Archive for February, 2010


I am off to Australia tomorrow so please do excuse me if I am not able to write for a day or two. I shall definitely catch up in the first instance.


Bruce Hollingdrake’s Bookshop Blog

‘m careful with animations as a general rule  lest they strike the reader as cheesy but this ticklish picture does give me a slight bounce and subdues the often serious fare that follows any composition on books. Do in this instance, forgive the little lady who dashes out of the bookstore with marathon speed and zooms off in her little black car.  You will agree that she has just stepped out from a rather remarkable building!!

It wasn’t until Bruce Hollingdrake began  following my tweets that I stumbled onto his admirable online site, The Bookshop Blog. His, turns out to be a lively, vibrant portal, specializing with astounding innovation; the numerous subjects often essential to the world of bookselling.

Not only is Hollingdrake’s site splendidly conceived what with its striking unorthodox visual impressions and somewhat encyclopedic topic list – he’s got something for everyone interested in books, bookselling and bookshop ownership – that you’d be hard placed to stay content with just a glance. 

He also commands an expert writing crew on hand who all contribute to assorted topics and by the way, do look out for the longish list of online bookstores. Without a doubt, Hollingdrake mixes a generous amount of talent, pride and passion with which to engulf  the ever-enchanting, eclectic world of books. – susan abraham

Credit: Animation gif courtesy of AnimationPlayhouse &
Alphabet Clip Art, courtesy of

Book Cover Design – The Japanese Lover by Rani Manicka

by Susan Abraham

The first books blog to post this:

Here is the book cover design for The Japanese Lover, authored by London-based Malaysian novelist, Rani Manicka and to be published by Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton in the UK on May 13, 2010.

More information to the novel’s romantic plot which projects its fictional setting in Malaya during the Second World War; plus the novelist herself, are to be had here:

A Few Thoughts from Amanda Sington-Williams

by Susan Abraham

Well…I flew into Singapore early this morning and will fly out once more tonight as I leave this weekend for Australia. To follow those famous lyrics from Leaving on a Jetplane, it’s a case of  ‘All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…”

I’m off to explore Arab & Bagdad Streets and Singapore’s Chinatown for the moment.  I am engulfed now only with vague memories at the most of  these particular locations; it’s been a few good years and way too long for Singapore to once more reach out her hand to me, while armed with her breathy  hint of seduction for an assortment of quaint nooks and alleys, not often seen to the eye.

However, I have heard from Amanda Sington-Williams (pictured here) this morning – she authors an exciting  historical novel,  The Eloquence of Desire  – so will not go off without leaving you a few poignant thoughts on how she views her new book  to be published shortly by Sparkling Books  in the UK.  Her romantic plot focusses on a slice of old Malaya and you may read much more from my first blog post on the subject over Here. – susan abraham

Below, Amanda Sington-Williams (AMS) explains why she  set The Eloquence of Desire in old Malaysia.

“Before I embarked on my novel, I wrote a short story called ‘The Carving’ which was set in Malaysia during the 1930s. This was shortlisted for The Asham Award and I thought I would take the three central characters and transform them into a novel. But I decided to move them on a bit time-wise as I’ve always had a fascination for the 1950s, the fashions and how the nuclear family were presented as perfect, how any flaws were concealed during that period. Books and films set during that period also influenced my decision to set it then. Also I wanted to set the novel before independence but during the Emergency which lasted twelve years.” – AMS

…and on her connections with Malaysia…

“My grandparents lived in Malaysia for twenty two years and my mother and aunt both spent their childhoods there. I grew up with anecdotes of life there and I’ve spent long periods of time in Malaysia. This was a huge influence on my decision to set the novel there. I found old family photographs of my grandparent’s colonial house as well as pictures of the landscape and I was able to see the clothes people wore. My characters live in the houses that my family occupied, though my imagination played a large part too. When I was researching for the novel I came across a journal that a relative called Derrick Sington had written when he was a foreign correspondent for The Manchester Guardian in 1955. It had lots of information about the Emergency and that settled the date in which to set the novel – 1955, the year before independence.” – AMS

Amanda’s book, The Eloquence of Desire will be published by Sparkling Books on June 14th 2010.

