"Wilayah Kutu" shows much promise at first glance - this collection of anthologies boasts a cover designed by Those Amazing Malay Boys! and threatens to be "27 SX - Sesuai Untuk Minda Matang Sahaja". I was like, whoaaa. Then I was like, heh. Then, feeling bravely liberal and confidently mature, I pawed nervously at the back cover, finding a quote from Rubaiyyat Si Umar Khayyam etched beside a list of prolific writers featuring several well-known personalities in the art scene, writers, a photographer, and even a famous gay blog-personality.
Proceeding with much caution and skepticism, I turned the pages expecting the usual talk about politics, religion, racism, love, drugs, GLBT issues, and perhaps one or two "shocking" pieces with a combination of the above.
I was a little disappointed; it was no mix-bag of m&ms, but good enough anyway. =P
I particularly liked "Tapi, Aku Hansem", a tongue-in-cheek take on Malaysian politics/politicians, as well as "Teknik Rebonding Terlalu Kencang Untukmu". My favourite photo-story was "Hempuk", although some could argue that this partiality is slightly biased. =P
"Almari Buku" had a little shock of modern-day HP Lovecraft to it, while the short story "Aku Idola Malang" oozed a sinister image of an Edgar Allan Poe in a songkok. "Lupa", on the other hand, was a rather weak attempt at a Malaysianized Andy Macnab - I felt like I got cheated for kopi-o-peng and roti canai at KLCC.
Heh. (Somebody buy me a thesaurus.)
Most of the GLBT stories were written by Nizam Zakaria. (Well, okay no LBT, just G.) Although the theme of his stories varied, they revolved mostly around gay characters living in KL. I found "Almari" slightly boring, and "Orang Ketiga" (by Dhojee) rather predictable. It's not a bad start for the Malaysian GLBT community/literature though - GLBT literature shouldn't be limited to just erotica.
"Kitaran, Pertukaran, Shopping, Cinta" waxed poetical of materialism and feelings as disposable and acquirable commodities of life, while "Tsunami" struck me as rather insightful and strangely calming.
But hehehehehe. I have a confession to make - I found this book intriguing enough to re-read twice - except for "Cinta Narkisisme II". Maybe it's just because there's simply too much similar fiction of its category swimming around the blogging scene. Simply disgusting. =P
I didn't quite expect ghost stories, actually. It didn't quite occur to me that "Children From The Fringes" would write cerita2 hantu. At any rate, they didn't quite appeal to me. I found the execution rather weak and flimsy. But maybe it's just me.
I also found "Ego Bunjut", "Lutsinar", and "Aku Dengan Tuhan" quite well written. The imagery of words which spoke to me most were:
kau kembali pada aku, untuk aku, pada masa itu aku intai lubang di karat pintu aku sedang menunggu
It's time to realize that Malay(sian) literature isn't just "Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa" or RM 5.00 paperbacks with wide-eyed nubile women in tudungs holding dearly to wiliting kutums of bunga mawar.
I still think it's a rather experimental(?)project, perhaps even elitist enough for only fellow anak anak mudas from the frinjan to appreciate. A good attempt, anyhow.
The mahogany balloon clock in the living room chimed the half-hour; always five minutes fast, just as the grandmother clock in the hall was five minutes slow and would strike with a soft double note, and the little silver moon with the dreamy face that Stephen had worked on for days would slide a quarter-inch higher on its rail. Tick tock tick tock tick tock. Like drops of water through the sieve of her bones.
Details, details, details. Imagery and vivid descriptions are used to such great effect in Andrew Miller's Oxygen, it could serve two ways - it could either be seen as a very compelling read, or in some cases, it could make the reader regard it as labour instead. I think I was caught between both.
The first few pages read like a clumsy yet personal homecoming of sorts. Sons Alec and Larry Valentine realise the uneasy revelation of their mother Alice's increasingly futile fight with cancer. Still, they are plagued with problems of their own as well - Alec is an expert interpreter of French who feels he is not doing enough for his ailing mother, yet wants to be able to live his own life; Larry is a former soap opera star (a la Dr. Drake Ramoray) returning from the US to attend to his mother, and along the way he has to resort to the world of porn flicks in order to improve his financial situation, save his marriage from hitting the rocks, and handle the eccentricity of his daughter Ella.
No doubt it will also be heartbreaking to read of Alice's battle with the disease that is slowly but surely eating away her life. Then there is the Hungarian playwright Lazslo Lazar, whose latest work called Oxygene (hmmm), Alec is translating. The former unwillingly gets involved in some sort of political intrigue that assails him with memories and dark reminscences from the past.
That is how readers are pulled along into a whirlwind tour across four countries - namely England, Hungary, France, and the US, each neatly presented with colourful descriptions of their own. And as the characters embark on their own personal journeys, so will the reader. Great writing style, but I could not fully grasp the effectiveness of the whole story. Perhaps it was meant to be so.
This is also a book that makes you think - a lot - mostly because the characters are all contemplating their fates as they deal with their respective problems. The ending sounded incomplete (wait, was that an oxymoron?) - I was slightly taken aback actually. It was not something I had expected, after all the mounting tension leading up to it. It slowly dawned on me that the story had really ended right there and then, despite leaving plenty of room for questions (I initially thought my book was missing a few pages). Rest assured, however - this book has not been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Novel Award for nothing.