Thursday, March 15, 2018

Throw Your Mama’s Smelly Shoe Awards & Other Malaysiana Miscellany

“HELL is empty, and all the devils are here.” WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, in THE TEMPEST

“IF you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” DOROTHY PARKER
STRANGELY, in every Malaysian company, there is always, without fail, a ridiculously stupid parasitic secretary who thinks and behaves like she is the CEO. Fortunately, there is a cosy little nook in Hell specially reserved for constipated fools like her.
THE thing about working in a Malaysian office is that you tend to meet more stupid than intelligent people. Most of the time it makes you wonder where the cleverer Malaysians are. Gone the way of the dodo, most probably.
STUPIDEST QUOTE OF THE MILLENNIUM: “I want this yesterday.” Only idiotic people use this line. Those who use it set up a precedence for human stupidity. Intelligent people and real corporate leaders avoid such nonsensical clichés because they say absolutely nothing at all.
MALAYSIAN ‘writers’ have fantastically big egos—especially those who can’t write, strangely.
MALAYSIA is not exactly the friendliest country in the world (despite what the paid commercials say): most of the time the people are bloody rude, downright discourteous, boorishly loudmouthed and deeply disrespectful, among other things. Asian values? What Asian values? There is no such thing as Asian values. Malaysia is truly NOT Asia. Don’t believe the ads. They are just ads, and as you know, they are meant to deceive.
THEY bake one bloody generic cupcake or muffin, and the next thing they want is their own cookbook and a food show on telly! It’s all in a day’s work for someone who bloody can’t write.
EDITING another dumb Malaysian manuscript ought to be a breeze or a walk in the park after so many years of doing the same … but it really doesn’t get any easier despite the years and experience. In fact, it gets worst because the whole process saps your energy and kills your passion for the printed word.
MALAYSIAN WRITERS who write in English should make an effort to read up on the basics of grammar instead of jumping to conclusions when editing their “writing”. I know that you have an honours’ degree in English and all, but surely, it’d do you good to relearn some of the basics once in a while. After all, you don’t really learn much in a university nowadays, do you?
HERE’S another observation about Malaysian writers. When launching their magnum opuses, they want other people to write their speeches. They always say they don’t know how to write speeches. Why am I not surprise at all? And to think that we are talking about people who have gone through the school system and graduated with distinction from some of the best universities in the universe. Also, they like to pepper their speeches with hackneyed phrases like “a passion for excellence”, “to be the best”, “in pursuit of excellence”, “best talents”, among other similar bullshittic nonsense.
ONE leading Malaysian publisher told me that they are the purveyors of some of the finest crappiest books on the planet and they have always been rather proud of this fine tradition of theirs. “We have been in business for decades. We must be good at what we do. There is and has always been a surprisingly lucrative market for such books in Malaysia.” Who am I to argue with them when their publishing success is truly a clear testament to this fact?
I WAS ONCE TOLD that life is short, and there is only so many bad manuscripts one can edit. That’s really nonsense! You’d be surprised at the endless number of bad manuscripts there are to edit in Malaysia. You could build a lifetime career doing this.
THERE is only one decent enough bookshop in Kuala Lumpur. The rest are just stationery shops pretending to be bookshops. Lately many of them have started selling potato chips and poppadom crisps. I wonder, do people actually think that such titbits are going to save book retailing? What a depressing state of affairs.
WHY DO MALAYSIANS write like this? I like chicken rice because I like anything with chicken and rice in it. Three more examples to whet your appetite: I enjoy eating because eating is enjoyable. It is unique because it is one of a kind. I really enjoy eating cakes because they are so delicious to eat. I am rolling on the floor with laughter. Write like this and you will most definitely win the THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARD for ridiculously good sinfully bad writing!
If I AM FORCED to edit another datuk’s or mak datin’s so-called manuscript, I will have to seriously consider joining the rebel forces in another galaxy far far away. They are killing me brutally with their prose (or lack thereof).
I AM JUST an editor—not some kind of magician. I can’t twitch my nose and make all your misplaced punctuations, misspellings, fractured grammar and other gibberish disappear in the blink of an eye. I know you’ve baked your cake and all that and you’ve invited all your friends and your mummy and daddy for the launch, but the fact of the matter is, your book is still ... well, half-baked. But you go ahead and launch it. Don’t let me stop you.
IN MALAYSIA, anyone can be a writer nowadays. Everyone, in fact, is an author nowadays. Sadly, our so-called standards have slipped to a historic all-time nadir. We just received a manuscript from someone who actually wrote his entire chef d’oeuvre without using articles and prepositions. Malaysians have no qualms about submitting incomplete and unedited manuscripts. What an amazing feat of human imagination!
THE DEVIL’S back in town, and these are the darkest days. We are going through hell editing another stupid manuscript. Almost seven hundred pages of pure fire and brimstone. By the time I die editing this nonsensical treatise, I would most probably gain a useless PhD in Stupidology (Hons). Believe me when I say that the deterioration of the modern human mind is real, and has begun. Perhaps we should consider starting a fund to stop the doofus from writing for the rest of his life?
WHEN Malaysian writers complain about the tedious editing process, I have eight words of advice for them: “Don’t write. Go watch Beauty and the Beast.” (No offence to Beauty and the Beast.)
ANOTHER crappy Malaysian “book” is being launched before it is ready to be published. (Not that it was good enough to be published in the first place.) And as always, without fail, the sumptuous food has been planned, the opulent venue booked and paid for, the entertainers and guests and the press have been invited. All is ready—except the book. They will never learn that that’s not the way to do it. Well, what can I say? People just don’t realize that every time a crappy book is published, the world dies a little bit.
I’M close to tearing my hair (not that I have much of it in the first place) and hitting my head against the pillar over a new manuscript (which was initially rejected) that landed with a thud on my desk. I was told it had been “professionally edited” (whatever that is supposed to mean) to perfection. It was supposed to be “good to go”, they said with confidence. But going through it now, it is almost like deciphering hieroglyphics. Why are there no full stops at the end of sentences? Why does the writer start sentences with small letters? Why are commas not employed when required and in all the odd places? Why are the hyphens and dashes and colons and semicolons placed incorrectly? Why does he bold or italicize words as and when he feels like it—sometimes both at the same time? Why does he resort to ellipses with random scattering of dots? Why are the definite and indefinite articles and prepositions all wrong? Why leave spaces before punctuation marks? Why are paragraphs of text repeated wholesale? Let’s not go into singulars and plurals; it’s a jungle of a mess over there. Sad to say the so-called writer is not too bothered with his own writing. But he wants to be on the cover of magazines.
THIS is not exactly something new. But it is worth talking about to remind us how far we have come as civilized human beings. The date of the book launch has been set and the invitations have all gone out to the most important people in the kingdom. Heck, the cake has already been baked and iced. But the book is yet to be ready. In Malaysia this is never ever a problem. “We will just launch a mock-up of the book then,” they say proudly. Who says dreams don’t come true?
“I WAS FORMERLY a Chinese; now I am a Christian.” I was once lost; now I am found. Strangely, and surprisingly, many Malaysians don’t seem to know the difference between “race” and “religion”.
ONE Malaysian author told me the other day: “I don’t understand why you need to edit my manuscript and make so many amendments. My previous publisher published all my books exactly the way I wrote them without any edits or fact-checking or rewriting. I just don’t see the need for this constant back and forth between editor and author.” You should have stuck with your old publisher, if you asked me.
MALAYSIAN “writers” who engage ghostwriters to write for them (because they can’t or are just too lazy to write) should understand that they are supposed to pay them for services rendered. Even though they are called “ghost”-writers, they are really not ghosts. They are human, just like you and me.
HSM LUCIFER strides in with his fake drippy-drip smile and asks me why the Japanese lady on the cover of her cookbook is wearing spectacles. I look at him and say: “Perhaps she is short- or longsighted? Maybe she has astigmatism? I don’t know; perhaps she likes designer spectacles? Perhaps it makes her black eyes brown? Perhaps she has yet to go for her lasik? After all she does look good in them. I could give her a call and ask her—if that is really what you want to know?” With his shifty eyes and plumpy apple-ish cheeks, he replies: “There’s no need.” Life’s full of these wasteful, unproductive God-what-was-that-all-about moments! It’s a strange world we live in and it looks like there’s nothing much we can do about it.
SO LITTLE TIME, so many terrifying manuscripts to edit. There’s only so much editing one can do to make some of them a tad better. Malaysian university professors and journalists who write like primary schoolers are the worst of the lot. And please stop threatening us by dropping names!
MALAYSIAN “WRITER”: No, I haven’t written a novel. But I would very much like us to meet up and discuss the story.
Editor: What is there to discuss if you haven’t written it?
Malaysian “writer”: If I write more words, will the novel be thicker?
Editor: Duh! (Of course.)
Malaysian “writer”: How many words must I write?
Editor: One hundred thousand words. Or thereabouts.
Malaysian “writer”: Wah … so many words-ah?
Editor: Why don’t you just give up writing? You are obviously not very good at it.
Malaysian “writer”: But writing a novel is my lifelong dream!
Editor: Looks like you will be dreaming for a long, long time.
Malaysian “writer”: With your experience, what kind of readers do you think will read my book?
Editor: Most probably dumb ones!
Malaysian “writer”: You so bad one-lah!
Editor: I am not bad. Just truthful. Wasn’t it Plato who said that no one is more hated than he who speaks the truth?
Malaysian “writer”: Plato who-huh? Your friend-ah?
Editor: Yes, Plato is indeed my best friend from long long ago!
IMAGINE editing an author who gets the spelling of his wife’s name wrong! “I will have to get back to you with regard to the spelling of my wife’s name. I will have to ask her if it is spelt with an ‘a’ or ‘e’. I may have to take a look at her birth certificate to ascertain. You just never know.” Yes, you got it right, you just never know.
ANOTHER prize-winning quote from the very people who gave us the ground-breaking QUOTE OF THE CENTURY (see below): “I don’t agree with all of your edits, but I am quite all right with them.” This is absolutely riveting, nail-biting stuff.
QUOTE OF THE CENTURY: “Edit, but please don’t change anything, because it is already perfect.” (It was far from perfect.) A classic case of imbecility or existential profundity, perhaps?
“I FINALLY learnt to say no. After all these years. And it felt really, really good. I have always been one of those people who had problem saying no. And because of that I have always ended up with more than I could chew. Now, the weight of the universe is lifted off my shoulders. I must continue using it more often.”
A SENIOR EDITOR at a Malaysian publishing house received the following email the other day. The message, with typos amended (to avoid embarrassment, of course), reads: “I can’t write very well, but I thought I’d like to try writing a novel. I’ve decided to write one about pirates, but I know next to nothing about pirates. Could you please email me information about pirates: their lifestyles, their eating habits, where they like to chill out in the evenings or during the weekends, what they like to do during the day when most of us are at work, what kinds of books they read, etc., so that I can start working on the novel immediately? With much appreciation and best wishes.”
SOME MANUSCRIPTS are so bloody horrendous that I literally get sick editing them! I feel feverish, headache-y and all-over-the-body-achy. Seriously, one of these days we must consider giving out a slew of THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest Malaysian books of the year—books we absolutely could not care less about, much less read. I know for sure there won’t be a dearth of contenders for these uniquely Malaysian awards where soul-destroying mediocrity is the only yardstick of greatness and celebrated with customary poop/pomp and ceremony! Perhaps I will start the ball rolling with that pathetic attempt at a book ... yes, that particular pseudo-book! It reminds me of the opening lines to Keir Alexander’s excellent novel, The Ruby Slippers: “She stinks. It has to be said. Stinks to high heaven.” She does, believe me, she does.
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS is escalating all the time. Maintaining sales have always been a challenge, now more so than ever. There are not many good manuscripts to choose from in a lacklustre marketplace. There’s nothing much we can do about the decline of the English language or the quality of writing in Malaysia in the short term. We have to accept the fact that the only thing we can do as publishers is to enhance our production values: editing standards and marketing efforts will need to be stepped up. Producing a book is not going to get any easier; editors will have to break their backs editing and rewriting substandard manuscripts to a level deemed publishable in a short time. Not that there are many good editors to choose from in a nation that doesn’t care much for reading and writing in the first place.
AT A BOOK LAUNCH in a five-star hotel (nothing less that five stars will do, or an exclusive golf club) in Kuala Lumpur the other day, everyone invited to attend the event was treated to a sumptuous meal of sweet and savoury Malaysian delicacies (including the obligatory curry puffs and all-time favourite mee siam, among other things) and given a complimentary copy or two of the said book of the day. Suffice to say that the food tasted so much better than the book. This is quite understandable. Let’s not beat around the bush; no one in their right frame of mind would use their hard-earned cash to pay for it. The trick is not to take Malaysian publishing too seriously. If you do, you are in for an early grave.
WHEN will Malaysian education start focusing on understanding and critical thinking skills? Will it ever? There is a serious dearth of these basic skills: reading, writing, creative thinking, questioning, criticism, creativity and imagination; there is also an absolute lack of interest or intellectual curiosity or empathy about the world we live in. We desperately need graduates who can not only eat but spell chocolate! Education per se is irrelevant; one must have the right mindset to use the knowledge acquired and make one’s life useful and meaningful to society. The idea of education is to make every one of us into critical, empathetic, intelligent, logical and thinking beings. If not, what’s the point of existence? What’s really the point of education if we do not produce intelligent, efficient and productive nation builders? It is frightening when the education system keeps on churning out graduates who don’t read (and have no interest in reading) and can’t write.
SERIOUSLY, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? I sometimes wonder, more often lately. A sad fact: Malaysian writers can’t write and don’t want to be edited at all. Those who can, the writing is bland, careless, dead, dispirited, hollow, illiterate, inert, insipid, lackadaisical, lazy, lethargic, lifeless, non-informative, puerile, self-indulgent, shallow, tepid, uninspiring and vague. Most of the time the manuscripts are so execrable, possibly written by someone who doesn’t speak or write the language at all, that editing them is next to impossible. (I don’t pray for much, seriously: just good health and happiness for all creatures big and small, being a better human being ... and good writing to land on my desk.)

