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Saturday 31 January 2009


by Suzan Abrams
I have moved to a slightly bigger executive suite in the hotel and now have a vast view of the harbour and Indian Ocean that tails my movements in the rooms, in a circular motion. The furniture are of mahagony and teak wood, the chairs are wicker and the carpets, long curtains and pictures on the wall hold flamboyant African decor and designs. There are also potted palms and scattered comfy sofas. I also have double of everything, baths, televisions, six telephones and before I start counting and appearing very much the hillbilly, you would know all the usual that comes in this case, with a small suite.
It is such a festive Sunday morning and near the waterfront, a group of professional dancers in colourful costumers, accompanied by lively beats are practising Congolese and Tanzanian dancers. The restaurant that serves a buffet breakfast, blared old African hits today like Elephant Walk which my father often played for me. Naturally, I mulled about a fair bit over my food and drink.
I feel so ease and confident as a woman traveller who can hold my hold. No more aware was I of this then today because of reasons I may write about later. In a way, I feel grown up that I have come into my own although truth would dictate that I already had, a long while ago.
Now, the thing is, that I don't know how to carry on with this blog. I experience different things everyday and sometimes different passions in my life dominate others. I don't live an ordinary life and so it is hard to be focussed and definitely not possible to slip into a routine for anything.

For instance, I could tell you about the Masai children who surrounded me yesterday and of how I find Masai toddlers to be some of the most congenial babies in the world. They are so affectionate that they will naturally endear themselves to any smile. They will come to you and hold you as if you were their mother. They would touch you, feel you and cling on like soft cuddly Koalas as if you were the dearest thing in their lives. That's how Masai children are. They don't want anything from you but just to be with you. When you do say goodbye, they are sad.

This is how life prisms up my multi-faceted endeavours. I am missing my beloved literature, want to spend more time on it and definitely want to complete my stories. I plan to rest on those wicker chairs, look out to the nearby sea and read since it is too dangerous for me to walk on the coast alone without a guide. The trouble is that East Africa smoulders with so much exoticism that many other things may claim your attention all at once.

I am well aware of the poverty that surrounds people. How can anyone not be moved by what one sees here. I myself, was once in dire straits for years so I know how it is to have nothing or very little. I am aware that today while I have a suite others don't have a bed. But I am constantly humbled, thankful and appreciative for everything. And I have done much to help needy African individuals although my personal charity for others, is a subject that my conscience will always forbid me from discussing openly.

Anyway, let's see what I feel like doing with this blog. I may take an interval until I get to Dublin or even longer. I may just write about books again and stop recollecting my African experiences here altogether. At the moment, I still don't know. Today, I'm going to Coco Beach...which is a very beautiful shore and so called as it is ever so famous for scattered and shapely coconut trees.

By the way, when I have left I will give you the name of the hotel where I stayed, the room numbers and the name I checked under. That's only fair. At least you would know it was all real.

Friday 30 January 2009

The Window in Dar - East Africa III

I woke up this morning and a long blue ship waited outside my window. It stood brave and tall, proudly anchored in the harbour. It dwarfed the vain sleek Catamaran without a second thought.
Unless you live close to a waterfront or dockyard, how often in a life could one wake up to spot a ship poised majestically outside the bedroom window...Not for me, a true child of suburban living. Not a chance, I'm afraid. This afternoon, a black cargo ship with a strip of shocking pink circling its belly, and a reckless jet boat, both jostled for space on the way out to sea. How gruff and grandfather-ish appeared the stern ship dressed in its eccentric party bow and how unrepentant, the beautiful brazen boat while tossed about on the waters in its high dance of flamboyance and agility. I wish I could have gone to the party.- suzan abrams -