For more information on Amanda Sington-Williams, you may click on her Website.
For added information on The Eloquence of Desire, you may click on Sparkling Books.


Diary Jottings

by Susan Abraham

This morning, I woke a little too early. I was well rested but restless. I decided I would start on a new book of short stories.  Although I owned a small stack of novels in my suitcase,  I  had  made up my mind to read the scholarly Daniyal Mueenuddin‘s much-talked about and currently ‘regularly nominated’ book of 8 short stories – strange in a way as all the different tales link to a primary character in a setting – called In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.

I wrote on my Facebook wall today that this book felt densely aromatic and in true seductive fashion, possessed this desirable calming influence on my morning even as the dawn broke and the early sounds of traffic started to roar.
So soothing was the escapade that I caught something of a swift sensory whiff. I likened my spontaneous affair to the short luxury of a woman dabbing a touch of  cinnamon scent to a secret place.
Or what I meant to say was that the very act of reading can prove intimate without any sign of a conscious realization.Mueenuddin stayed by intuition,  an excellent choice. I am now halfway through and hope to finish the book tonight.
Notwithstanding the fact that I am a naturally fast reader, his tales revolving around servant and peasant life of a large landowning family is so picturesque that you catch the motley haphazard crowd of  characters everywhere…you may likely smell an aftershave or better still some pungent cow dung, catch the sound of running footsteps, breathe in tantalizing kitchen smells and so on.
His stories make for a black comedy. They’re semi-tragic. Vulnerabilities rule and for some reason, the rich, corrupt and cunning always win. Women are portrayed as powerless but shrewd, grabbing whatever they dare at the earliest opportunity. Men escape the painful consequences of weaknesses and flaws through the throes of insensitivity, duty and commitment. Mismatched love stories mingle with the comic foible of human behaviour patterns and suggest subtly of how dark shadows are perhaps more powerful than light.
For instance, when someone requests a favour, he gets it from a person  starting with an individual who may be related to a niece or nephew who goes on to marry someone else who once loaned someone something and who promised the onset of a favour….if you see where I’m getting at. This is so true of real life no matter all the ethical principles we memorise for the glory of a civic consciousness.
Of course, this isn’t a review at all. They are just rushed thoughts but how blessed I feel that Daniyal Mueenuddin gave me a glorious start to the day with all the intriguing secrets that jump out at the reader from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
Feb 25, 2010 Note: I finished reading the joyous In Other Rooms, Other Wonders last night. What was immediately apparent was of how the later stories which featured socialities accompanied by  their vague romances carried the sharply poignant air of Lahiri’s own stories. The narrations that were all deeply profound possessed a similar crystal-clear feel, so translucent were the fast-paced plots and introspections. I was startled finally to read at the back of the book that the novelist Nadeem Aslam had felt the same. In his praise,  he compared Mueenuddin to Lahiri.  I was naturally pleased as it showed that despite a long gap, I was still thankfully attuned to South Asian fiction.


by Susan Abraham

Every now and again, I fancy taking a long peek into the Tehran Times. Not that I am keen to nose around for an episode that may yet prove controversial and unexplained.  The truth is that I take enormous pleasure in skimming through a Persian newspaper which may  offer a groundwork for a sharper depth of knowledge and broader viewpoints when succumbing to  Iran’s domestic matters. This, as opposed to varied media that signal a different portrayal for a predictable worldview.