Another sad fact: most editors don’t know how to edit. (Editing is not just about punctuation, grammar and spelling.) Most of them lack basic editing skills (grammar, spelling and writing); if they can’t even handle basic editing, surely they are in the wrong profession, no? Editors are unwilling to learn and tend to miss more than they spot errors (and constantly introducing new ones at the same time). And many are averse to research, checking facts and figures, solving problems and consulting the dictionary. Punctuating dialogue and inconsistent tenses are major weaknesses. Most of them lack imagination and intellectual curiosity and have no idea why they are doing the things they are doing. Many are not (and will never be) aware of the important aspects of book production like bibliography, footnotes, endnotes, indexing, etc. They do not know what a personal or surname is when indexing, etc. Also, not many editors have a nose for business or finance. Publishing is not just about publishing bad books; it is also about selling the bad books you publish. Both are equally important to sustain the business in the long term.

Another sad fact: designers don’t know how to typeset books and design book covers. Most of them are not designers; when you think about it, they are really more like incompetent typesetters than designers. Most, sadly, have no grasp of the aesthetics, whether in the design of covers or the typesetting of pages, are not open to constructive criticism and lack even the most basic of language skills. (They’re practically illiterate when it comes to English and Malay.) (“The kind of designs you don’t really need to go to design school to learn. The idea is to do it blindly. ... And hope someone likes it.”) There is absolutely no passion to push boundaries or to have higher expectations, no sense of accomplishment for a job well done. They do not seem to learn anything from experience. Experience makes no difference. They have no idea whether contents pages are required for the manuscripts they typeset; they have no idea what acknowledgements, forewords, prefaces, introductions, appendices, bibliographies, indexes, afterwords, footnotes, endnotes, figures, tables and charts are. They may have moved their mouse (mouses?) for centuries, but they have not gain any relevant experience at all. They have no idea what consistency is.

Another sad fact: translation standards are (atrociously) abysmal. Translation is not just about translating words (linguistics) to another language; it’s also about translating cultural and other creative nuances; the translated text must make sense and transport you to another world or dimension. “Translation,” in the words of Anthony Burgess, “is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” A good translator must not only possess a solid grounding in both languages but a strong grasp of idioms and metaphors as well. Sadly, it’s rare to find translators who are strong in both English and Malay.