Thursday 29 January 2009

Here in Africa

by Suzan Abrams
Did I say that I would be able to devote more time to my blog once I reached Africa?
Well, to be candid, I am living a dream...not one dominated by materialism but another kind of dream shrouded by the hedonistic pleasures that denote bliss.
The kind that triumphs over the searching heart and defeats the life of the ordinary.
I recognise that I am one of very few writers who are fearless and lucky enough to live life this way and I am still writing my stories. I've not yet published a book although I soon will.
I don't mean to boast and I apologise for any arrogance.
On the contrary, I am humbled by this gift from the Gods and am to put it mildly, like a child in a lolly shop or skidding across a tempting playground. Forgive me if I sometimes get carried away by the wonder, beauty and exhilaration of life that surrounds me. I have worked so painfully hard to catch my dreams.
Because of my lifestyle, I am allowed to take my writerly inspiration totally for granted. I have chased my heart's desires and am discovering them like buried treasure.
Here in Africa, I could have once been a little girl of 4 in Malaysia, watching my father carefully turn over the precious pages of a Life Magazine or a copy of his library collection of the Reader's Digest. I was the apple of his eye and would hang about him as often as I could, posing questions about people in different lands. I was also influenced by old Hollywood classics on safaris that my parents chose to watch on the television. Daktari was another weekly series I loved and would beg my mother to include that in my entertainment schedule right after homework, although I couldn't understand much of what was going on. My mother was always kind like that and obliged my pleas.
How I longed to be part of the scene. The Jeeps, the adventures, the animals and the romantic allure that spun mercilessly over this vast landscape with its immense skyline, even in the midst of thousands of simply led lives.
Now I am here for the countless time. I really have lost count and will have to think carefully about how often already it is, that I have come to Africa. Each time I arrive, I understand East Africa a little more. In the past, I've also been to Johannesburg and to Zimbabwe.
At this moment in time, I feel that I am shrouded in surrealism, that destiny will define while I am here...the hour and the day. So far, I have been gently prodded by the grandeur of unpredictability and the weighlessness of being rocked along.
All through this week, I have spent it simply blending into the city of Dar. I turn into a subtle figure of the scene. This is real and not any kind of pretentious attempt to renact any African mood seen at expensive clubs and discos in different parts of the world. This is the real thing.
I remember a scene in a Jeremy Irons film where the actor walked along the streets of Morocco, surrounded by a similar clutter. And how he had looked curiously all about him, but unafraid and confident enough that no one would dare cheat him. He was pleasant towards all and and so people reacted likewise. He walked, the eager lone adventurer surrounded by a strange foreign crowd. That is exactly how it is with me. I walk so much...I look at everything again and again as if I am seeing the seaside town of Dar for the first time. I have been here so often and yet I try to soak in as much as I can of the naturally exotic flavours, moods and atmosphere that I may wish to smuggle back to my beloved Des in Dublin, for a poignant memory.
Greetings shade the face of this electrifying power. Assanti sista or jambo sista, otherwise, ...taxi sista?
So far, I have visited my old friendly acquaintances, 2 popular North Indian restauranteurs, my favourite North Indian money changer who gives me good rates, a group of pretty Tanzanian girls - yes, the one called Tusha who cried when I last left and who hugged me ever so tightly yesterday and there's also Maya who I like very much - and these girls are a whizz at running their internet cafe downtown. Tusha is terribly petite. She is small, shapely and very cute...like a fragile porcelain doll. How between them they manage the scanning, binding, photocopying, printing and also cope with fussy customers and always with terrific smiles on their faces; I'll never know.
Then there's Katana, my former Tanzanian safari/tour guide who taught me as much as I needed to know of Dar once upon a time and who now works full time at the airport. Two days ago, Katana came to meet me at my hotel and together, we went to see his young wife Agnes. They've just had their second child, a baby boy called Emmanuel, born on Christmas Eve.
The baby looks so tiny and divine. There's also Katana's sister, Sophie who's always ready with her flasks of tea and generous with her embraces. Tanzanians may look a dour lot but are affectionate once they know you. Their smiles mostly rare, are always ravishing when you finally catch one.
Tomorrow, Katana and I will visit the bustling wholesaler market called Kariyoko where expatriates and tourists dare not venture but where locals would happily purchase their provisions. I'm been before and feel quite at home there what with all the bargaining and haggling of the abundant colourful ware, that could well deafen the ears. That's if you don't get knocked down by a ramshackle car first of all. I am going to buy Katana and Agnes who are my dear friends, some good things for baby Emmanuel. Let the little tot be properly blessed and grow up in style!
I still have other friends to see and will write you of my experiences along the way.
Yesterday, I was at my favourite place,The Slipway in Oysterbay, to indulge in its bookshops and cafes that directly face a picturesque Indian Ocean. You need just a minute to walk up to the coast and dip your toes in the waves. I bought some books and cards. You can get any amount of British contemporary fiction, poetry and the classics plus all that excellent literature on Africana at A Novel Idea. This meaning, fiction as well as non-fiction. Naipaul is of course, a mainstay.
This is where you'll find the adventurous expatriates living the kind of lives you see only in Hollywood films. Whites (as is the everyday phrase) who are South African or Kenyan mostly passing by or else working here in Dar. Perhaps too, travellers from other regions but a more stately cultured group and not the backpacker variety. Sunburnt and quiet in their disposition, you'll observe lone European women writing letters, viewing the artefacts, reading, or men engaged in business deals over their lagers. Being at the Slipway offers the adventurer a euphoric experience of Africa. I had myself a glass of red wine and a sandwich - I wasn't feeling too well yesterday. As usual in places like this, I am the only Asian.
The Slipway also reminds me of when I go to breakfast at the hotel's restaurant every morning. Here the piercing tinkle of old piano tunes from the Hollywood classics, faithfully regale us in the background. Both venues conjure up the same nostalgic pictures of Gregory Peck, John Wayne and Clark Gable promoting the African safaris through their films.
Next week, I'm thinking of moving to the Zanzibar for awhile or else going up to stay in Arusha, home of the Kilimanjaro for a few days. My God! just the thought of it feels like paradise.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

In Africa: The View

January 28, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
Earlier Entry: The Window.
Last evening, I rushed to the bay window of my hotel room, like a child at Christmas. The loud trombone groan of the Catamaran called out sternly to warn off a small but brave fishing boat. How it bellowed up a roar! It could have been a case of a stubborn David with Goliath but for the naive Dar fisherman and his ancient wooden companion. Armed with its striking flourescent red light as an only weapon, the fisherman cared none for the Catamaran's snobbish rumble and with a lone oar, beat a hasty retreat.
A passing dhow shrugged at this mad truancy.
Here the super-speed ferry was returning with the usual blustery pomp from the Zanzibar. Soon it would retire for the night anchored at the harbour, along with other rackety ferries devoid of their makeup and lost in snores and yawns. Clearly, the spanking white Catamaran was queen of the Waterfront. It would be lulled by the sounds of a soft rain as it rested amid the wind. It was dusk after all and the waters had trembled madly under the ferry's bulky cellulite weight, in an earlier teary bid to float regally to attention.
Bold ripples made the coast look like a parade of wrinkly ladies, their skin creamed with a buttered sheen. Not that the army of birds which rested on the nearby palm trees cared as much for this vanity. Intent on a last supper, the greedy swallows black in the darkening twilight would polka-dot the brim of the ocean like the latest design of smooth slippery fabric sashaying up the Parisian catwalk.
Together they waltzed; the amorous birds dipping kisses into the shy pale sea.
In the middle of the waters, sat an old dame of a forgotten homeless barge, still panting and puffing her way to an unknown destination from three days ago. She twirled and swayed on her last rusty hinges, this way and that, almost as if she would lift first a weathered knee, then a broken toe, then a stiff ankle and so be it.
Was there a hospice at sea? She would find it!
Occassionally, the other boats would extend a courtesy call by sailing carefully around her, then dashing past afraid that she would attempt a watery hitchhike and steal their catch.
Only last night in the heavy rain, the coast wore a mist of tears, hiding its strange blue face. The storm clouds watched anxiously but decided they would gatecrash anyway.
Today, the happier emerald waters of the Indian Ocean play their carefree game of sink-n-swim. I wonder if deep in their bottom hearts, there lay still the wreckage of a treasure chest from the days of when Tanzania first sheltered its famous slave towns

John Updike Dies

January 27, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
USA: Legendary American author John Updike passed this Tuesday morning from lung cancer. He died in a hospice in Massachusetts. He was 76.
read here of his illustrious life and celebrated writings. Updike's book of short fiction titled My Father's Tears: And Other Stories is scheduled to be published at the start of June.

