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Thursday, December 18, 2003
Han Suyin - 1. And The Rain My Drink, 2. The Crippled Tree 

Author: Han Suyin
Titles: 1. The Crippled Tree, 2. And The Rain My Drink
Related Links: Anglophone Authors from Various Diasporas, Similar Book Reviews

Reading my parents' collection of Han Suyin novels as a kid later nurtured my love for books written with an Asian historical background - but I'd always have to say that the Amy Tans, Salman Rushdies and Bharati Mukherjees will always be a mere second to my first dear love :)

Featured here in this review are Han Suyin's autobiographical "The Crippled Tree", and the fictional "..And The Rain My Drink".

The Crippled Tree starts off with the discovery - about finding a hasty letter written by her Belgian mother in the 1880s to her parents about the current state of affairs in China. The story further unfolds as Han Suyin researches more of her parents' past, of the present, and passionately weaves with much finesse an intricate story of China's history and how it related to her family and herself. This covers the period between 1885 - 1928, including events such as the Sino-French War, the 1991 Revolution, and the emergence of Chiang Kai-Shek, among others. It isn't a dry history-book-like read, but rather a really personal and intimate view of political, social, cultural and intellectual events were like then. It's been well researched from all perspectives, although I've read that critics regard it as rather partisanship in its narration - but she's been quoted as saying such:

"I write as an Asian, with all the pent-up emotions of my people. What I say will annoy many people who prefer the more conventional myths brought back by writers on the Orient. All I can say is that I try to tell the truth. Truth, like surgery, may hurt, but it cures."

"...And The Rain My Drink", on the other hand, is a fictional tale of our own Malaysia, and I've to admit that I often felt smug in my history lessons because I'd read about them already in a book of my namesake ;D It presents itself as an extensively research novel about the Emergency period in Malaysia, as well as of the South East Asian region - of its hardships under the British, of the communists, of the politics, economy, community, culture - and all this yet again in an intimate that just willingly draws you into the very shoes of the protagonist, and live the life of the era - something that KBSM history textbooks have failed to inspire in me.

These two books, among other Han Suyins (another favorite is "A Many-Splendored Thing"), have accompanied me through my childhood, and now into my adulthood, and upon each and every read I find more gems, and am continually enlightened by her prose.

graceshu  # 11:18 PM


Sunday, December 14, 2003
The Art of the Matrix 

Title: The Art of the Matrix
Screenplay: Andy and
Larry Wachowski
Illustrations: Geof Darrow,
Steve Skroce, Tani Kunitake,
Collin Grant, Warren Manser
Editor: Spencer Lamm
Related: The Matrix
Released about a year after the sleeper hit The Matrix rocked the cinemas back in 1999 and sent fans scrambling onto various online forums to indulge themselves in seemingly infinite noodle-baking sessions, The Art of the Matrix does not exactly qualify as a 'making-of' book. Hardcover, heavy and thick, it is filled with glossy pages that will have you cursing yourself should you find your own oily fingerprints smeared on them.

It is not so difficult to figure out why it has the word 'art' in its title, ranging from the meticulously detailed and descriptive conceptual drawings from respected artists of the trade, to the common stick figures and sketches produced by the Wachowski brothers themselves. The quality of the art and drawings are extremely well done, and the comments from artists such as Steve Skroce (Spider-Man, Wolverine), Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled), Tani Kunitake (12 Monkeys) and Warren Manser (Spider-Man, Daredevil) will definitely leave you mesmerized. It is, in a way, quite informative to read what they have to say about their artworks, and how each idea came about. Then when they got bored they ended up drawing a little mouse on one of the sentinels...

There were also some scene-by-scene storyboards which did not quite make it into the movie due to safety and budgetary concerns. Also included in the book is the complete shooting script by writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, with some parts that either differed or were left out from the movie, having ended up on the cutting-room floor. You cannot help but wonder how the movie would have turned out, if the deleted scenes did make it into the end product. On the last few pages of the book were selected pictures and posters for the movie. The only bad thing about it is that you have to resist the temptation to tear them off the book and stick them on your wall.

Strictly for those who are big fans of the movie, to add to their ever-expanding Matrix collection. Comic book lovers will probably not go wrong with this one, too. Counting on an upcoming The Art of the Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions? I do not see why not.

All together now: "There is no spoon."

Strizzt  # 9:13 PM