A vicious cycle. Definitely. So, do we really have a publishing industry in Malaysia? Of course not. I believe what we have here is more akin to some kind of stunted, constipated offshoot of public relations, rather than publishing as we know it. Publishing good books (and finding a readership for these books) is constantly a Sisyphean struggle. Books are never published for the right reasons. It never fails to amaze me how publishers always find stupid reasons to justify the publishing of substandard books as though producing as many such books as possible is some kind of noble calling or something!
EVIL, THEY SAY, NEVER DIES ... it claws its way back from the pits of hell to haunt the living. We are in the midst of editing perhaps the worst manuscript on the planet … rejected by all who had a chance to look at it but somehow foisted on us editors for the dumbest of reasons. And to think that the British once colonised us, you would expect a certain standard of English. After the last disaster of a book, we thought we had seen the last and worst of horrendous books. No-o-o-o … that’s too good to be true. Ladies and gentlemen, Evil is back in business and is here to haunt the living daylights out of us. Just goes to prove that there are some things money can’t buy … for instance, to write well and tell a wonderful story (fiction or otherwise). Some publishers claim they publish these rejected manuscripts under the pretext of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Seriously, you can call them anything you want; I prefer to pile them under POO and flush them down the LOO where they belong for all eternity. Of course, under normal circumstances these manuscripts would not see the light of day but the dark of the sewers. I always fail to understand what joy these author-wannabes derive from being published under such circumstances!
AND THEN there are those so-called Malaysian authors who insist that we do not comply with standards and conventions when editing their so-called manuscripts! As the Backstreet Boys would croon back in the late 1990s, Believe when I say I want it that way! You can have it any way you want, Sweetheart, as long as you pay the production costs and buy up all the stocks and keep them locked up in your bedroom! And maybe toss them in with the carrots, potatoes, onions (the big ones) and tomatoes when Mummy makes chicken soup for the whole family. (Don’t forget the salt and freshly ground black pepper.) The books will also come in handy if you have plans for house extensions. Books, after all, are not just books; they make hardy bricks, too.
REMEMBER THE GOOD OLD DAYS when we used to have meals and lovely conversations without interruptions? We used to eat and talk, and eat and talk, all the while enjoying ourselves. Those were the days when we used to really talk with one another and conversations were long, and there were jokes and laughter, and time just passed without us realising it. Those days are long gone. People nowadays are more interested in their smartphones, internet, text messaging, etc., and seem to prefer to communicate with people not dining at the table but elsewhere, reading news updates, taking photos of themselves in all manner of poses, etc. You may have the whole wide world at your fingertips, but you don’t seem to be aware of the immediate world around you. Once in a while, think about the person sitting opposite you.
POMPOUS LASS: Only native speakers can edit my manuscript! No Malaysian editors for me, please!
Publisher: You mean someone from Good Olde Mother England?
Pompous Lass: Of course—if English is their mother tongue!
Publisher: Why’s that?
Pompous Lass: Because my book is for the wonderful people of this planet. I want it to be perfectly edited for all my readers from around the world …
Publisher: Would you like to bear the cost of getting someone from England to edit it then?
Pompous Lass: Will that be cheap?
Publisher: What do you think? Everything is cheap except you?
Pompous Lass: I wouldn’t want to spend my money on that! If it’s too expensive, a local editor should be all right, I guess!
Publisher: Yes, cheap local editors are the best!
WATERLILY: I want to talk to the editor?
Receptionist: Who’s calling?
Waterlily: Lily!
Receptionist: Lily who?
Waterlily: Water “I-can’t-tell-you-my-real-name” Lily!
Receptionist: How can I help you?
Waterlily: I want to talk to the editor about my manuscript?
Receptionist: What’s your manuscript about?
Waterlily: I can’t tell you that! I don’t know who you are. You may just steal and profit from my hard work! I want to speak to the editor!
Editor: Could you send us samples of your work, Water?
Waterlily: I can’t do that either.
Editor: So what can you do, Watermelon?
Waterlily: My name is Waterlily, not Watermelon! Why do you need samples of my work?
Editor: Duh! So that we could assess your writing and decide whether we want to publish it or not!
Waterlily: Why do you want to review it? I am a famous writer and my work is quoted in all the leading journals all over the galaxy!
Editor: That’s nice and all and I’m happy for you. However, we would still like to assess it.
Waterlily: Will you be distributing my book in the U.S. and the U.K.?
Editor: No. We only sell foreign rights to those markets. And over the internet.
Waterlily: Looks like you are not the right publisher for me then. Goodbye!
Editor: Good riddance.
AUTHOR: Would you like to publish my manuscript?
Publisher: Well, it depends …
Author: Depends on what?
Publisher: Well, whether you have a written manuscript?
Author: I haven’t written one. Can you get it written for me?
Publisher: Why is that?
Author: I can’t write.
Publisher: But you have studied for a couple of foreign degrees … and you have lived overseas for many years. With your fake accent and all, I’m sure you could write English.
Author: I’m very bad at grammar. Could you get me a writer whom I could talk to, take down notes and put them all in a book for me? I can talk very well. I just can’t write.
Publisher: I can’t imagine how you manage to pass all your exams over the years!
AUTHOR: Could you label me a bestselling author on the cover of my new book?
Editor: No! You are not a bestselling author! And you’ve never have been one!
Author: It’s a way of MARKETING the book!
Editor: I don’t think that’s MARKETING; that’s shameless CONNING. Your first book sold less than a thousand copies in over five years. That, to me, is a disaster of epic proportions! Your book sounds more like the worst-selling book of the century. And with the way it is moving (or not moving), it looks set to be the worst-selling book in the history of humankind. I believe your book will still be around even after the Apocalypse!
AUTHOR: And on what grounds are you rejecting my manuscript?
Editor: Well, it sucks, for one!
Author: What! How dare you insult me! Everyone who has read it thinks it a magnificent piece of work!
Editor: Who, pray tell, read your magnum opus?
Author: My darling husband and children, friends and relatives! And my dearest mummy and daddy, too!
Editor: Of course!
Author: So can I take it that you are not interested in publishing my manuscript?
Editor: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da ... Duh!
AUTHOR: Yahoo! My book is a runaway bestseller!
Editor: How’s that possible?
Author: I got every one of my best friends to buy 500 copies of my book. Yahoo! Time for a reprint?
Editor: What do you expect them to do with all the copies of your book?
Author: Who cares what they do with them? Hide them under the stairs? Perhaps they can make beef or vegetable stew with them?
AUTHOR: I would like you to publish my book?
Editor: Your manuscript, you mean? Well, it all depends on the quality of your manuscript.
Author: What? I know your Financial Controller and the TOP HONCHO, you know!
Editor: Ooh, I’m shivering! Of course, we will publish your book—even though it sucks big-time!
Author: What?
Editor: Isn’t that what you want?
WISDOM, they say, comes with age. I once thought that wisdom was the exclusive province of the elderly. Now that I am all grown up, I have come to realise that that’s all balderdash. Wisdom is the province of those who possess it; age is simply immaterial. Over the years, I have had the good fortune to meet young people who are wise beyond their years, and I have also had the MISFORTUNE of meeting old people who have absolutely no wisdom at all.
AUTHOR: I don’t like my marriage photograph in the book. We look so bloody fat.
Editor: Of course, both of you are fat. So, what do you want me to do? Both of you should have gone on a diet before getting married. Well, you could always get married again. What’s stopping you?
AUTHOR: Make sure all numbers smaller than 10 are in figures, not words, okay?
Editor: Numbers from 1-9 will be in words, not numerals. Anything from 10 and above, I will use figures. That’s the standard editing rule.