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January 27, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
I haven't had time to write anything yet. It's my third day in Africa and as usual I'm recovering from a brand-new jet lag!
I have also been walking a fair bit, downtown. In reality, I don't need to do this at all. Tanzania offers a generous number of taxi-drivers who will eagerly transport the foreigner.
The wonderful difference is that it's nothing like Kuala Lumpur where many taxi drivers have used taxi ranks to haul up only tourists for exorbitant fares. This is illegal as they don't use the meter.
For example, the taxi rank in front of the Central Market seems controlled by a specific group of taxi drivers and I really don't know who they wait to pick up. By right, a taxi should just come into the rank, pick the waiting passenger up without ado and leave immediately. But this group hangs around, chats profusely and park their taxis here and there, as they linger for a catch or two. I come back after 14 months from Europe and there's no change. So too, at the top of Petaling Street (Kuala Lumpur's main chinatown) where sly taxi drivers suggest no inclination to use the meter but instead charge exorbitant prices.
Singapore is always ethical and honest. You go to a rank. Everyone queues politely. The taxi comes, you hop in and the driver not only takes you where you want to go but will also greet you politely and exchange a few pleasantries. If the driver for some reason cannot take you - say, nearing the end of a shift - he'll actually apologize for the inconvenience caused. I've never had a bad taxi experience in Singapore and when on that little island, I take taxis all the time.
So here in Dar es Salaam, I'm always getting politely asked if "I want a taxi ride?" or I may get called out with a wave or honk. And my God! there's so much honking going on about the place, one straightaway senses an old-world charm. Picture the early chaotic train scene in Murder on the Orient Express or a harbour/waterfront conversation going on somewhere in an Agatha Christie cinematic mystery and you would immediately get the picture.
Tanzanians love their city. They don't spit or litter and their roads, besides muddy puddles from the rains, are always clean.
In Africa, I'm seen as either Hindustani who's from somewhere in the West like Canada or white & foreign because of my complexion.
I have been told this especially when trying to buy something off the street. Prices for me unless I am accompanied by a Tanzanian who must argue that I am not white-and-foreign are automatically hiked up about US$3 to US$4 extra.
Once I learn Swahili in the by-and-by, it will be easier.
At the moment, I'm just soaking in the moods, flavour and atmosphere to this quaint if not crowded seaside city. I've also been doing lots of witing writing on my notebook in my hotel room, as I have ongoing wireless facilities. As a result of my own creative pursuit, I find my blog at the moment, secondary in relation to priorities.
My view of the harbour/seafront is spectacular with the changing colours of the skyline that denotes the hour and the season.

Sunday 25 January 2009

My first impression of Africa in 2009

January 26, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
The Window
I am in East Africa today. I actually arrived here on Sunday. What can I say? Scenes spell the exactness of films. Clamour, chaos, crowds and a colourful clutter about sums it up.
My harbour-front view paints the picture of a sparkling Indian Ocean. It splashes up a rich shade of royal blue ink. I'm close to the coast and the wide windows reveal the remnant strips of a closing sunset.
Other friendly greeters stay the anchored fishing boats, steamers, ferries and the last Catamaran for the day, sailing eager passengers off to the Zanzibar.
The occasional dhow as light as a feather tails the wind. It zooms past the tall window. The Tanzanians saunter along the coast and mud-tracks, content that it's a Sunday. I want to weep with the bitter sweet-sadness of an old forgotten nostalgia, far more beseeching than childhood.
In the night, only the magnificent shimmering lights shape an ocean in twilight. They beckon at my shadowy face. But I spy the sea anyway.
Restless in its tranquility, it shivers and shakes, its shine too beautiful to resemble a grumbling bellyache. Instead, I imagine cold wobbling jelly...majestic and decorative, styled on a tray.

Friday 23 January 2009

I'm Off to Africa!

January 24, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
I'm off to East Africa!
I am always so relaxed in Africa - Tanzania - and will be able to fill up this blog with a lot more reflections on books and writers and also my own writing experiences. I've got my new Notebook now and know all the places, I could use a wireless and if not, there's my hotel and failing which, the girls at the downtown internet cafe are great fun.
I remember one even cried when I left last June and I wondered if that said I had spent an excessive amount of time on the Net or else...well, it's nice to know that someone liked me.
Oh...I am so looking forward to my favourite haunts and only where the Tanzanians go...on the Kigamboni and the Bandari...local eating places and both of which face the sea and a horde of colourful fishing boats. And there's always the bookshop/cafe by the sea where expatriates go to spend their time, on the Massani Slipway. Here yachts abound!
I can't just can't wait to see my old friends and give them big hugs.
And of course, you know, the Masai are everywhere!
The only thorn in my flesh is that I am missing my Des so very much.

Thursday 22 January 2009

January 23, 2009
I will reveal my new international destination on Sunday or Monday and my blog posts will start again far more methodically than this present time. - suzan abrams -

Wednesday 21 January 2009

So Glad I Met the Late Sir John Mortimer

January 21, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
Very sorry to read - I have been sadly out of touch with things being in a different country - that Sir John Clifford Mortimer, the once popular barrister, screenwriter and novelist of the famous Rumpole stories passed away a few days ago. I have read all of the Rumpole books but most of all, enjoyed the scenes with his wife in which the fictional longsuffering character simply termed his nag of a beloved, as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.
It all reminds me of a younger version of the popular television character, Sir John Deed, a talented judge who often juggled problems with his ex-wife. The illustrious comic novelist was 85 when he passed away last Friday.
I must also say how glad I am that I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with the great gentleman himself one morning when he was wheeled in to the Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly, London, to sign our novels sometime in 2005.
I had the choice of if I wanted to make an early morning session of it and I'm glad now that I caught the tube on time. The silver-haired writer sat snuggled in a wheelchair, looked terribly frail but was absolutely cheery. He was already poorly at the time and sat wrapped in a blanket. Of course, it helped that he was surrounded by a highly affectionate audience. The gifted dramatist could strike up a fine conversation even then, asked me some questions on Asia and offered contributions to the subject of travel.
I was the only Asian present among his loyal British audience, in any case so it was easy to catch his interest. I remember him as with a sanguine complexion, pint-sized, kindly, gentle and welcoming. He also wore no dentures which made his mostly toothless smile, benevolent.

