed in my makeshift garden. The rush of snowflakes in a winter snap had caught me by surprise while I basked in the warmth and even my hyacinths may have been more than a little piqued. I stood in a small crowd of petals while snowflakes fell on my hair and stuck to the woolly strands of my sweater. Of course, I had on no coat. I was pleased. I wanted to smile and celebrate the party of a makebelieve Mad Hatter whipping up a chaotic fury. But then the sunshine arrived and the snow vanished again like a sad fading ghost. I felt that something precious and faraway had been snatched away; something from the past...the gold of old...and now once more, something lost.

But still, I've heard it whispered in the song of the North Sea wind, that on catching the moon, the snow will once more carpet my garden at nightfall.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Digital news from Penguin Books

You may have to wait 3 to 4 minutes for this interesting Penguin video, courtesy of Reuters, to appear on my blog right below my words; but it's worth the time.

A fortnight ago, Penguin Books launched an interactive web-first literature called We Tell Stories under its category Digital Fiction in an effort to take readers through its new technologies.

The 6-week digital writing project sees six bestselling authors who include Toby Litt, Nicci French and Mohsin Hamid having earlier worked with game designers; create six different stories for an online audience for six weeks.

Readers are invited to hunt for clues from these stories - that simply cannot be told on paper - for a seventh story that lies somewhere along the internet. The lengthy period is to ensure that readers keep coming back. The featured website also offers a separate competition for UK residents over 16 years old, where the winner stands a chance to win a Penguin library listing titles that run up to more than 1300 Penguin Classics.

The video also reveals a good few of Penguin's other plans for digital fiction. Readers can expect to read extracts from popular authors as tasters first of all on the web, just as if you were flicking and browsing your book buys in a shop.

Here is the video below:


Friday, 4 April 2008

And so we race on rocket wings with precise fulfillment towards an unguarded future. - suzan abrams -

He said I was his for eternity and pounced for an ounce of me. He cut me open with a pendant but misplacing his glasses, he stole a sliver of my liver and not the shard of my heart - suzan abrams -

Latest publishing news

I have been lagging behind in writing about the latest publishing news with the kind of zeal I did before. But here's something for you today, just out. Frankly, I'm pretty pleased as I stay a seeker of the New Age and anything that proves exhilarating enough for a faster-paced high-tech lifetstyle in the future - and this with the secure knowledge that there will always be a place for retro - has my vote.

In January, I wrote a post where Mr. Mark Shatskin, CEO of the Idea Logical Company in the US had outlined to Publisher's Weekly, 15 dramatic new trends that the American and European publishing industries would most likely manouvere their way into; destined to rock the world of books in a whole new way.

You can find that post over HERE.

The bottom line was that publishers and readers would turn more internet-savvy than ever before. And literary agents would start linking up together for partnerships in the subtle steady way that saw publishers forming conglomerates. I can't help thinking about how his predictions are turning up spot-on.

*********

a) 2 long established literary agents in London who operated separately in the past, have from April 1st, 2008 made their partnership official after having signed a co-agenting agreement. The four agents from ICM - Books department will move to the Curtis Brown offices in Haymarket, London where the sale of UK and foreign rights for ICM clients will be jointly handled by the partnership. (this news is 2 days old.)

b) Philip Jones writes in The Bookseller today that HarperCollins will try to change an aspect of traditional publishing with the launch of a new global list that will pay authors a share of the profits and refuse returns.

Authors are said to be compensated in future through a profit-sharing model as opposed to traditional royalty payments and books will be promoted using online publicity, advertising and marketing. Approximately 25-popular priced books in multiple physical and digital formats will have the usual strong advantage taken care of with relation to trade publishing except that this time round, the Internet will be fully used to generate sales, marketing and distributing.

Their goal is said to be one that effectively publishes books that may not otherwise emerge or thrive at all in a 'big book' environment. In other words, with the aid of the worldwide web, opportunities will now abound in a new way for first-time authors and unknowns under HarperCollins, which prides itself on innovation and experimentation.


c) On 31st March (4 days ago), Benedicte Page had also reported in The Bookseller, that in a panel debate at a recent seminar, David Miller of Rogers, Coleridge and White (Literary Agents), had warned literary agents against becoming too lazy and start thinking seriously about podcasts and online benefits. Robert Hahn, who handles editorial rights at the Guardian had predicted that newsprint may just be slotted into a second, third or fourth activity for the Guardian as befits a news media organisation, in 10 years time.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Ordinary Things That Made Me Happy Today...