Author: But I am your client and you do as I instruct.
Editor: So, what else do you want to go with that? Bad grammar? I can do that. What about factual errors? You want some of those? Weak characterization, perhaps? A plot full of holes? We can add a couple of those, if you like. Why don’t I also throw in as many misspellings as I can for you—on the house, of course?
Author: What?
Editor: For your information, you ain’t my client. You can keep your money and go ask your mummy to search and replace all your 1-9s with figures.
“ANYONE can be an author nowadays. You don’t really have to be a good writer or a whizz in grammar and all that nonsense,” so says the marketing consultant. You can’t write? No problem, we will get you a ghostwriter to write on your behalf for a fee, she says. And if you suck big-time at grammar and vocabulary, also no problem. We have the backroom boys (editors, copyeditors, proofreaders and designers) to clean up your writing (or lack thereof) and make all your dreams come true. After all, most people just like to see their names on the covers of their so-called books. And perhaps launching them at one of the hotels or golf clubs (or fast-food/burger joints or shopping-mall concourses). That’s about it.
PASSION is, of course, a wonderful thing to have. But let’s talk about ringgit and sense. There is simply no money in editing in Malaysia. I have been editing books for a living for well over 30 years now, and this saddens me a great deal. Perhaps it’s time for me to seriously consider giving it all up and do something else with the rest of my life?
ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, when all the stars in the heavens are somehow aligned, the perfect manuscript lands on your desk. All is well with the world; the elves and hobbits are having a whale of a time in the playing fields and the flowers are singing and dancing in the wind. There is joy and laughter all over the kingdom. With minimal editing, the manuscript is published to much acclaim and financial success. There are, of course, books that do not capture a readership no matter how good they are or how much they are pushed or promoted. Most of the time, though, bad books fall on your head with a loud thud. Some of these books go on to become successful books after much editing, rewriting, blood, sweat and tears, etc. Publishing is a difficult business; there is no guarantee that a good book will sell. Neither is there a guarantee that a bad book will not sell. Not all bad books sell; most of them end up in the cemetery of lost books.
ACCORDING to Andreï Makine, “Language is just grammar. The real language of literature is created in the heart, not a grammar book.” Makine—a Russian novelist who writes not in his mother tongue but in French—is not discounting the importance of grammar in writing. However, good writing is more than good grammar. Good grammar, in other words, is just not good enough when crafting sentences. In our reading, we have occasionally come across writing which is grammatically perfect in every aspect but somehow lacks heart, writing that lacks an emotional core: hollow, meretricious, staid, technical and wooden. Good writers know when and how to break rules for good original prose to emerge. The challenging task is to nudge boundaries and push narrative towards places it has not been before.
I WAS EDITING a piece of tosh the other day. Writers and editors need to be logical when they write or edit. A baby girl is a baby girl. There is no need to be too specific by calling it a “young” baby girl. Is there such a thing as an “old” baby girl?
WE ARE IN THE MIDST of editing another crappy manuscript by a crappy Malaysian writer. It’s just another crappy day in the life of a Malaysian editor. Possibly another worthy contender for the THROW YOUR MAMA’S SMELLY SHOE AWARDS for the crappiest writing in the world? One that would put us to sleep for a thousand years. We can’t wait for the torture to be over ... until another one comes along (like they always do). Please, please forgive us for unleashing this horror upon humanity and the universe. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. ...
MOST OF THE TIME book editors reject more than they accept manuscripts simply because there are more bad than good writing floating around. With modern publishing the way it is, where quantity is more important than quality, decisions on whether to accept or reject manuscripts are no longer the sole preserve of editors but marketing consultants. Editors are no longer the literary gatekeepers of the universe like they once were. They are more of a stumbling block in the seemingly unrelenting contemporary marketing process. The role of editors is to edit good manuscripts and make bad ones look good enough for those who do not know better. As literary gatekeepers, marketing consultants think that they document history and human evolution, but most of the time they dress up trash to look like literature. This explains the glut of bad writing you see flooding the marketplace. That’s just what I think.
A: Can you read and write English?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Malay?
B: No.
A: Can you read and write Chinese?
B: No.
A: So, what are you doing now?
B: Studying Korean.
A: You can’t even handle English, your mother tongue or the national language, why would you even want to take up a challenging language like Korean?
B: I just like the way the Koreans speak and sing-mah!
A: Wah, so clever!
AUTHOR: Could you put my husband’s name (and mine) on the cover?
Editor: No, I can’t do that. He is not the writer. You are the author. Your name will be on the cover.
Author: But he helped me with research, fact-checking and proofreading.
Editor: You may credit him in the acknowledgements page.
Author: But I want his name on the cover with me!
Editor: No!
Author: You know, you are not as nice as some people say you are.
Editor: You could always self-publish and put the names of whoever you like on the cover if that makes you happy!
ANOTHER turd of a manuscript landed in my lap with a loud thud this morning, turning my life upside down and upsetting the balance in this neck of the universe. Looks like it’s another long month of agony, damnation, sleepless nights, slogging and suffering. A manuscript that is far from stimulating. Somehow one’s opinion of prominent people tend to go down the clogged monsoon drain once you start reading their life stories. Their stories tend to put me to death. What have I done to deserve this? I take care of my family and love all my brothers and sisters (including all my Facebook friends) and buy my mother her 100% Massimo whole wheat bread every other day, yet I still get punished! What have I done to deserve this! What I have done is, I have just edited possibly the worst book of my career. And after countless hours of editing within a tight time frame, it is still the worst book of my entire career.
WE were at a popular dining establishment in KLCC the other day. We were disappointed with the stuffed chicken breast we ordered. They were clearly below expectations. Not only were they hard, dry and leathery, they were bland, almost tasteless, more like something left over from the night before warmed up. If you enjoy paying First World prices for food that is below average or worse, then this is the perfect place to waste your hard-earned money.
I HAVE NO IDEA where Malaysians get their education from. Their spelling is the pits. They spell “Barisan Nasional” as “Barisan National”, a blend of English and Malay. Even my dear mother knows that it is spelt as either “Barisan Nasional” (Malay) or “National Front” (English). It is one or the other. It is either Malay or English. Be consistent when you write. First, decide which language you want to write in. I know, a tough decision. Malaysians also can’t tell the difference between “reign” and “rein”, “ferment” and “foment”, and when to use them correctly. They tend to use them interchangeably. Other weaknesses include hyphenation (“long term” vs “long-term”, “fairy tale” vs “fairy-tale”, etc.), italicization, prepositions and word order, punctuations, spelling of names, insufficient fact checking, among others.
MALAYSIAN authors have the bad habit of editing their books only after their books have been published and distributed all over the universe and beyond. They are never bothered with editing at the manuscript stage. (They submit their manuscripts raw without editing them.) Most of them are so bloody lazy to read their own works. There is nothing much we can do about this because Malaysian writers prefer eating to reading. Most of them can spent the whole day eating but not many can spend the whole day reading. Most of the time I wonder: Why do they even bother to write?
I get this a lot … from the moment I was born back in the early 1960s to now in 2016.