I first stumbled on  the newspaper as my interest in Iranian and Middle-Eastern cinema, all accompanied by classical literature, soared rapidly in 2008. I was determined to absorb myself with Persian culture. Cinema had awakened the slumbering child in me and I became laden with an inate curiosity purported to someone at play while musing on the workings of Iranian peasantry, country and town life. Perhaps it was the extraordinary exoticism that would choose to prevail itself in a way I found delightful.   I watched several Iranian films while imbued by thoughtful reflection and feeling slightly obsessed  – it was often one screenplay after another like a stack of cards – still hoard unopened favourites in my bedroom cupboard back in Dublin.
One fascinating  section is the Culture category which features many columns on the Arts that often tell me things I don’t know.

Cordial greetings of hospitality that transcend stories of political doom and gloom for instance; the many translated contemporary and classical literature, festivals, exhibitions and the visits of invited international guests made up of poets, writers, artists and illustrators to Tehran and all of whom are treated warmly, are some of these. Clearly, this is the kinder, softer spot of Iran that many don’t always see.

For so long, the quest for the Kilimanjaro sponged up all the rest of my passions and would allow them to be squeezed into my heart only in drops.   Now, while I will once more go mountaineering  in April, East Africa seems to be a little laidback  in my spirit and I am finally able to focus on other things.

Once more after a long time, it was back to the Tehran Times and my first contribution to this blog would be to tell you that eminent Iranian author Hushang Moradi Kermani has had a tidy new comic novella out.  Called Cushion – its fictional tale of which Kermani describes as a soft pillow for intelligent society –  the story is made up of a group of smart citizens of a fictional town who try with fervent intensity, to repair and rebuild a clock dating back to a 100 years.

I am not sure what the innuendos are at the present time but it does sound a savvy plot with important social undertones if I am guessing rightly. Kermani who was born on September 7, 1944 and who also writes for children and teens has had his works translated into several languages including English. Spanish, French, Taiwanese and the Italian. I am currently learning Persian so I must with fascinating interest, look out for this one.

Further Reading:Books by Husang Moradi Kermani at the Iran Bookshop

The Rain in Kuala Lumpur 4.25am Dec 5, 2009

Note: I wrote this just before leaving for the Kilimanjaro climb, at the start of December last year. I had been in Dublin for months and am almost always abroad, in one region or the other. One of the more endearing things I miss about Malaysia is the tropical rain.
by Susan Abraham

The harsh tropical rain beats down the sleepy air in torrents. With closed eyes, I treat myself to the forgotten rush of noise that slices my silence, like a string of fountains in choir. Excitable in togetherness, each one gushes up a melodious spray composed of thunderous hysteria and an orchestrated rhythm bent on applause.

The downpour rises and falls from its cresendo to a slow whimper before another trek climb, up an invisible skyline. Or perhaps a visiting waterfall, mistaking my bedroom for an enchanted forest, waits to pounce unawares. I stay enraptured.

Not far from where I stand, 2 handsome lampposts wear their golden shiny light like Sunday suits, kissing each dainty drop as if they may have secretly been randy lovers at a boisterous party. Who would guess.

I see distant lights from scores of countless apartments and closed offices bathed in yellows and whites and from a nearby street festooned in a strange neon colour…the niftiest royal blue. Far below my window, the rain has painted pavements a sharp silver that makes the puddles glow.

Now and then, tiny cars, buses and lorries snake their way over flyovers and on highways, ferociously determined to challenge the dawn. An empty electronic train shows off acrobatic bodywork. It curls up a circular track with superior dexterity and slides past with a whoosh, vanishing into the darkness.

I observe faraway foreboding buildings loom up like ghosts, their speckled lights and rooftops, melting eerily into the big black skies. I stay untouched by the humidity that lurks outside my glass window.

Instead, I think slowly about how Kuala Lumpur has blossomed into a modern buxomy fullness that threatens to burst with monumental pleasure at its seams. No longer evident is the quaint, uncluttered charm significant of the city – then a township – in the sixties and seventies, where it stayed mothered by lush green jungles and lullabied to a tenderness by cool monsoon winds, manufactured exclusively to the equator.