Monday, March 30, 2009

Book List 2009 - Preliminary


Here we are at the end of the first quarter and we've finally completed our 2009 list of books to read.
Book List 2009

  1. 20th Century Chinese Stories - C.T. Hsia, Ed.
  2. A Dictionary of Common Trinidad Hindi - Kumar Mahabir
  3. A History of Cambodia - David Chandler
  4. A History of Modern Indonesia - M.C. Ricklefs
  5. A House in Gross Disorder - Cynthia B. Herrup
  6. A Mercy - Toni Morrison
  7. A Patchwork Shawl: Chronicles of South Asian Women in America - Ed: Shamita Das Dasgupta
  8. A Point of Light - Zhou Mei
  9. A Spy's Revenge - Richard V. Hall
  10. A Tiger In Red Weather - John Wyllie
  11. A Will For Freedom - Romen Bose
  12. Agnes Smedley - J.R. & S.R. MacKinnon
  13. Anathem - Neal Stephenson
  14. Armed Communist Movements in Southeast Asia - Lim Joo Jock, Vani S., Eds.
  15. Arms and The Women - Reginald Hill
  16. Asian Labour In The Japanese Wartime Empire - Paul Kratosha, Ed.
  17. Baumgartner's Bombay - Anita Desai
  18. Beating the Blues - Thase & Lang
  19. Between Two Oceans - Murkett, Miskic, Farrell, & Chiang
  20. Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott
  21. Bitter Lemons - Lawrence Durrell
  22. Blanche Among The Talented Tenth - Barbara Neely
  23. Blanche Cleans Up - Barbara Neely
  24. Blanche On The Lam - Barbara Neely
  25. Blanche Passes Go - Barbara Neely
  26. Blood On The Golden Sands - Lim Kean Siew
  27. Eye Over The Golden Sands - Lim Kean Siew
  28. Captains of Consciousness - Stuart Ewen
  29. Chandranath - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  30. Chinese Customs - Henri Dore
  31. Clay Walls - Kim Ronyoung
  32. Colonial Masculinity - Mrinalini Sinha
  33. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  34. Death and The Dogwalker - (A.J. Orde) Sherri S. Tepper
  35. Death Comes For The Fat Man - Reginald Hill
  36. Death's Jest-Book - Reginald Hill
  37. Dena-Paona - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  38. Devdas - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  39. Dialogues of the Dead - Reginald Hill
  40. Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic
  41. Extraordinary Popular Delusions - Charles Mackay
  42. Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
  43. First Person Singular - Joyce Carol Oates
  44. Folklore of Tamil Nadu - S.M.L. Lakshman Chettiar
  45. Force 136:Story of A Resistance Fighter in WWII - Tan Chong Tee
  46. From Pacific War to Merdeka - James Wong Wing On
  47. Gaijin - James Clavell
  48. Gandhi's Truth — On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence - Erik H. Erikson
  49. Heart Politics - Fran Peavey
  50. How I Adore You - Mark Pritchard
  51. In Pursuit of Mountain Rats - Anthony Short
  52. In The Grip of a Crisis - Rudy Mosbergen
  53. Kempeitai:The Japanese Secret Service Then And Now - Richard Deacon
  54. Kempeitai - Raymond Lamont Brown
  55. Krait:The Fishing Boat That Went To War - Lynette Ramsay Silver
  56. Kranji - Romen Bose
  57. Labour Unrest in Malaya - Tai Yuen
  58. Lest We Forget - Alice M. Coleman & Joyce E. Williams
  59. Life As The River Flows - Agnes Khoo
  60. Living Hell - Goh Chor Boon
  61. Malay Folk Beliefs - Mohd Taib Osman
  62. Malaya and Singapore During the Japanese Occupation - Paul H. Kratoska, Ed.
  63. Marianne, The Madame, and The Momentary Gods - Sherri S. Tepper
  64. Marianne, The Magus, and The Manticore - Sherri S. Tepper
  65. Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan - Melody Ermachild Chavis
  66. Memory in Mind and Brain - Morton F. Reiser
  67. Modern Japan, A Historical Survey - Hane Mikiso
  68. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
  69. Murder on the Verandah - Eric Lawlor
  70. My Island in the Sun - Khor Cheang Kee
  71. Niels Lyhne - Jens Peter Jacobsen
  72. Niskriti - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  73. Nonsense - Robert J. Gula
  74. No Cowardly Past - James Puthucheary
  75. Operation Matador - Ong Chit Chung
  76. Orientalism - Edward W. Said
  77. Orlando - Virginia Woolf
  78. Outwitting the Gestapo - Lucie Aubrac
  79. Over Tumbled Graves - Jess Walter
  80. Padma River Boatman - Manik Bandhopadhyay
  81. Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  82. Pandit Moshai - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay
  83. Pearl S. Buck, A Cultural Biography - Peter Conn
  84. People's War, People's Army - Vo Nguyen Giap
  85. Power Politics - Arundhati Roy
  86. Primitive Art - Frank Boas
  87. Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson
  88. Purple Cane Road - James Lee Burke
  89. Raffles - Maurice Collins
  90. Reading Lolita In Teheran - Azar Nafisi
  91. Recalled To Life - Reginald Hill
  92. Red Star Over Malaya - Cheah Boon Kheng
  93. Rehearsal for War - Ban Kah Choon & Yap Hong Kuan
  94. Rethinking Raffles - Syed Muhd. Khairudin Aljunied
  95. Revolt in Paradise - K'tut Tantri
  96. Rosie - Anne Lamott