A: You are mixed, right?
B: Ah … yeah.
A: So what kind of food do you eat?
B: Grass and lalang … and banoffee pie!
A: Huh! I mean: do you eat Chinese food?
B: No!
A: Why not?
B: Duh! I don’t know! Perhaps I don’t like Chinese food?
A: How can you not like Chinese food when your mum’s Chinese!
B: Why not?
SELLING BOOKS in Malaysia is a tough business. For most people books are considered non-essential. Bread-and-butter issues take precedence over other matters. My ideal bookshop is one that challenges me intellectually in my reading journey. Not only do I want bookshops to stock the kinds of books I want to read, I also want them to surprise me by introducing me to titles or authors I have not heard of before. I don’t buy books online at all, so the local bookshop is where I buy all my books. However, I think nowadays the role of educating the reading public has been taken over by the internet. After all, there are only so many titles a brick-and-mortar bookshop can stock at any one time.
HIS SATANIC MAJESTY (HSM) LUCIFER tells the editor that he should edit the manuscript only for grammar and spelling. “Just check the names and spelling, and make sure the grammar is perfect,” he reiterates. HSM goes on to tell the editor to keep his opinions to himself because nobody cares what he thinks about the manuscript. “It doesn’t really matter if the writing is good or bad. Your job is to edit—not to assess or judge the manuscript.” What the heck is he trying to say!
PUBLISHER: You have offended Big John with all your spot-on edits!
Editor: But his manuscript was full of errors and other inconsistencies!
Publisher: He isn’t happy because you edited too much of his manuscript. I can’t believe you spotted over a thousand errors! I did tell you specifically not to edit it.
Editor: Yes … not bad for a manuscript which is supposed to have been edited thoroughly and ready-to-print. Shouldn’t he be happy that I spotted so many errors in his book? I would if it’s my book.
Publisher: Yes … but, you know, you made him look real bad! And he is awfully hurt. He doesn’t want to work with you any more!
Editor: I did not make him look bad … he really is bad!
Publisher: You shouldn’t be too brutal with the edits.
Editor: Editorial brutality? That’s a new one. I wasn’t brutal at all. All I did what edit the grammar and corrected the spellings and factual errors. No rewriting whatsoever. A walk in the park, really.
Publisher: Where? What park? Whatever it is, he is offended!
Editor: Idiot that I was, I tried to edit the manuscript as best as I possibly could. If it will make him happy, I could easily restore or reinstate all the errors back into the manuscript. It’s no big deal to me. It’s your call; after all, you are the publisher.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

March 2018 Highlights

1. Of Men and Angels (Arcadia Books, 2018) / Michael Arditti
2. In the Fall They Come Back (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Robert Bausch
3. The Immortalists (Tinder Press, 2018) / Chloe Benjamin
4. Oliver Loving (Atlantic Books, 2018) / Stefan Merrill Block
5. The Killing of Butterfly Joe (Picador, 2018) / Rhidian Brook
6. Gods of Howl Mountain (St Martin’s Press, 2018) / Taylor Brown
7. All the Beautiful Girls (Ballantine/Random House, 2018) / Elizabeth J. Church
8. The Life to Come (Catapult, 2018) / Michelle de Kretser
9. The Adulterants (Tin House Books, 2018) / Joe Dunthorne
10. Ordinary People (Chatto & Windus, 2018) / Diana Evans

11. Happiness (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018) / Aminatta Forna
12. The Western Wind (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Samantha Harvey
13. The Flicker of Old Dreams (Harper Perennial, 2018) / Susan Henderson
14. The Friendly Ones (4th Estate, 2018) / Philip Hensher
15. The Family Next Door (St Martin’s Press, 2018) / Sally Hepworth
16. The Sparsholt Affair (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) / Alan Hollinghurst
17. The Neighbourhood (trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman) (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Mario Vargas Llosa
18. The Passage of Love (Allen & Unwin, 2018) / Alex Miller
19. The Executor (Chatto & Windus, 2018) / Blake Morrison
20. From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday, 2018) / Donal Ryan

21. The Book of Chocolate Saints (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Jeet Thayil
22. The House of Broken Angels (Little, Brown, 2018) / Luis Alberto Urrea
23. Dead Men’s Trousers (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Irvine Welsh
24. The Long Forgotten (Picador, 2018) / David Whitehouse
25. Upstate (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / James Wood