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Tuesday 20 January 2009


January 20 2009
by Suzan Abrams
Oh my God!
What a week!
I'm flying again in the next couple of days and I'll soon be able to tell you where I'm at. It will be my sojourn...beach, my notebook and the sole task of rejuvenating my writing. This is the year for me as I've found my style and form as a writer and know the way I want to go and the work I want to produce. Besides, lazines, I have managed to experiment a fair bit and am ready to call time out on my interlude these last years after a long while, working as a magazine journalist.
I haven't yet revealed my present destination but will let you know this weekend where I was.
Still having bad jet lag.
Drowsy at odd times! Nauseous at odd times! These parts to my lifestyle are pretty painful. You don't know when the body gives way.
I've crossed about 3 climatic regions I think non-stop since December 14. I've already taken on more than 12 flights in just that time alone. It's not the to-ing and fro-ing as such but just the fact that I've been in a freezing West European climate straight up for over a year now. There was a month's break for East Africa last June but that's all. We didn't have a summer in Dublin last year and Belfast when I visited friends in July and how windy and cold it was already then - told me that their city had turned autumnish in May.
"At the start of spring, we lost the summer," my good acquaintance Paul had said, sadly.

Sunday 18 January 2009

January 19, 2009
I should write something soon for this blog. I do have subjects to write about but am on the move, which makes any sedentary activity hard at the moment. I will reveal the new international destination I'll be at the for the next few weeks, by this weekend and am sure I will write something before that. And then let my blog start again properly from there. - suzan abrams -

Thursday 15 January 2009

I should be back with a post tomorrow - Saturday, January 17.
Just recovering from some jet lag.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

January 13, 2009

Most probably not able to write for the next couple of days.

Monday 12 January 2009


January 12, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

Since I have somewhere to go in these next few weeks and especially that I'll be on the move, I won't be able to provide the latest book news until the last week of February. When I offer publishing stories, I like to be on top of my game. The news I provide is never stale or more than a couple of days old.

Now this is going to be hard so I'm going to take a raincheck on writing about the publishing industry or book events for the next month.

Saying which, that short of closing this blog, I'd prefer to leave it for jottings and for my impressions of whatever takes my fancy in wherever I end up, probably the African continent. That is the best I can manage for now. I'm sure it will have the usual literary bent with the exception that my thoughts may be projected differently.

In the following month, I'd probably concentrate on rediscovering and recording my experiences as a traveller and writer.

Today, I bought myself a Samsung Notebook and bearing in mind that I already own 2 laptops, it was such a treat. The more I travel, the lighter I like my bags to be and it's an art form to master packing the essentials for 2 or 3 different climatic regions at a time. I've taken years to learn the science of it all. Each individual taste differs. I find even the idea of carrying a laptop troublesome so I purchased an an impressive-looking Notebook for just 444 euros, that was still part of the January sales here in Dublin. Mine has got wireless and bluetooth connectivity.

I want to take my creative writing seriously where in all honesty, I have been lounging in the last years. I have practised very hard on my language skills and am happy with my progress todate. So I'd like to start writing my stories while on the move. And if I do manage a safari in the outback, it'd be handy to lug my Notebook as well and to immediately record observations. I wouldn't dare do that with my laptop. It would have been too dangerous.

Love American Style: Author Shashi Tharoor in Trouble over National Anthem in Kerala

January 12, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

India: The distinguished author, newspaper columnist and former United Nations under secretary-general Shashi Tharoor, has come under fire for allegedly showing disrespect towards India's national anthem by forcing an unwelcome interruption for 10 seconds, as it was being sung at a prestigious event to herald the end of a lecture held by Federal Bank, in Kochi, Kerala, South India, last month.

According to a furious 56-year old Joy Kaitharam, general secretary of the State Human Rights Protection Centre, Tharoor insulted the national anthem in the presence of senior civil service officials of whom there were at least nine; at a city hotel function when he urged about 2,000 odd audience members to proclaim the anthem in a US style. This by placing their hands on their chests and looking upwards as Americans do when they sing the Star Spangled Banner.

He was alleged to have told the audience not to stand to attention like the traditional Indian style as it proved an imitation of British protocol.

On the contrary, B.S. Jacob, an aide of the former diplomat has pronounced Tharoor's innocence by saying that the latter only meant to suggest to the audience that they should sing aloud their anthem from the bottom of their hearts and that by placing a hand each on their chests, they would feel their hearts.

Kaitharam who has fought several high-profile legal cases on rights issues in the past refuses to be convinced and banks stubbornly on Tharoor having insulted his country, people and pride simultaneously.

With a view to the controversy, Kaitharam has suggested maximum punishment for Tharoor and plans to lodge a complaint either with the courts or the Panangad police station in the next day or two.

He bemoaned the fact that the police had failed to take action even though a newspaper reported the incident from as way back as December 17.

Incidentally, Shashi Tharoor's hometown is Kerala!

Further Reading:
Shashi Tharoor & His Books

Credit: Photo of Shashi Tharoor courtesy of IndiaDaily.org/Images.

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Sunday 11 January 2009


January 11, 2009

Gales in Dublin today on a dark and rainy afternoon. How the winds lashed against the rooftops and the trees sashayed up a flamboyant dance. Puddles on the street and slippery, wet pavements. Dublin knows how to conjure up a mood all its own. It's a much harsher winter than what I remembered of last January.

