Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Malaysian Essays 2: A Gonzo Un-Review

Amir Muhammad launched his New Malaysian Essays 2 tonight, or was it last night? Anyway, more or less on the stroke of 8pm, July 4th - Independence Day, yay Will Smith! - 2009.

At least I think it was at 8pm. I only got there at 9.30pm, to find the barbecue vacated by the now-stuffed-and-ready-to-leave eldritch and batrachian inhabitants of squameous dollotch. I mean, vacated by the guests. Yes. Guests.

So, the food was made available to me. Finding three chunks of medium rare beef on a plate, I asked, politely, if it was spoken for.

Given the green light, I immediately took two of the three pieces - a decision I would later regret.

Regret, because as soon as I wanted to make my getaway, Ruhayat X who, like Malcolm X, was shipped here on the Mayflower, circa 1620, or the Queen Anne's Revenge - Edward Teach's (Blackbeard) ship, put me in a vice-like wrestling armlock and compelled, nay - forced - me to purchase his and Amir's book.

Having originally gotten there to sample the barbecue and quite possibly some spirited beverages, I regret the fact that I only took two, and not three pieces of barbecued beef as I ended up purchasing the books.

Never you mind. Amir and I go wayyy back. We Amirs stick together. He called me a 'shifty character', and I quietly donated just RM2 to watch his first screening of 6shorts at that place that got flooded. Wossisname? Tip of my tongue...Plaza something-something.

So, we're even.

Anyway, having purchased the books - New Malaysian Essays 2 and ELARTI: GA - I am compelled to do a review.

Yes. A review. Even though I have yet to read the book. The books are here right now, opened on my lap and I am just halfway through Shanon Shah's essay The Khutbah Diaries.

Yep, you guessed it. Like The Princess Diaries, but it's about Khutbahs. Or sermons. More specifically Friday sermons, in mosques.

What surprised me was that Shanon Shah actually goes to the mosque on a regular basis and - more importantly - took great pains to listen to the contents of Friday sermons when any God-fearing Muslim would know that as a time to simply nod off for half an hour and dream of nasi beryani or kari kepala ikan or stuff like that.

It's the form, Shanon, not the content. As long as you SEEM to be Muslim, it's okay no matter what you do.

After reading the contents, which I will not share explicitly here so as not to spoil the book for you readers and potential buyers out there, I must say that I agree. Yep. It is an outrage! An outrage!


I must say it is a well-researched article, with quotes from umm...let me see here...the Koran, the Old Testament, and quite possibly other Holy Books. And even a V for Vendetta reference.

The comic book, I hope, and not the movie, which was a blasphemy of the highest order on one of the greatest works of art mankind has ever produced.

Having been fueled with outrage and righteous indignation, with a sprinkling of nostalgia - feelings I believe no doubt will be more evident when I actually have read the entire essay, the book now serves The Architecture of Putrajaya: Power, Democracy and Islamic Values by Mohamad Tajudin Mohamad Rusdi.

I was taken aback by the name, because I thought it was Tajudin Rosli, whom I think is either a prominent politician or a businessman or both. But no, this is another guy.

It's a long essay, with cute little pictures and wide open spaces. So even though the text looks a tad small, it's actually not that long.

My only complaint is that the pictures have no colour. I would gladly have paid RM10 more, if somebody with deft colouring skills and some crayons could splash some colour into this book.

I am sure it is very informative, akin to a National Geographic documentary on buildings plus the suspense of a Dan Brown novel. I am sure I would be very impressed, if I had read it - which I will on some later date.

But for now -

Hari-Hari Terakhir Seorang Flaneur. By Ridhwan Saidi. The 'a' in 'flaneur' has a cap or something, which I do not care to reproduce here using Windows' character map application.

It's in Bahasa Malaysia and starts with a semi-fictional segment.

A soliloquy starts, complete with a label saying that the previous monologue has ended and a soliloquy has begun.

And then, two paragraphs later, the soliloquy ends and a monologue by the young man has started. ANd yes, labels here, too.

This essay is reminiscent of two things - pieces of writing that writers - the cool ones - used to do way back in the 70s and 80s, and 'karangan keperihalan' exercise in Malaysian primary schools.

Around 30-40 years ago, Malaysian hip writers would always come up with some pieces that has, without fail:

1. Men smoking cigarettes in a decaying urban landscape. Used to be Central MArket, but Ridhwan has chosen Brickfields as well.

2. Public transportation. Minibuses have made way for actual, real buses. As minibuses have gone the way of the dodo.

3. Decadent counterculturalists, represented here by a host of characters, including a transvestite with big titties, beggars, and jogging expats. Why decadent? I don't know. Just felt like using the word.

Erm...done. For now.

Aku, Hang & Demo: A Pictorial Guide by Danny Lim.

Ah, see the rapier-sharp wit of the title! Aku (I), Hang (You, northern dialect) and Demo (double meaning! Demo as in 'you guys'/'they', East Coast or demo as short for 'demonstration').


It is a pictorial about the Hindraf demonstrations.

And now, I am tired and wish to sleep. I shall continue tomorrow as we look at Of Jackfruit and Kings by Amir Muhammad. And Ruhayat X's ELARTI: GA.

ANyway, thanks for the meat. And thanks for getting me to buy the books. I can see now that it is well worth it.

More later.