1. The Balcony (Little, Brown, 2018) / Jane Delury
2. Asymmetry (Granta Books, 2018) / Lisa Halliday
3. Sal (Canongate, 2018) / Mick Kitson
4. Almost Love (riverrun, 2018) / Louise O’Neill

1. Mothers (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Chris Power
2. Pure Hollywood (Grove Press, 2018) / Christine Schutt

1. Anecdotal Evidence (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Wendy Cope

1. The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (Harper, 2018) / Aida Edemariam
2. The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood (Doubleday, 2018) / John Lewis-Stempel
3. Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (Square Peg, 2018) / Lucy Mangan

Thursday, February 01, 2018

February 2018 Highlights

1. The Only Story (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Julian Barnes
2. Consent (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Leo Benedictus
3. White Houses (Random House, 2018) / Amy Bloom
4. A Long Way From Home (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) / Peter Carey
5. The Melody (Picador, 2018) / Jim Crace
6. The Toymakers (Del Rey, 2018) / Robert Dinsdale
7. The Ghost Notebooks (Pantheon, 2018) / Ben Dolnick
8. The Adulterants (Hamish Hamilton, 2018) / Joe Dunthorne
9. Monsieur Ka (Chatto & Windus, 2018) / Vesna Goldsworthy
10. The Great Alone (St Martin’s Press/Macmillan, 2018) / Kristin Hannah

11. Force of Nature (Little, Brown/Macmillan, 2018) / Jane Harper
12. The Friendly Ones (4th Estate, 2018) / Philip Hensher
13. An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, 2018) / Tayari Jones
14. The Hoarder (Canongate Books, 2018) / Jess Kidd
15. Sunburn (William Morrow, 2018) / Laura Lippman
16. Down the River Unto the Sea (Mulholland Books, 2018) / Walter Mosley
17. The Friend (Riverhead Books, 2018) / Sigrid Nunez
18. Frankenstein in Baghdad (trans. from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright) (Oneworld Publications, 2018) / Ahmed Saadawi
19. The Neighborhood (trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018) / Mario Vargas Llosa

1. Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018) / Zoe Gilbert
2. Asymmetry (Simon & Schuster, 2018) / Lisa Halliday
3. Woman at Sea (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Catherine Poulain
4. Winter Kept Us Warm (Counterpoint, 2018) / Anne Raeff
5. Restless Souls (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) / Dan Sheehan

1. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Denis Johnson

1. The Undressing (W.W. Norton, 2018) / Li-Young Lee

1. The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: Essays and Reportage, 1986-2017 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) / Martin Amis
2. The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence (Tinder Press, 2018) / Neil Ansell
3. Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) / John Banville
4. Victorious Century: The United Kingdom, 1800-1906 (Viking, 2018) / David Cannadine
5. The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (Random House/Pantheon, 2018) / Antonio Damasio
6. The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (4th Estate, 2018) / Aida Edemariam
7. Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Afua Hirsch
8. Spring (trans. from the Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey) (illustrated by Anna Bjerger) (Harvill Secker, 2018) / Karl Ove Knausgaard
9. The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order (Allen Lane, 2018) / Bruno Maçães
10. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Counterpoint, 2018) / Terese Marie Mailhot

11. I Am, I Am, I Am: A Memoir (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018) / Maggie O’Farrell
12. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (Allen Lane/Viking, 2018) / Steven Pinker
13. The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England (Picador, 2018) / Graham Robb
14. What Are We Doing Here?: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018) / Marilynne Robinson
15. Feel Free (Hamish Hamilton, 2018) / Zadie Smith
16. Making an Elephant (Simon & Schuster UK, 2018) / Graham Swift

Monday, January 01, 2018

January 2018 Highlights

1. The Immortalists (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018) / Chloe Benjamin
2. The Girls in the Picture (Delacorte Press, 2018) / Melanie Benjamin
3. Oliver Loving (Flatiron Books, 2018) / Stefan Merrill Block
4. Three Things About Elsie (The Borough Press, 2018) / Joanna Cannon
5. A Long Way From Home (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Peter Carey
6. Little Reunions (trans. from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan & Martin Merz) (New York Review Books, 2018) / Eileen Chang
7. Fools and Mortals (Harper, 2018) / Bernard Cornwell
8. The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin, 2018) / Michelle de Kretser
9. The Child Finder (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) / Rene Denfeld
10. Varina (Ecco, 2018) / Charles Frazier

11. Eternal Life (W.W. Norton, 2018) / Dara Horn
12. The Cage (Text Publishing, 2018) / Lloyd Jones
13. The Music Shop (Random House, 2018) / Rachel Joyce
14. The Devil’s Highway (Fourth Estate, 2018) / Gregory Norminton
15. Turning for Home (Doubleday, 2018) / Barney Norris
16. The Wanderers (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018) / Tim Pears
17. The Winter Station (Little, Brown, 2018) / Jody Shields
18. Lullaby (trans. from the French by Sam Taylor) (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Leïla Slimani
19. Winter (Pantheon, 2018) / Ali Smith
20. The Maze at Windermere (Viking, 2018) / Gregory Blake Smith

21. Anatomy of a Scandal (Simon & Schuster, 2018) / Sarah Vaughan
22. The Fountain in the Forest (Faber & Faber, 2018) / Tony White
23. The Unmade World (Unbridled Books, 2018) / Steve Yarbrough
24. Grist Mill Road (Picador USA, 2017) / Christopher J. Yates

1. Swansong (Jonathan Cape, 2018) / Kerry Andrew
2. The Boat People (Doubleday, 2018) / Sharon Bala
3. White Chrysanthemum (Chatto & Windus, 2018) / Mary Lynn Bracht
4. Dark Pines (Point Blank, 2018) / Will Dean
5. The Woman in the Window (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2018) / A.J. Finn
6. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock (Harvill Secker, 2018) / Imogen Hermes Gowar
7. The Transition (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018) / Luke Kennard
8. Walking Wounded (Sceptre, 2018) / Sheila Llewellyn
9. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive (trans. from the Swedish by Henning Koch) (Melville House, 2018) / Tom Malmquist
10. The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Zaffre, 2018) / Heather Morris

11. The Afterlives (Riverhead Books, 2018) / Thomas Pierce
12. Fire Sermon (Grove Press/Picador, 2018) / Jamie Quatro
13. The Chalk Man (Michael Joseph, 2018) / C.J. Tudor

1. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Random House, 2018) / Denis Johnson
2. Her Body and Other Parties (Serpent’s Tail, 2018) / Carmen Maria Machado
3. The Unmapped Country: Stories & Fragments (And Other Stories, 2018) / Ann Quin
4. Dazzling the Gods (Unbound, 2018) / Tom Vowler

1. Wild is the Wind (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018) / Carl Phillips
2. Luxury (W.W. Norton, 2018) / Philip Schultz