I ate dark chocolate, drank wine and watched British thrillers on the telly. I was utterly lazy. I chose RTE's Miss Marple, Hetty Wainthropp Investigages and of course, there's Gordan Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen series. I'm going to miss the final next week. The scripts produced for a Hetty Wainthropp detective series is full of wry humour and dry writ. Just listening to the language always teaches me to write better as well. Tomorrow, I must do some last minute shopping, pack for the last time and I can have a relaxing 2 days after. I'll be back in Ireland in just over a month but I'll stop in London first.
- suzan abrams -

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood - A New Winnie-the-Pooh storybook after 80 years!

January 11, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

London: The first sequel to the original Winnie-the-Pooh storybooks will appear on October 5, 80 years after the cuddly honey-loving bear first saw the light of day in print. This was announced by the books' publishers on Saturday.

The new title to be called Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, follows the earlier highly-popular delightful tales of Winne-the-Pooh and *The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne (A.A Milne); both of which were beautifully illustrated by E.H. Shepard.

Described universally as one of childhood's greatest celebrations, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood is to be published by Egmont Publishing in Britain and Penguin Imprint Dutton's Childrens' Books, in the United States. The story will be written by illustrious author David Benedictus who once produced an audio adaptation of Winnie-the-Pooh starring the famed British actress, Judi Dench.

Mark Burgess who in recent years, has provided splendid illustrations for other classic children's characters like Paddington Bear, will do the honours for this title.

Last month, a collection of Winnie-the-Pooh drawings by E.H. Shepard fetched US$2 million at a London auction.

Further Reading:

*Do read the classic: The House at Pooh Corner.
Catch the vibrant Disney Version of Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood.

Credit: Pictures courtesy of WinnethePooh.net & Bigoo.ws

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Saturday 10 January 2009


January 10, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

I find it very hard to keep a blog at this time as there is so much going on in my mind. I have such an enthusiastic love for life, fancy many artistic ventures that I could never be streamlined about anything.

I'll be travelling again and will have to pack this weekend. I always feel terribly sad on having to leave Dublin...it has become my proper enchanted place under the sun. Today and yesterday was a kinder moment snatched out of the cold snap, although the rains are on their way. It's terribly windy and I remember a similar climate feel when I was little in Klang, Malaysia and our father used to take us to the coast which lay in a nearby seaside town called Morib. I also remember the delight of playing hopscotch outside the verandah, in the wind, with friends. Our weather was much cooler than...there really was no such thing as overbearing heat for much of the day or night, in the suburbs.

The atmospheric mood makes the city glorious for long walks. The air feels doubly fresh. There is an abundance of fascinating literature to suit any moment. We get all the best of the Irish, British and American media. Yesterday, I enjoyed my little nostalgic visit of favourite bookshops and cafes. I finally filled a form for, and collected my Waterstones card. Oh, but I am rambling. I always feel that I'm tip-toeing on the closing pages of a fairy-tale picture book when I leave Ireland, although I'll soon be back.

As an aside, I tried to postpone the publication of my ghost stories for a later part of the year. My contract needs to be filled out by September at the latest. However, my publisher prefers to have the book out early in the year. I wanted to add in a little more material and I am given time to do this but before January ends.

Friday 9 January 2009

Divandarreh, a Mountainous Region in Iran to Equip Barber Shops & Beauty Salons with Libraries!

January 9,2009

by Suzan Abrams

Persian: The Tehran Times Culture Desk reports today that all barber shops and beauty salons in the western city of Divandarreh, a mountainous region located in Kordestan Province, will be equipped with libraries in the near future, to promote a serious book-reading culture in the city.

The town's Governor, Abdolsalam Karimi has offered sound reasons for this innovative idea.

The first being that since more people frequent these vanity places than anywhere else, bookcases would most certainly prove a valuable companion during waiting time.

Of course, the books would be especially tailored to suit young people since they proved to be frequent customers. The Governor also added that by selecting specific titles and subjects, literature could symbolise a subtle but essential guidance in influencing the younger Iranian generation's tendencies towards Western fashion and models.

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Tayo Akiwumi writes his first novel Carlene: A Love Story - the fictional heroine is Malaysian-Chinese!

January 9, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

Caption: Photo of Tayo Akiwumi & his family was supplied to Gulf News.

Dubai: Thank you, Anupa Kurian, Readers Editor for Gulf News, for your lovely, tender story on writer Tayo Akiwumi, a Dubai-based Nigerian engineer and his first romantic work of fiction.

In Carlene: A Love Story which is actually semi-autobiographical, Akiwumi describes his passionate first love while still straddled as a lovestruck 19; with an attractive West Indian woman who sadly, leaves him to pursue a dream in America. It is the Seventies and they part after just nine months. Akiwumi is stricken with grief. He never forgets her and years later, tries to track her down. He is restless for closure and feels the need to explain to his beloved the reason for the break-up and any derived hostility on his part. He succeeds in finding her while on a business trip only to realise that she has now married and moved on.

Akiwumi tells Kurian that his first love was so liberal that its loss felt like a sharp drop off a cliff. The 52-year old traveller who was raised in London- he has been up to 30 countries to-date but with a penchant for the Far East - hints that the first five chapters are true with the exception that the heroine's name is spelt differently.

The 100-page quality paperback describes a meeting on a train between Carlene Wong, a Malaysian Chinese beauty and Tobi Vaughan. It is love at first sight but he later, loses her as she leaves for America. The story also traces Tobi's early years in Nigeria and England and the plot later expands into Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai.

Akuwumi who is now happily married to a Japanese airline stewardess - they have a daughter - , also talks to Kurian about his love for writing. He first wrote Carlene: A Love Story years ago with large gap years in between, after sketching a framework and the first essential pages. Now drawn intensely to the craft of writing, Tayo Akiwumi is presently working on two coffee table books.