  1. It was a glorious sunny day in Dublin. No need for hoods and umbrellas. I even slipped off my jacket, scarf and gloves downtown, although it was fairly cold in the morning. But so did the crowds. The air is always cool and fresh here of course, with no humidity or pollution that may commonly be found in the tropics. The weather forecast had stressed that April showers would visit only on Sunday. And that there would be chilly and blustery North Winds once more. But till then...
  2. We sat at cafes in Temple Bar and Grafton Street in the afternoon. Others plopped themselves down on squares and stairs and side streets, watching the world go by.
  3. Many hot cups of tea and at one point, a delicious chili hot dog from Eddie Rockets.
  4. Strolling the long shiny pavements of a smart Wicklow Street and admiring the attractive window displays.
  5. Bumping into the odd clown. Theatrical busking and performances are starting up in the sunlight.
  6. Waterstone's ringing to say would I please collect a much-awaited book that I had ordered? Jay Rayner's The Man who Ate the World, featuring the Jewish food journalist's adventures with international cuisine. The Observer had run a rambling colourful feature on Rayner in its Foods Monthly Magazine last weekend where he had stressed that his religion was food and of how he had worshipped passionately at his mother' fridge. And his family photographs and memories of kitchens had looked and sounded divine. I simply love, love, love food stories these days. Anyway, the writer's mother was Claire Rayner a famed television chef in Britain in the 60s and 70s.
  7. Managing to steer clear of the many begging Romanian gypsies that conjure up sob stories as a profitable business or should I say, racket, in Dublin. Later, you see them in groups together...buying expensive clothes and laughing in delight at how much they had managed to rake up.
  8. Making a French dish from a home-cooked recipe that I had caught in good time fromTrisha's Paris Kitchen televised yesterday. Very simple too. I'll write it down here. Collect red and green peppers. Slice and simmer in pan with olive oil, on a low heat. Add on minced garlic, some chilli - not too much - and a tin of very ripe tomatoes. Let it all stew for a bit. Make some scrambled eggs - add a little milk to the whisked yolk - where by the time the eggs are fried, the pepper would have been cooked to perfection. Serve side by side. I never knew I would find cookery so therapeutic or peaceful. I like the idea of experimenting with seafood, chicken, salads, fruit platters and vegetables and cooking with the music on.
  9. My plants looking cheerful in the mornings.
  10. The sunlight streaming in through the low windows that adds a golden glow to all my rooms.
  11. My rose-scented candle or oils that seem to hover everywhere.
  12. When my reads look promising in the mornings
  13. Contemplating my holiday plans. It feels like ages since I last went back to Africa.
  14. Contemplating new ideas for my writing.
  15. A security guard and a good acquaintance at a bookstore, who on hearing that I had left a beloved novel, on the train to the Howth coast, went out of his way to look up a copy and managed to secure the last one for me.
  16. A cafe owner on North Earl Street who always serves me an extra pot of tea for free, when I stop by.
  17. The clip-clop sound of horse carts being manouvered miraculously around rush hour traffic.
  18. The rows and rows of cutesy eco friendly cabs offering free city rides.
  19. And so on. And so on. :-)

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

All these delicious titles cropping up...

Announced today, are eight shortlisted titles from 137 worldwide library nominations, that will face a standoff for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; to be handed to the winner on June 12th, 2008.

These are:

a) Winterwood by Irish author Patrick McCabe (Bloomsbury)
b) The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas (Spanish)
c) The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneraratne (Sri Lankan)
d) De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage (Lebanese)
e) Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones (Australian)
f) Let it be Morning by Sayed Kashua (Israeli)
g) The Attack by Yasmina Khadra (Algerian) &
h) The Woman who Waited by Andrei Makine (Russian)

The award is worth a 100,000 euros and is the world's most valuable literary prize, awarded to a single work of fiction published in English.

Dare I order the lot and read them all? Perhaps after all, I will. :-)