Tuesday, July 31, 2007


From the article Are You Normal Or Nuts, Reader's Digest Aug 07:
Why do I twirl my hair with one finger whenever I read? I never do this except when I'm reading.
Just be glad you don't have trichotillomania, the impulse to pull out your hair in clumps - from your head, eyebrows and other fuzzy body parts. Your behaviour is just a quirk, not harmful and probably quite helpful. Chances are you developed your bookish hair twirling as a body language clue to people around you. What does your finger in your locks say? It says, "Leave me alone! I'm reading."
What are they saying? That trichotillomaniacs are NUTS? Cuckoo?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cigarette Packet Books

Coolness. Books designed to resemble cigaratte packs.

Tankbooks official site here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

501 Must Reads : Memoirs

Although I read more modern fiction than any other genre, my favourite is actually Autobiographies. I like reading other people lives - it either inspires you, or makes you thank your lucky stars you have the kind of life you have. (I love inspiring ones better, of course).

Here's the Memoirs reading list from 501 Must-Read Books. I've only read a few from the recommendations so far, each one of which was a brilliant read. Memoirs are not as readily available as fiction title - Kino is a safer bet than MPH on these.

1) * Paula Isabel Allende
2) Journal Intime Henri-Frederic Amiel
3) Aubrey's Brief Lives John Aubrey
4) Confessions Augustine
5) Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter Simone de Beauvoir
6) My Left Foot Christy Brown
7) The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini Benvenuto Cellini
8) The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus Cyril Connolly
9) * Boy: Tales of Childhood Roald Dahl
10) * My Family and Other Animals George Durell

11) An Angel at My Table Janet Frame
12) * The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank
13) Journals 1889-1949 Andre Paul Guillaume Gide
14) Poetry and Truth: From My Own Life Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
15) Father and son: A Study of Two Temperaments Edmund Gosse
16) Ways of Escape Grahame Greene
17) Black Like Me John Howard Griffin
18) 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff
19) Pentimento Lilian Hellman
20) Childhood, Youth and Exile Alexander Herzen

21) The Diary of Alice James Alice James
22) Memories, Dreams, Reflections Carl Gustav Jung
23) Diaries 1919-23 Franz Kafka
24) The Story of My Life Helen Keller
25) The Book of Margery Kempe Margery Kempe
26) I Will Bear Witness Victor Klemperer
27) In the Castle of My Skin George Lamming
28) A Grief Observed C. S. Lewis
29) The Towers of Trebizond Rose Macaulay
30) Journal of Katherine Mansfield Katherine Mansfield

31) The Seven Storey Mountain Thomas Merton
32) The Pursuit of Love Nancy Mitford
33) Borrowed Time Paul Monette
34) My Place Saly Morgan
35) Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited Vladimir Nabakov
36) * Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Azar Nafisi
37) Memoirs Pablo Neruda
38) Potrait of a Marriage Nigel Nicolson
39) Running in the Family Michael Ondaatje
40) Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

41) Autobiography of a Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda
42) Diary Samuel Pepys
43) Letters Pliny the Younger
44) Confessions Jean-Jacques Rousseau
45) Words Jean-Paul Sartre
46) Journal of a Solitude May Sarton
47) Walden Henry David Thoreau
48) De Profundis Oscar Wilde
49) Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson
50) Autobiographies William Butler Yeats

* read

Harry Potter and the Under Eye

This is my eye.
This is my eye with Harry Potter non-stop reading eyeshadow.

Thanks Kenny for lending me your copy of Deathly Hallows.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MPH Members' Merdeka Sale

Look what came in the mail yesterday.

The postcard says:

MPH Members' Merdeka Sale, 1 - 5 August 2007
  • 15% discount on all books and 10% discount on CDs, cassettes, stationery, cards & gifts
  • 20% discount on all M014 and M028 titles
Yippie. Good time to go look for goat husbandry books for Daddy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Some time back I blogged about a purchase I made, influenced by the blurb on the cover. I got Marisha Pesshl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics because of the blurb that said:

‘Made me stay up all night reading. I loved this book’ Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife

Now The Time Traveller’s Wife made me stay up all night, so I’m trusting this blurb. And it’s true! Special Topics in Calamity Physics is fantastic! (And I’ve just started it, only at pg 47 of 669, and already I’m frothing at the mouth!)

I’m not staying up reading, though. The prose is so beautiful I’m savoring it in tiny chunks. I love the style of writing – clever use of words and sayings, complete with annotations (the narrator’s dad is a professor, hence the influence) and Big Caps on Highlighted Phrases. Quirky!