1. The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money (Princeton University Press, 2018) / Bryan Caplan
2. The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta (Bloomsbury USA, 2018) / Kushanava Choudhury
3. The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Penguin Press, 2017) / Niall Ferguson
4. Blood on the Page: A Murder, a Secret Trial, and a Search for the Truth (William Heinemann, 2018) / Thomas Harding
5. Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road (Knopf Canada, 2018) / Kate Harris
6. The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order (Allen Lane, 2018) / Bruno Maçães
7. Yorkshire: A Lyrical History of England’s Greatest County (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) / Richard Morris
8. To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism (W.W. Norton, 2018) / Rob Riemen
9. In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein (Profile Books, 2018) / Fiona Sampson
10. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories (4th Estate, 2018) / Laura Shapiro

11. Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir (4th Estate, 2017) / Amy Tan

Friday, December 01, 2017

December 2017 Highlights

1. In the Fall They Come Back (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Robert Bausch
2. Ultraluminous (MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Katherine Faw
3. One Station Away (Ecco Press, 2017) / Olaf Olafsson
4. Three Daughters of Eve (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) / Elif Shafak
5. Spy of the First Person (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Sam Shepard

1. Goblin (Saraband, 2017) / Ever Dundas
2. An Unremarkable Body (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017) / Elisa Lodato
3. Elmet (Algonquin Books, 2017) / Fiona Mozley

1. The Vanishing Princess (Ecco, 2017) / Jenny Diski
2. The Reservoir Tapes (4th Estate, 2017) / Jon McGregor

1. The Complete Poems of A.R. Ammons: Volume 1: 1955-1977 (ed. Robert M. West) (W.W. Norton, 2017) / A.R. Ammons
2. Storm for the Living and the Dead: Uncollected and Unpublished Poems (ed. Abel Debritto) (Ecco, 2017) / Charles Bukowski
3. Witch Wife (Sarabande Books, 2017) / Kiki Petrosino

1. Iran: A Modern History (Yale University Press, 2017) / Abbas Amanat
2. Women & Power: A Manifesto (Liveright, 2017) / Mary Beard
3. Beneath Another Sky: A Global Journey into History (Allen Lane, 2017) / Norman Davies
4. No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Ursula K. Le Guin
5. Caesar’s Footprints: A Cultural Excursion to Ancient France: Journeys Through Roman Culture (Pegasus, 2017) / Bijan Omrani

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

November 2017 Highlights

1. Madonna in a Fur Coat (trans. from the Turkish by Maureen Freely & Alexander Dawe) (Other Press, 2017) / Sabahattin Ali
2. In the Midst of Winter (Scribner UK, 2017) / Isabel Allende
3. Millard Salter’s Last Day (Gallery Books, 2017) / Jacob M. Appel
4. Mrs Osmond (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / John Banville
5. The Story of Arthur Truluv (Random House, 2017) / Elizabeth Berg
6. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmouth (Viking, 2017) / William Boyd
7. Love & Fame (Virago, 2017) / Susie Boyt
8. Future Home of the Living God (Harper, 2017) / Louise Erdrich
9. The Revolution of Marina M. (Little, Brown, 2017) / Janet Fitch
10. First Person (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Richard Flanagan

11. The White Book (trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith) (Portobello Books, 2017) / Han Kang
12. Gnomon (William Heinemann, 2017) / Neil Harkaway
13. Strangers in Budapest (Algonquin, 2017) / Jessica Keener
14. The House (Penguin, 2017) / Simon Lelic
15. The Senator’s Children (Tin House Books, 2017) / Nicholas Montemarano
16. Improvement (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / Joan Silber
17. Winter (Hamish Hamilton, 2017) / Ali Smith
18. The Book of Chocolate Saints (Aleph, 2017) / Jeet Thayil
19. The Last Hours (Allen & Unwin, 2017) / Minette Walters
20. Sing, Unburied, Sing (Bloomsbury Circus, 2017) / Jesmyn Ward

1. The Last Man in Europe (The Overlook Press, 2017) / Dennis Glover
2. The Alarming Palsy of James Orr (Granta Books, 2017) / Tom Lee
3. Spring Garden (trans. from the Japanese by Polly Barton) (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Tomoka Shibasaki

1. Tell Tale (Macmillan, 2017) / Jeffrey Archer
2. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth (Viking, 2017) / William Boyd
3. At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Little, Brown, 2017) / Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
4. Debriefing: Collected Stories (ed. Benjamin Taylor) (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Susan Sontag

1. Storm for the Living and the Dead: Uncollected and Unpublished Poems (ed. Abel Debritto) (Ecco, 2017) / Charles Bukowski
2. The Radio (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Leontia Flynn
3. House of Lords and Commons (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Ishion Hutchinson
4. The Odyssey (trans. from the Greek by Emily Wilson) (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Homer
5. Earthling (W.W. Norton, 2017) / James Longenbach
6. On Trust: A Book of Lies (Carcanet Press, 2017) / James Womack

1. God: A Human History (Random House, 2017) / Reza Aslan
2. Women & Power: A Manifesto (Profile Books, 2017) / Mary Beard
3. Keeping On Keeping On (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Alan Bennett
4. Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017 (Allen Lane/Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017) / Ian Black
5. Bethlehem: Biography of a Town (Nation Books, 2017) / Nicholas Blincoe
6. The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Garrett Carr
7. Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Horatio Clare
8. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life (Allen Lane/Viking, 2017) / Robert Dallek
9. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Fleet/Metropolitan Books, 2017) / Caroline Fraser
10. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (Penguin Press, 2017) / Maya Jasanoff

11. Silence in the Age of Noise (trans. from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook) (Pantheon, 2017) / Erling Kagge
12. Winter (trans. from the Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey) (illustrated by Lars Lerin) (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Karl Ove Knausgaard
13. Judging Shaw (Prism, 2017) / Fintan O’Toole
14. Animals Strike Curious Poses (Jonathan Cape/Sarabande Books, 2017) / Elena Passarello
15. Molly Keane: A Life (Virago, 2017) / Sally Phipps
16. The Written World: How Literature Shaped History (Granta Books, 2017) / Martin Puchner
17. Don’t Save Anything: Uncollected Essays, Articles, and Profiles (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / James Salter
18. Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Russell Shorto
19. The Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Helen Smith
20. An Almost Perfect Christmas (Viking, 2017) / Nina Stibbe

21. Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark (Polygon/Birlinn, 2017) / Alan Taylor
22. Railways and the Raj: How the Age of Steam Transformed India (Atlantic Books, 2017) / Christian Wolmar
23. Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road (Hodder & Stoughton, 2017) / Levison Wood

Sunday, October 01, 2017

October 2017 Highlights

1. In the Midst of Winter (Atria Books, 2017) / Isabel Allende
2. Mrs Osmond (Viking, 2017) / John Banville
3. Wolf Season (Bellevue Literary Press, 2017) / Helen Benedict
4. Things I’m Seeing Without You (Dial Books, 2017) / Peter Bognanni
5. The Accident on the A35 (Contraband Books, 2017) / Graeme Mccrae Burnet
6. A Long Way From Home (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Australia, 2017) / Peter Carey
7. The Last Ballad (William Morrow, 2017) / Wiley Cash
8. Fools and Mortals (HarperCollins, 2017) / Bernard Cornwell
9. The Life to Come (Allen & Unwin, 2017) / Michelle de Kretser
10. Smile (Viking, 2017) / Roddy Doyle