Read Anne Kurian's story here.
You may purchase Carlene: A Love Story here.

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Thursday 8 January 2009


January 8, 2009

I am studying the Persian and Arabic languages in succession so that I would soon be able to enjoy the cinematic arts without the aid of subtitles and especially to read the classical texts.
In fact, while queuing at the airport for my flight to Dublin from Kuala Lumpur, I was able to understand slightly, an intense conversation in Parsi that was being ebulliently tossed about by three Iranian passengers in front of me. Beaming, I had spied on them with intent. To my horror, one of the ladies suddenly swung around, startled. Actually, it was just my delight at being able to fathom the language slightly. She would have thought that I understood everything. :-)

By the way, I am flying next week. - suzan abrams -

Breaking News: Further reductions as Zavvi UK Closes 22 Stores

January 8, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

UK: Katie Coyne reports in The Bookseller today that Zavvi, a book and music retailer, originally the Virgin Megastores, in the United Kingdom, is set to close 22 of the chain's stores with immediate effect. This will result in the loss of 178 jobs. The remaining 92 stores will continue to trade throughout the United Kingdom and offer reductions stretching from 20% to 50%, from tomorrow. So far, 60 parties have expressed an interest in buying over the retailer whose biggest competition is HMV.

For the full article and list of stores which will down their shutters, please see here.

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Jhumpa Lahiri among the top 10 sex symbols for the "Thinking Man"

January 8, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

I am 2 days late with this news.

USA: The beautiful award-winning Indian writer,
Jhumpa Lahiri, who published 3 international bestsellers called Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth with a view to literary fiction and who won the Pulitzer Prize for the first one, has been voted as one of the top 10 sex symbols for today's thinking man. Lahiri has been revered for her "hypnotic eyes" while novelist Zadie Smith has received an honourable mention.

Here is the full list prepared by the popular website
The Daily Beast, run by former New Yorker journalist Tina Brown:

No.10: Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan.
No.9: Samantha Power, Irish American journalist, author and academic
No.8: Jhumpa Lahiri
No.7: M.I.A., stage name of
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, British song writer and artist of Tamil descent
No.6: Meredith Vieira, American journalist and TV celebrity
No.5: Lisa Ling, American TV journalist
No.4: Katie Couric, American TV journalist
No.3: Sarah Silverman, American singer, actor, comedian, writer
No.2: Tina Fey, American TV actor, producer
No.1: Ana Ivanovic and Zadie Smith (Honorable Mention)

Captions: Jhumpa Lahiri in an official publisher's photo above & below, the Hounslow-born Mathangi Arulpragasam.

Credit: Photo of Mathangi Arulpragasam, courtesy of TamilNation.

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Wednesday 7 January 2009


January 7, 2009
by Suzan Abrams
Dublin is freezing but if I were honest, I still do better in icy temperatures instead of humidity. I still prefer the cold fresh air over the punishing heat that greeted me recently in December in Singapore and Malaysia. That first morning in Singapore...I was wearing something very light and yet, started sweating profusely after just five minutes. I could feel the beads of sweat trickling all down my back and it even rained down my cheeks from my forehead! People thought I was crying! It was very bad but thankfully after a few days, the afternoon rains cooled everything down.
Then in Kuala Lumpur, I would suddenly become nauseous while window shoppping or hurrying to a destination downtown, rushing across the streets. This is one of the worst symptoms of jet lag - that may last up to 2 weeks. I've only experienced it twice actually, considering the many times I've taken planes and in this respect, I've been very lucky. I also hadn't been back for a year so that could have counted for something. Africa isn't included as it's so much cooler in restrospect.
Soon, I'll be travelling again - I would have carried on from Singapore but my partner was missing me too much and so I returned to spend the New Year with him. I think this time it will be the other way around...I'm falling more deeply in love with him by the day.
One of the other things I missed about my flat strangely enough, was my kitchen. I missed the hot smells of a cooked breakfast wafting through the air and also smoked salmon from the oven. Today, despite the severe frost and freezing fog, the sunshine is still filtering happily through my windows.
When I'm away, I also miss the peace and serenity of Ireland which has shrouded me like a halo for months.
I'll be going off for a few weeks and unless I change my mind, most probably to the African continent. It would be lovely to return to a warm welcome from friends. I've also got very good friends in Australia - my best friend is in Melbourne. But there's always such a surreal call to Africa. The land beckons! I think this time I'd like to go by the sea and do a major piece of writing! I'll also be visiting London on my way back.
With every country I frequent, my adventure with literature continues. Sometimes, it's better to see the books you've read about firsthand and make a real judgement on your own. Book blogs by friends - and there's always a real conflict of interest here - who've written average literature are often made up of loud gushing or an exaggerated deliverance. The term is to support or encourage but however noble the attempt, it's still a lie, neverthless. In any case, I no longer read any of these blogs. I also don't have the time. At the moment, I've chosen about 6 at the most, to read dutifully from my link including my beloved writer friend, Saaleha in Johannesburg, 1 from India, 1 from California, another in Saudi Arabia and two in England. It's been this way for awhile now.
The appearance of a book as I've discovered can also be deceptive on the web. Something that looks plain can be tenderly beautiful and something that is praised as attractive can appear dowdy.
I think my language has progressed to a level where it now brings a smile to my face. Sometimes, I do relish reading my own work and savouring the words as I would listen to a piece or music or admire a painting. Many a time, Des has walked into the living room and found me deep in thought, enjoying my pieces of writings. But I'm disciplined and have worked industriously over my craft this last year. Which is why the onset of 2009 leaves me feeling satisfied but equally restless for a yet sleeker acumen of the English Language.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Murder One on Charing Cross Road to Close

January 6, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

London: After nearly 21 years, Murder One, the popular specialist crime bookshop, co-owned by Maxim Jakubowski and who has written some wonderful stories for the Guardian Books Blog UK, will close at the end of January. Murder One features prominently on Charing Cross Road and faces the top end of Leicester Square. Sales in recent years have been poor and the bookshop is to go into voluntary liquidation.