There are big words and literary references throughout the book, but the words are arranged so well they sing a beautiful aria. Despite the big words the prose does not tax you nor insult your intellect (unlike Hari Kunzru’s prose. Read my rant here).

Here’s an excerpt of the prose I’m raving about.

         Dad picked up women the way certain wool pants can’t help but pick up lint. For years I had a nickname for them, though I feel a bit guilty using it now: June Bugs (see “Figeater Beetle”, Ordinary Insects, Vol. 24).
         There was Mona Letrovski, the actress from Chicago with wide-set eyes and dark hair on her arms who liked to shout “Gareth, you’re a fool”, with her back to him, Dad’s cue to run over to her, turn her around, and see the Look of Bitter Longing on her face. Only Dad never turned her around to see the Bitter Longing. Instead, he stared at her back as if it were an abstract painting. Then he went into the kitchen for a glass of bourbon. There was Connie Madison Parker, whose perfume hung in the air like a battered piñata. There was Zula Pierce of Okush, New Mexico, a black woman who was taller than he was, so whenever Dad kissed her she had to bend down as if peeking through a peephole to see who was ringing her bell. She started out calling me “Blue, honey”, which, like her relationship with Dad, slowly began to erode, becoming “Bluehoney” and then “Blueoney”, ultimately ending with “Baloney”. (“Baloney had it in for me from the very beginning!” she screamed.)
         Dad’s romances can last anywhere between a platypus egg incubation (19-21 days) and a squirrel pregnancy (24-45 days). I admit sometimes I hated them, especially the ones teeming with Ladies’ Tips, How-tos and Ways to Improve, the ones like Connie Madison Parker, who muscled her way into my bathroom and chastised me for hiding my merchandise (see “Molluscs”, Encyclopedia of Living Things, 4th ed.).

I like!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sum of Harry Potter

Have you been following the Harry Potter local retail saga over the weekend? Here's a good recap of the whole thing.

All the Harry Potter (Malaysian-Related) News

I've read the Wikipedia page on the latest Harry Potter book, that's enough for me at the moment (I know who dies!). Now I'll wait for all seven books in a nice paperback edition set, then get them and restart reading from book 1 onwards. My bookshelf does not yet have any Harry Potters in it - I've been shamelessly reading off other people :).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Harry Potter Retail Circus

There is a copious absent of Harry Potterism on this blog, mainly because I’m not salivating for the final installment and can live with someone telling me who died before reading it. Already too much Potterism everywhere as July 21st approaches, me thinks.

But now I’m so excited I just have to have a say! Four major bookstore chains (MPH, Times, Popular and Harris) will not sell the latest book, in protest of hypermarkets selling them at RM69.90, as opposed to the retail price of RM109.90.

You can read on all the furor in the links below, both from major newspapers and local literati blogs. The bookstores are crying foul, the hypermarkets are feebly defending, while the publisher is serving up excuses. What a circus!

I think the problem could be just oversight. The hypermarkets are at war with each other, and I’m guessing that when one got the info that the other is selling it as x price, they follow suit as a marketing strategy. In the rush to quash the competitor they both forgot the bookstores – the ones who invested manpower and money in planning and promotion for the last few months. Nor did they value the Harry Potter mania – a book sale is just a money transaction, no care about the anticipation, no consideration about the enormity of what this book represents to die-hard fans.

I think the hypermarkets are to blame. The last Harry Potter book unveiling was suppose to be a magical event, a culmination of all that waiting and hyperventilating. Now here it’s turned into an ugly war – not a price war, but an ethics war.

And I think that the people who should be most ashamed are those other bookstores (no need names) that did not join these four brave ones taking a stand.

Read TheStar's main page news here.
Read NST's news item here.
Read bibliobibuli's take here.
Read eric forbes' take here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Drama in MPH MidValley

Something interesting happened yesterday at MPH MidValley.

I was just outside mph’s entrance with a bunch of friends, lounging waiting for another to show up. Suddenly this guy yelled “WHAT? OK COME BLA BLA BLA”. We all turned to watch this ample (ok, fat. faaaat) office attired guy huffing and puffing his way back into the store, escorted by an mph guard and an mph personnel.

Drama! I like! Of course we followed into the store, in the true spirit of Malaysian kepoh-ness. The ample guy was making a scene. He whipped out his phone and started yelling to someone about being detained in mph and having to be somewhere important ‘right now’ and the High Commission calling him to go there or something like that. He had an audience of browsers peeping from the safety of shelves, and frankly he looked silly.

We were all wondering what happened, but with no facts let’s do the next best Malaysian sport – speculate. My guess would be he was doing something illegal. Book-lifting? Book-defacing? His body language was guilty as hell.