11. Manhattan Beach (Scribner/Corsair, 2017) / Jennifer Egan
12. Here in Berlin (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / Cristina Garcia
13. As a God Might Be (Dodo Ink, 2017) / Neil Griffiths
14. Sugar Money (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Jane Harris
15. Paris in the Present Tense (The Overlook Press, 2017) / Mark Helprin
16. The Sparsholt Affair (Picador, 2017) / Alan Hollinghurst
17. Devil’s Day (John Murray, 2017) / Andrew Michael Hurley
18. The Future Won’t Be Long (Viking, 2017) / Jarett Kobek
19. Ferocity (trans. from the Italian by Antony Shugaar) (Europa Editions, 2017) / Nicola Lagioia
20. After the Fire (trans. from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy) (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Henning Mankell

21. Reservoir 13 (Catapult, 2017) / Jon McGregor
22. The Passage of Love (Allen & Unwin, 2017) / Alex Miller
23. The Prague Sonata (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017) / Bradford Morrow
24. The Book of Dust (David Fickling Books, 2017) / Philip Pullman
25. The Silent Companions (Raven Books, 2017) / Laura Purcell
26. The Iliac Crest (trans. from the Spanish by Sarah Booker) (The Feminist Press, 2017) / Cristina Rivera Garza
27. The Red Dancer (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Richard Skinner
28. Dunbar (Hogarth Press, 2017) / Edward St Aubyn
29. The White City (Aardvark Bureau, 2017) / Roma Tearne

1. In the Distance (Coffee House Press, 2017) / Hernan Diaz
2. Motherest (Twelve, 2017) / Kristen Iskandrian

1. The King Is Always Above the People (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Daniel Alarcón
2. The Relive Box and Other Stories (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / T.C. Boyle
3. Fox Season and Other Short Stories (Jantar Publishing, 2017) / Agnieszka Dale
4. Fresh Complaint (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/4th Estate, 2017) / Jeffrey Eugenides
5. What Can You Do (Biblioasis, 2017) / Cynthia Flood
6. Catapult (Sarabande Books, 2017) / Emily Fridlund
7. The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat & Other Stories from the North (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Sjón & Ted Hodgkinson (eds.)
8. Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales (Faber & Faber, 2017) / P.D. James
9. Outside is the Ocean (University of Iowa Press, 2017) / Matthew Lansburgh
10. Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf Press, 2017) / Carmen Maria Machado

11. In White Ink (Apollo, 2017) / Elske Rahill
12. A Spot of Folly (Profile Books, 2017) / Ruth Rendell
13. The Complete Stories (ed. Ann Beattie) (Library of America, 2017) / Peter Taylor
14. The Islands: Six Fictions (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017) / William Wall
15. The Age of Perpetual Light (Grove Press, 2017) / Josh Weil
16. The Best American Short Stories 2017 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) / Heidi Pitlor & Meg Wolitzer (eds.)

1. Foreign News (trans. from the Irish by David Wheatley) (The Gallery Press, 2017) / Aifric Mac Aodha
2. Maps (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) / John Freeman
3. Salt (Faber & Faber, 2017) / David Harsent
4. All We Saw (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Anne Michaels
5. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver (Penguin Press, 2017) / Mary Oliver
6. Fiends Fell (Flood Editions, 2017) / Tom Pickard
7. Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017) / Maggie Smith

1. Iran: A Modern History (Yale University Press, 2017) / Abbas Amanat
2. Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (Doubleday, 2017) / Anne Applebaum
3. Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago (Granta Books, 2017) / Patrick Barkham
4. The Meaning of Rice: And Other Tales from the Belly of Japan (Jonathan Cape, 2017) / Michael Booth
5. The Collector of Lives: Giorgio Vasari and the Invention of Art (W.W. Norton, 2017) / Ingrid Rowland & Noah Charney
6. Grant (Penguin Press, 2017) / Ron Chernow
7. The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World (Basic Books, 2017) / Lizzie Collingham
8. The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Allen Lane, 2017) / Niall Ferguson
9. The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (Allen Lane, 2017) / Lindsey Fitzharris
10. The Book of Forgotten Authors (riverrun, 2017) / Christopher Fowler

11. The Mayflower Generation: The Winslow Family and the Fight for the New World (Chatto & Windus, 2017) / Rebecca Fraser
12. The Romance of Elsewhere (Counterpoint Press, 2017) / Lynn Freed
13. The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead Books, 2017) / Masha Gessen
14. What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing (University of Chicago Press, 2017) / Peter Ginna
15. At the Strangers’ Gate: Arrivals in New York (riverrun, 2017) / Adam Gopnik
16. Outsiders: Five Women Writers Who Changed the World (Virago, 2017) / Lyndall Gordon
17. On Tuesdays I’m a Buddhist (Hachette Books Ireland, 2017) / Michael Harding
18. The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick (NYRB Classics, 2017) / Elizabeth Hardwick
19. A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind (Granta Books, 2017) / Rachel Hewitt
20. Jacob’s Room is Full of Books: A Year in Reading (Profile Books, 2017) / Susan Hill

21. Destination Casablanca: Exile, Espionage, and the Battle for North Africa in World War II (PublicAffairs, 2017) / Meredith Hindley
22. Leonardo da Vinci (Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster UK, 2017) / Walter Isaacson
23. The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (William Collins, 2017) / Maya Jasanoff
24. After Ireland: Writing the Nation from Beckett to the Present (Head of Zeus, 2017) / Declan Kiberd
25. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 2017) / Stephen Kotkin
26. City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs & Jews in Jaffa (Head of Zeus, 2017) / Adam LeBor
27. The Fear and the Freedom: How the Second World War Changed Us (Viking, 2017) / Keith Lowe
28. River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future (Oxford University Press, 2017) / Victor Mallet
29. What You Did Not Tell: A Russian Past and the Journey Home (Allen Lane/Other Press, 2017) / Mark Mazower
30. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017) / Eric Metaxas

31. The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton, 2017) / Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
32. Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia (Bloomsbury Academic/Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017) / Francis O’Gorman
33. The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) / Andrew O’Hagan
34. A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary 1939-1940 (Pushkin Press, 2017) / Iris Origo
35. The Ghost: A Cultural History (Tate Publishing, 2017) / Susan Owens
36. Judging Shaw (Prism, 2017) / Fintan O’Toole
37. The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization (Random House, 2017) / Martin Puchner
38. Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling (David Fickling Books, 2017) / Philip Pullman
39. The River of Consciousness (Picador/Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) / Oliver Sacks
40. Belonging: The Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 (Bodley Head/Ecco, 2017) / Simon Schama

41. Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister (Harvill Secker, 2017) / Nicholas Shakespeare
42. Anthony Powell (Hamish Hamilton, 2017) / Hilary Spurling
43. Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir (Ecco, 2017) / Amy Tan
44. Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense (Faber & Faber, 2017) / Jenny Uglow
45. The Glass Eye: A Memoir (Tin House Books, 2017) / Jeannie Vanasco
46. Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 (Oxford University Press, 2017) / Mike Wallace