Tuesday, August 07, 2007


book sales vonnegut and islamic women writers

as i've said before, i love book sales. and while some people grumble how expensive books are these days, i don't think this is a real problem except for specialty books such as art, and especially if you stay in KL where book sales are getting more and more frequent and if you know what you're looking for or if your reading wavelength is wide enough or eclectic enough you will not be too dissapointed with these sales....payless, times warehouse sales, bigbookshop and many other smaller sales and bargain bins at borders (where you can sometimes find good art books) etc... these are enough to stock my library for hundred of years reading pleasure.

the good thing is, each sales has it's own 'bent'...payless are mostly old and crappy second hand books by mostly american authors and unknown writers (at least to me) but if you care to be patient enough and willing to strain your neck poring over every title upon rows and rows of benches, you sometimes can get nice surprises, interesting memoirs, biographies and travel books and anything to do with mark twain which is really fine with me as i love this guy. bigbookshop at atria now has a permanent warehouse sales it seems which is fine with me too. theirs is more british centric (which is fine with me too) and so is times warehouse sales.

trouble is, i used to go and buy books when i get depressed but these days i get depressed when i go and buy more and more books. but still, sometimes things can go bright suddenly when you find that little surprise and book buying is fun again. in the last payless sales at 3k sport centre jln kewajipan Subang jaya (which seems crappier and crappier than ever) found kurt vonnegut's "fates worse than death" an autobiography of sort , a continuation of his earlier "palm sunday". and his early and one of the most wellknown novel "siren of titan". Now i have almost complete collection of his books saved a couple or three. and i'm currently (still) reading "mother night" and incidently there were 3 essays on vonnegut alone in William boyd's "bamboo" his collections of literary reviews, criticisms and essays which i bought at the big bookshop.

boyd has this to say about vonnegut in "bamboo" ,

i have often suspected that a reader's reaction to vonnegut's style depends largely on the mood he or she happens to be in at the time. it's quite possible one day to be entertained, and the next to be irked and infuriated. This is not a result of inconsistencies in Vonnegut: his tone of voice has remain remarkably consistent through his writing career- a curious blend of faux naivete and profanity, of innocence and deep irony.

and in another essay , this:

it seems to me that all the books mentioned emerge directly from the author's baffled observation of human life and nature...

....In this sense vonnegut is the most overtly humane of that remarkable generation of of American novelists to which he belongs, and it's to his undying credit that no sentiment, pap or any kind of emotional sop ever clouds or diminishes the cool , ironic, unapologetic quality of his vision.

on the other hand, one thing i noticed in bigbookshop and times warehouse sales , among other books are books by overtly muslim women on how hard their lives have been in their (muslim) countries. i say overtly muslim because you can see the book covers with women dressed in chador or head scarves and obviously trying to entice readers interested in exotic muslim lands and terrible muslim men. i can't say how good or bad these books are but my gut feeling is don't waste time with these whiny writings. they are probably myopic and unlike vonnegut, most likely they don't view things in cynical but 'humane' lenses. one tasleema taslim from bangla desh started this kind of writings way back during rushdie's satanic verses period and for her effort she was hounded out of bangla desh and i don't know or care where she is right now. that is also what happened to one ayaan hirsi ali who left country (somalia) and went to live in holland and now the US and with irate muslims baying for her blood.

i once saw her interview on tv in my new york hotel room early this year jabbering away about her escaping genital mutilation and whatnots and she sound so stupid and get me very angry. and my view hasn't changed after reading a bit more about her elsewhere. but an average coconut living around posh kl areas (bangsar, damansara et al) can easily identify with this woman i'm sure.

and so happened that this morning i read in guardian unlimited blog on this very subject about this latest slew of women writers from islamic countries writing about their terrible times in their home (muslim) countries. and you can see it here. with all the fun and vitriolic forum included.

is it legitimate, then, to pose the question why biographies/autobiographies of Muslim Middle Eastern women are only those that tell the story of persecution, oppression and suppression? says the piece on the guardian blog

and it is a question well worth asking.

i've recently read mukhtar mai's book and haven't got around to posting a review of it but will soon

these books are a variant of the misery memoir of course, and unhappiness sells books

that's not to say that each of these women are "whining" though!

thanks goodness we have dina
yes, but still, because of these books we're reinforcing the stereotype that all muslim countries ever do is to mistreat and keep their women as slaves.

and yes, dina is one ballsy writer...not a very scientifically accurate mataphor as dina is a lady and don't have that appendages but that's the best way to describe her excellent writing.

ps; i have not read her i am muslim yet...for fear that i might get very angry and write some nasty comments in my blog which may get her very angry at me again ha ha...
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