1: He was shrieking. Not yelling like an angry customer, but shrieking like a cornered dog.
2: He name dropped High Commission, etc etc. Err…
3: He looked the part – flustered and out of control.

Anyway we didn’t get to observe much. The management astutely shooed him into the office and dealt with him behind closed doors.

See, bookshops can be so fun!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Philip K. Dick Book Covers

Author Philip K. Dick has a gallery of book covers of all his works, in all editions. So cool! The gallery also includes covers of translated editions. See his gallery here.

Here's a few choice covers of his book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (what an eye-catching title).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In The Country of Men by Hisham Matar

A Review

Title: In The Country of Men
Author: Hisham Matar
Price: RM 35.50

This is an emotionally gripping tale.

9 year old Suleiman is his mother’s constant companion as his father frequently leaves home for business trips. An ordinary enough life, except that this was Libya with the Revolutionary Committee keeping its keen eye peeled, except that the mother morphs into a depressed and “medicated” state when the father is not around, except that the father is in fact around and doing things the Revolutionary Committee might be very interested in.

Little Suleiman narrates this story of his world; the games he plays, the people in his life, and the things he sees. I found it heartrending to read of his world of childish innocence and yet be aware of the dark political fury gathering in the background of his parents’ world.

It was even more heartrending to read on as the political fury gets out of hand – and oblivious little Suleiman stays oblivious. A few times I felt like grabbing Suleiman out of the book, sit him on my lap and tell him the things the adults are taking pains not to tell him. Keeping Suleiman unaware might cost the adults their fight, as he interprets the goings-on himself and comes to conclusions that will make you feel so helpless.

This book made me feel so much. A recommended read.

And do not ignore little kids. What they don’t know might just be worse (for all!) then what they know.

Book Covers I Like : No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series

Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series is a fun read, with very fun covers. The cover of each book is a burst of colours and pattern so wild yet still in theme with each other. I have six of the set - the seventh is out but I'm waiting for this particular edition before I get it.

Here's the covers - so cheerful!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Towards 100 Books : 62 !

I've upped my previous book count to 62 with these recent reads.

1) A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
2) Forest of the Pygmies Isabel Allende
3) Testing Kate Whitney Gaskell
4) In the Country of Men Hisham Matar
5) Confessions of an Air Hostess Marisa Mackle

That's two good reads, one young adult read, and two light LBD reads. Can you guess which is which from the titles?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Book Trivia : Book Sizes

Found this on Wikipedia's Book entry. I prefer all my books to be of uniform size - I like em sextodecimo!

The size of a modern book is based on the printing area of a common flatbed press. The pages of type were arranged and clamped in a frame, so that when printed on a sheet of paper the full size of the press, the pages would be right side up and in order when the sheet was folded, and the folded edges trimmed.

The most common book sizes are:

  • Quarto (4to): the sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight pages) approximately 11-13 inches (ca 30 cm) tall
  • Octavo (8vo): the most common size for current hardcover books. The sheet is folded three times into eight leaves (16 pages) up to 9 ¾" (ca 23 cm) tall.
  • DuoDecimo (12mo): a size between 8vo and 16mo, up to 7 ¾" (ca 18 cm) tall
  • Sextodecimo (16mo): the sheet is folded four times, forming sixteen leaves (32 pages) up to 6 ¾" (ca 15 cm) tall

Sizes larger than quarto are:

  • Folio: up to 15" (ca 38 cm) tall.
  • Elephant Folio: up to 23" (ca 58 cm) tall.
  • Atlas Folio: up to 25" (ca 63 cm) tall.
  • Double Elephant Folio: up to 50" (ca 127 cm) tall.

Sizes smaller than 16mo are:

  • 24mo: up to 5 ¾" (ca 13 cm) tall.
  • 32mo: up to 5" (ca 12 cm) tall.
  • 48mo: up to 4" (ca 10 cm) tall.
  • 64mo: up to 3" (ca 8 cm) tall.
Complete wiki book entry here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

... another man's heart.

Excerpt from Hisham Matar's In The Country Of Men.

"... but it's a sign of madness, I know, to claim to know what is in another man's heart."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Today's Buy: 12 July 07

@ MPH Subang Parade

Two bookstore strikes in a week! My wallet is protesting loudly but I'm pretending not to hear.

In The Country of Men
Hisham Matar

I've seen this previously in the big version, and was tempted by the back cover blurb. This book is the nice small size I prefer. I've never read anything remotely Libyan before, am looking forward to reading this.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Marisha Pessl

Aha. This book looks yummy, and the title just gets your attention. I've read that the book is good, but its massive girth (it's 669 pages thick) has made me balk at getting it before.