For more news, please go here to yesterday's edition of The Bookseller.

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America's Most Famous French Bookstore the Librairie de France to Close

January 6, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

New York: The Daily News Egypt - a popular Cairo paper that's always on the ball, reports that America's "most famous" French bookstore , the Librairie de France, will close its doors this year after a legendary 73 years in the business. A shocking rent increase due in September where the bookstore is presently housed in New York's Rockefeller Center, online book sales offered at bargain prices plus shipping fees and a reduced interest in foreign-language books are some of the reasons for the impending closure of the store.

The familiar complaint is that most people these days visit the area to shop for clothes, cosmetics or electronics.

Read here for more news garnered from Paola Messana's superb article.

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Iran Releases Persian Version of Khalil Gibran's Jesus: The Son of Man

January 6, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

Persian: Ofoq Publication has just launched the Persian version of Lebanese poet, painter and philosopher Khalil Gibran's Jesus: The Son of Man, recently translated by Musa Bidaj, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Gibran who combined Eastern and Western philosophies and who was influenced by his childhood in Lebanon, his adopted America and also from his time studying art in Paris, wrote his story of Jesus as his last work. Here he tried to visualise the social and secret life of Christ as seen and shrouded by the emotions of people who knew Christ in his everyday life. Gibran wrote his final creative piece in 1928.

Credit: Information partly sourced from MehrNews.com.

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To Love and be Loved

January 6, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

I think of how it may have been not to have been loved. Then I would be surely free. I could live as I please and die as I please. To be loved and to fall in love is to involve the self with a series of melodramatic overturns, from where there is never the consolation of an onward return journey.

I seem to be turning more unconventional by the day. Someday, I shall be the true artist, poring over my favourite literature and art oblivious to all else; to bedtime and to meals. I am getting there. I think of many other peoples' lives especially those I know in Malaysia. Events are mostly routine, predictable and conventional. During holidays, people take trains, buses, cars and domestic airplanes to return home for the long weekends. During weekdays, from 9 to 5, they work.

I think of how my mother was almost always serving and submissive towards my father. Sometimes she would put her foot down but rarely. I never wanted to be like that.

Someone, larger than life that dons on a constellation of stars and that swings his magic wand has granted me my wish.

Today, my holidays are my own. I take planes sometimes to the unknown. I rest or dine when I like. I can read or write as much as I please. I can go downtown if I wish or curl up on the sofa with the telly if I don't. If you ask me how I got my destiny into this hedonistic state, I am unable to say. Happenings around me are always ethereal. I bask in its magic.

I think of my partner, Des, and how good his love is for me. He is so pure in thought, so good and kind, I fear I will do something wrong in retrospect. He does the extraordinary. He brings me my coffee. He buys me my favourite wines. Because I don't always care for cooking, he makes me dinner. He is after all, a super chef. If I'm grumpy, he'll surprise me with one of my favourite tiny things., although he's never been one for flowers. Being an excellent mimic if I become visibly sulky over an issue, he will gladly mimic me much to my further annoyance and his ready amusement. He reads my writing and helps me grow as an expressive artist. He built my library for me. He understands me better than most. He lets me fly when the wanderlust bug calls, yes, he lets me fly.

This makes me afraid. This makes me sometimes sad. When life is rosy, you don't want anything to dampen its spell of allure. I am undeserving of him. I am not half as good. In sleep, he looks the angel. In contrast, I don't wear any haloes.

I can't understand what I did to deserve this bliss. Being the practical woman I am, I know only too well that everything is transitory, fragmentary. Something fragile and beautiful now may be lost momentarily tomorrow.

Everything feels so perfect, I am afraid the bubble will burst. Vulnerable to the lingering passions of humanity and my hopes spinning on its axis of bewilderment, I pray for the bubble to dance.

Monday 5 January 2009

The Book of Sins by Bernice Chauly

January 5, 2009

by Suzan Abrams

in Dublin


Malaysia: This 80-page poetry & prose collection titled The Book of Sins, gallantly shaped after the eight imposing transgressions of Pride, Greed, Wrath, War, Gluttony, Love, Betrayal and Lust and later pursued by the charitable studies of Contemplation and Virtues; written by Malaysian writer Bernice Chauly and published by MulutMata, mirrored sharp disappointment for me as a literary reader.

I daresay that if I constantly thrived on children's fiction or the likes of Archer and Meg Cabot which would have symbolised a merciless but suitable immersion in simplified vocabulary, then I would have stayed silent with nary a whisper; duly satisfied.

But I'm a realist; a serious reader of thinking books bearing exquisite prose - evident surely from this blog alone - and there is no diplomatic way around it.

Several of the poems, partly inspired by the naturally industrious and otherwise talented Chauly and her bruised scenes of tragic encounters, endeavoured towards the combined unholy stirrings of cleverness and dishevellement. The poet appears to have emerged with a slight panic in an eager mission to divulge specific enlightening disclosures that mask despondent emotions. In noble attempts to portray a monumental injustice, some of the results go awry.

Although wonderful in parts, the raw sins stay cheerless, if not ready to instill boredom after the odd heavy sigh over repeated lamentations. Where the verses may have mastered resurrection with which to command an overcast bleakness and famously measured prowress to bully a reader into disturbing conclusions; the collection proved slightly sub-standard fare and did not manage to essay any kind of remarkable introspection.

First of all, the slight shock in viewing Chauly's second poetry collection firsthand, that cruelly betrayed the cover shot's initial good looks on the web.

The book turned out to be of colourless production quality and suggested a fair first impression. I didn't expect this sort publication still evident in 2008. The mediocre appearance looked anything but polished; an instantly obvious flaw when compared at first glance against the better produced books that lined the same shelf in the store. My last memory of a similar discovery was from the rows of Reading, Arithmetic and Comprehension textbooks in a few rather dusty stationery shops in downtown Dar-es-Salam in East Africa last June.