This time around I saw this on the cover : ' "Made me stay up all night reading. I loved this book" - Audrey Niffenegger'. Since her book made me stay up all night, I'm trusting Audrey on this one.

Confessions of an Air Hostess
Marisa Mackle

Yet another Little Black Dress. I'm done with the one I bought previously, so on the next!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Hari Kunzru's sentences

Teddy has a post on Hari Kunzru, and I dropped a comment that I found his novel (Hari, not Teddy) Trasmission overdoses you with too much wit. I feel that maybe Transmission overwhelms with its clever sentences, I find myself both marveling the words and choking on the mouthfuls of them.

Here's a line from Tranmission:

Transmistted across the vastness of space, Jennifer Johanssen's voice sounded calming and competent, a moisturizing balm formulated to take away the pain and soreness of the words it uttered.

And another one:

Occasionally, in the face of some violently patterned piece of knitwear, he would try to introduce the possibility that his baggage allowance would be very small, or suggest that California might not be as could as she thought.

And yet another one:

At least once a visit she would mention that her husband Bryan was having business difficulties, the subtext being that this was the only reason she would demean herself by pandering to their personal needs.

I find his sentences too much of a mouthful. Salman Rushdie's works are also full of dandy words and long long sentences with many commas, but his sounds poetic - almost as if there's sitar music accompanying the words. Hari Kunzru's words has a tune of a bad rock band, it gives me a headache.

Times the Bookshop Voucher.

I got an early birthday prezzie from Times The Bookshop. A very very early one, but I'm not complaining!

It's an RM3 voucher and 20% discount valid for the birthday month. Unfortunately it does not clearly say if the discount is valid on one item or the whole purchase.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


In Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, one of its many varied character is Koroviev, an ex-choirmaster who wears a check jacket & a broken pince-nez. I was half-way through this twisted book before I had to look up what exactly a pince-nez is. My imaginary Koroviev's image was hazy, I had to complete him.

This is a pince-nez.

Wiki says:

Pince-nez (IPA: [pɛ̃s ˈneː]) are a style of spectacles, popular in the nineteenth century, which are supported without earpieces, by pinching the bridge of the nose. The name comes from the French for "pinch nose."

See full wiki listing here.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Library I Like


More wonderful photos here.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Today's Buy: 8 July 07

@ MPH Summit USJ

Testing Kate
Whitney Gaskell
RM 19.90

Marley & Me
John Grogan
RM 32.90

I went into MPH looking for Tinling Choong's FireWife. And I found it. And I gasped at the RM70 price tag for a small hardcover. And I don't prefer hardcover. So...

Marley & Me has been on my radar for awhile (actually Mr. Gila's radar, but we're slowly morphing into each other so my radar inherited this). Marley is the writer's neurotic dog who invades/enriches his family's life. This story should be an interesting read. I've always balked at getting the hardcover version available everywhere, so when I saw this in paperback I had to have it. As a nice gift for Mr. Gila, of course.

Since I didn't get FireWIfe, I consoled myself with yet another Little Black Dress - Whitney Gaskell's Testing Kate. The cover is yummy yummy yummy. Another one to add to my overloaded bookshelf.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Top 5 Books I Recommend

Rob Fleming and his colleagues at his record store (of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity) pass their time making "top-five" lists of everything - best elvis song, all time record, best side b hit, etc etc.

They do it so much you can't help being influenced, so here's my Top 5 Books I Spout When Someone Ask Me To Recommend A Book*:

1) The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger
2) Life of Pi Yann Martell
3) The World According To Garp John Irving
4) Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami
5) I, Poolan Devi (autobiography)

What are yours? Recommend me some!

*All these are titles from my library, so I can recommend and lend them the title. I think these are good books to get non-avid readers interest going, and are also great books for avid-readers to appreciate.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

A Review

Title : A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess
Price : RM10 @ Big Bookshop Sale

I found A Clockwork Orange a challenging read. Firstly because of my slight allergy to the science fiction genre, and second because of the narration was peppered with nadsat speak.

Take for example this chapter from the first page of the book:

Our pockets were full of deng, so there was no real need from the point of view of crasting any more pretty polly to tolchock some old veck in an ally and viddy him swim in his blood while we counted the takings and divided by four, nor to do the ultra-violent on some shivering starry grey-haired ptitsa in a shop and go smecking off with the till’s guts. But, as they say, money isn’t everything.

The slang words are understandable taken in context, but you have to be alert to take in their meanings. Scan-reading is out of the question, so I had to read the book almost word for word.

A Clockwork Orange is about Alex, a teenage boy who seems to have the worst traits of the modern youth culture. He goes around with his ‘droogs’ smashing, spoiling, looting, raping, pillaging and oops … he did a murder too.

Whilst serving his jail sentence for the murder, Alex gets picked for a radical new program to ‘reform’ criminals. The reform program is interesting, and so is its success (or failure?).

Read the book to find out.
And be alarmed. Be very alarmed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

501 Must Reads : Science Fiction

To that person who came here with the search words "501 must read books science fiction", here's the list for you.

1) The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Noel Adams
2) Hothouse Brian Aldiss
3) Brain Wave Poul Anderson
4) I, Robot Isaac Asimov
5) The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
6) The Crystal World J. G. Ballard
7) The Demolished Man Alfred Bester
8) Who Goes There John W. Campbell
9) The Invention of Morel Adolfo Bioy Casares
10) Planet of the Apes Pierre Boulle

11) The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
12) The Sheep Look Up John Brunner
13) A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
14) Erewhon Samuel Butler
15) Cosmicomics Italo Calvino
16) 2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke
17) A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder James De Mille
18) The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Philip K. Dick
19) To Your Scattered Bodies Go Philip Jose Farmer
20) Neuromancer William Gibson

21) Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein
22) Dune Frank Herbert
23) Brave New World Aldous Huxley
24) Two Planets Kurd Lasswitz
25) Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin
26) Solaris Stanislaw Lem
27) Shikasta Doris Lessing
28) Stepford Wives Ira Levin
29) Out of the Silent Planet C. S. Lewis
30) I am Legend Richard Matheson

31) Dwellers in Mirage Abraham Merritt
32) A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter Miller
33) Ringworld Larry Niven
34) Time Traders Andre Norton
35) Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
36) The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket Edgar Allan Poe
37) The Inverted World Christopher Priest
38) The Green Child Herbert Read
39) The Laxian Key Robert Sheckley
40) City Clifford D. Simak

41) Donovan's Brain Curt Siodmak
42) Lest Darkness Fall L. Sprague De Camp
43) Last and First Men Olaf Stapledon
44) More Than Human Theodore Sturgeon
45) Slan A. E. Van Vogt
46) A Journey to the Centre of the Earth Jules Verne
47) Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade Kurt Vonnegurt
48) The Island of Doctor Moreau H. G. Wells
49) Islandia Austin Tappan Wright
50) The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Why is Teddy reading?

One recurring question from the previous post:

Why is Teddy reading?
Because he wants to :D.

Teddy was reading as a participant of the Monthly Readings series organized by Sharon Bakar. Readings is an event aimed to showcase local writers and encourage new writing talents. The series is a monthly event and Teddy was reading for the June 2007 installment of it.

What happens is participants go up and read out passages of their writing : prose, poetry or both. Participants are writers lined up beforehand, so yes you may go and watch and no you don’t have to be a writer to attend. You don’t even need to be artsy-fartsy inclined. The event is held at the art gallery Seksan in Bangsar, which explains the work of art in the background.

This is my first time attending a local literary event (although I’ve been meaning to attend one since last year! Procrastinator!). It was interesting. Let’s go through my observation of the readers.

David Byck – I liked his reading style. Nice. But the story was a bit of a bore, not something I will rave about. But oh! His reading was bea-u-tiful.

Teddy – HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. And I’ve read the work he’s reading too. If I didn’t have to keep my hand steady for the video I might have been rolling on the floor clutching my sides. See video here.

Gary Ooi – I actually have no other opinion other than it being nice.

Liyana – Terrific prose and poetry, terrific delivery. I’m in love with this goth-ish chick.

Andre – This is the one read I did not enjoy. Andre has a heavy accent and rolls his ‘rrr’s while reading. I discovered then that my internal reading voice has an accent just like mine and this ‘rrr’s accent threw me off balance and I stopped listening. I tried tuning in now and then but his subject matter of pain and suffering and subjection (it was the “moaning and groaning”, as opposed to “let’s do something about this”, tone) turned me right off again.

Sharon – Her reading is very calm, but the strength of her works is staggering. Her first prose about her mother’s illness gave me goosebumps (yes it was that good). I have a line of another of her stories stuck in my head – “You did not hear the ‘if’ in my sentence”. I like, I like it very very much.

So, are you coming to the next one? Look out for announcements for the upcoming ones from Sharon.

See Sharon’s write-up here.
See Teddy’s write up here.
See Ash’s photos here.
See Sufian’s photos here.

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