The competition for presentation is so tough in Europe - and has been for the last few years - , that every self-published book on a store shelf reflects corresponding regal features as those produced by mainstream publishers. A presentation that represents the author's integrity is after all, everything. A first book is a major accomplishment and an important step to recognition and so too, the books that follow this. No one in Europe these days is foolish enough to publish poorly. To be considered for display, a book has to pass the stringent standards for booksellers in the UK and Ireland. I'm not sure if expectations are lower in Kuala Lumpur.

The clever cover design exhibits a bloodshot red resting nicely against a faint grey and white. But a light shade will always probe evil doings for any budget cover and is telling of the cover's sins. In this case, it is easy enough to picture an invisible cutting blade that may have prised over the rectangular cardboard even if this wasn't so.

Also, the tall scrawled words and italics don't sit well on the stark white once the pages are flipped about. I feel as if I'm perusing black ink scribbled into an exercise book and that is the absurd truth of it.

At best, I would term The Book of Sins a chapbook and not a book. There is a world of difference. As a chapbook it works. As a book it may not.

At first, my sympathies lay in the beautiful poetry whose personality I felt had been locked into the amateur pages. But on reading the book twice just to be sure, this soon changed.

I didn't feel in many parts that I was reading poetry at all although the verses hinted of no other format. I wondered if many of the poems didn't work better as performance poetry...the kind of stories you read out to the public or rather shout out expressively. You shout to make an impact. You shout to create a noise and raise awareness. Then a sound lack of enigmatic allure doesn't matter. In a boisterous or enraptured audience, amid clamorous applause, thanks to the oral flow of verses, the sublime beauty of a poem happily goes unnoticed. It would be the wit of the message that suffices.

In this collection, many of the works I believe work better behind the microphone rather than as creative words that support meditation. Otherwise, some of the poems may well signify a flifelessness.

In a number of them like Pride, Heat, Haze, the rambling I am Her and especially What Happened After Sylvia Died, the joys of a ravishing start to each poem were reduced by weak endings.. These endings read as straight liners from an ordinary script. It was as if after some enchanting seduction, the poet suddenly discovered the need to shout a declaration in prose. This spelt total disarray. For me as the reader, the biq question was if I was stumbling on to prose or poetry and once that puzzlement singled out confusion, the poem was instantly ruined.

Some years ago, when my own poetry appeared in Rupert Loydell's Stride magazine in England, I was warned by Loydell against the futility of throaway lines....single liners that hung at the end of the poem to make some kind of an impact, when in fact, they could have done just as well being clustered together into the poem as a whole.

I was reminded of these looking at Chauly's work and of how Loydell may have frowned long and hard. Words like the sudden tell-tale rejoinders of Funny Mamak Men in Contemplation, Freedom in I am Her and Mother in What Happened After Sylvia Died robs the reader of a sense of expectation...of delving into any cryptic clues that would befit the particular poem or receive a gratifying sense of mystery. The reader is spoonfed by Chauly. Solutions and conclusions are rendered in black and white. Nothing is left to the imagination and so too, the death of excitement predicted.

I was also slightly irritated in being forced to mull over repeated words to a particular poem, especially in Love. A stylised recapitulation that failed to draw me as a reader into any dark night with the exception of inspecting if Chauly's vocabulary could have succumbed to limitations. And these type of repetitive words like flash cards, peppered many other lines in the book and exhibited a flourishing misadventure. As a result, I felt pained by my task as a reader.

Many of the stories in the grandiose themes have been heard before. Injustices especially those that feature the oppression of women need to be expanded on and to serve a distinct identity and not just as another stale story. Many appear to be utterances, wailings and lamentations but since the lines appear as straight prose, it is very hard to rest on these disclosures as poetry even if that's what they're meant to represent.

Also, there was a slight bit of wrong tensing about the place. In the sadistic prose piece at the start of the book titled, This Love, "He had stopped still and had lit a cigarette," would have read more correctly as "He stopped and lit a cigarette" or "He had stopped to light a cigarette." Stop means still. They are one and the same. The new tensing would have sounded kinder on the senses as well.

This Love was indeed a wonderful dark piece with brilliant ideas had it been fostered with the brutal ambition of finesse. How raw its displacement and how cleverly it worked. Still, I was convinced after a slow second reading, that it lacked refinement...that many lines were straggly even if the poet decided on a supporting creative energy through conversation or reflections; the lines continued to remain loose and stolidly lacked grace.

Also, when such a strong piece is placed upfront, this possibility destroys the shock value for the ones that trail behind. When such a strong piece numbs a reader at the start, the rest of the work can't succeed with impact. The reader has no capacity to keep feeling wounded. A better technique would be to build up loneliness, grief, darkness, dejection and pain as the reader continues to turn the pages instead of the other way round.

In the poet's defence, the poems do appear more cleverly-crafted towards the end. Some gems I held to be stunning and even tenderly disembodied were Dead Cat, The Brown Mat, Anatomy of Marriage, The Symphony of Roses and Pattern. Sleepwalker was full of riddles and it dazzled the mind. I wish Chauly had followed up with more of such promising tones.

Poems that held conspicious lines as in waiting and waiting for someone to return the poet's calls or lines like Remember how you this.. and remember how you that... that's very secondary school, is it not. These are the kind of poems my classmates and I wrote as teenagers. And then we grow up and our writing and perceptions as with everything else matures.

The last section on the terminal illness of Chauly's mother would best have been featured as a brave sentimental letter or a general work of prose. Except for I will embrace you..., none of the other pieces work as poetry but they serve quite well as thoughtful conversational pieces.

Perhaps the hardest job for this poet was to separate technical ability from emotional engulfment that lay simply too close to her heart. Skilled detachment is a priceless gift and to be conjured up only for a few.

I loved the idea of the Malay poem thrown in right in the middle and found it a soothing, romantic read. I thought that to be an adept inventive technique and an eloquent gesture.

But a chapbook and a book? Someone who loves Chauly and with real honesty should sit her down; minus the effusive gushing and usual consolation noises and tell her this simple thing.

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