  97. Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye (The Biography Of A Master Film-Maker - Andrew Robinson
  98. Screenwriting 434 - Lew Hunter
  99. Shanghai Refuge, A Memoir of the WWII Jewish Ghetto - Ernest G. Heppner
  100. Sherpas Through Their Rituals - Sherry B. Ortner
  101. Shut Up, I'm Talking - Gregory Levey
  102. Singapore & The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao
  103. Singapore The Air-Conditioned Nation - Cherian George
  104. Singapore The Pregnable Fortress - Peter Elphick
  105. Sisters in the Resistance - Margaret Collins Weitz
  106. Skull Still Bone - John Wyllie
  107. Soldiers Alive - Ishikawa Tatsuzo
  108. Soon I Will be Invincible - Austin Grossman
  109. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce Vol. I - Anthony Reid
  110. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce Vol. II - Anthony Reid
  111. Strangers Always A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai - Rena Krasno
  112. Stress and Mental Health in Malaysian Society - Tan Chee Khuan
  113. Sunset Limited - James Lee Burke
  114. Taming the Wind of Desire - Carol Laderman
  115. The Art of Detection - Laurie R. King
  116. The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera
  117. The Autobiography of An Unknown Indian - Nirad C. Chaudhary
  118. The Bengal Muslims 1871 - 1906 - Ahmed
  119. The Birth of Vietnam - Keith Weller Taylor
  120. The British Humiliation of Burma - Terence R. Blackburn
  121. The Bones - Sherri S. Tepper
  122. The Demon-Haunted World - Carl Sagan
  123. The Devil Finds Work - James Baldwin
  124. The Double Tenth Trial - C. Sleeman, S.C. Sillein, Eds.
  125. The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600 - 1800 - C.R. Boxer
  126. The Emergence of Modern Turkey - Bernard Lewis
  127. The End of the War - Romen Bose
  128. The Eye Over The Golden Sands - Lim Kean Siew
  129. The Gift - Lewis Hyde
  130. The Gravedigger's Daughter - Joyce Carol Oates
  131. The Jungle is Neutral - F. Spencer Chapman
  132. The Killer Breath - John Wyllie
  133. The Lincoln Lawyer - Michael Conolly
  134. The Lives of Agnes Smedley - Ruth Price
  135. The Long, Dark Night of Baron Samedi - John Wyllie
  136. The Malayan Union Controversy 1942-1948 - Albert Lau
  137. The Mak Nyahs Malaysian Male to Female Transexuals - Teh Yik Koon
  138. The March of Folly From Troy To Vietnam - Barbara W. Tuchman
  139. The Companions - Sherri S. Tepper
  140. The Margarets - Sherri S. Tepper
  141. The Mind's I - Hofstadter & Dennett
  142. The Nanjing Massacre - Honda Katsuichi
  143. The Origins of The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific - Iriye Akira
  144. The Pacific War - Ienaga Saburo
  145. The Phor Tor Festival In Penang:Deities, Ghosts, and Chinese Ethnicity - Tan Sooi Beng
  146. The Physics of Star Trek - Lawrence Krauss
  147. The Plague - Albert Camus
  148. The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore - Christopher Tremewan
  149. The Price of Peace - Foong Choon Hon, Ed.
  150. The Prince and The Discourses - Niccolo Machiavelli
  151. The Rape of Nanking - Iris Chang
  152. The Remembered Village - M.N. Srinivasan
  153. The Right To Die - Humphry-Wickett
  154. The Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar - Gordon Napier
  155. The Scents of Eden, A History of the Spice Trade - Charles Corn
  156. The Tin Drum - Gunther Grass
  157. The Tin Roof Blowdown - James Lee Burke
  158. The Ugly Chinaman - Bo Yang
  159. The Vintage Book of Indian Writing - Salman Rushdie, Elizabeth West, Eds.
  160. The War in Malaya - A.E. Percival
  161. The Way of All Flesh - Samuel Butler
  162. Three Came Home - Agnes Newton Keith
  163. To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
  164. The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
  165. Till Morning Comes - Han Suyin
  166. Time Bombs in Malaysia - Lim Kit Siang
  167. To Catch A Viper - John Wyllie
  168. Tokyo Rose - Masayo Duus
  169. Tumbuna Stories 1, The Creation of Animal Life/As Bilong Animal - Thomas H. Slone and Jada Wilson
  170. Tumbuna Stories 2,The Origin of People and Society/As Bilong Manmeri Na Sosaiti - Thomas H. Slone and Peter Leo Ella
  171. Virtual Reality - Howard Rheingold
  172. War & Memory in Malaysia & Singapore - P. Lim Pui Huen, Diana Wong, Eds.
  173. Who Won The Malayan Emergency - Herbert Andrew
  174. Witness to an Era - Frank Moraes
  175. Women in the Holocaust - Dalia Ofer, Lenore J. Weitzman, Eds.
  176. Women, Outcastes, Peasants & Rebels - Kalpana Bardhan
  177. Writers' Workshop in a Book - Cheuse and Alvarez
  178. You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormac
  179. You'll Never Get Off This Island - Keith Wilson
  180. Your Memory: A User's Guide - Alan Baddeley
And before y'awl start yawping about how ambitious I'm being, two things:

1. I already read some of these. After all, this list has been in prep since January, fer cryin' out.

2. It's all the fault of those people who shall remain, as my Primary Three teacher, Mr. Robert Tan, used to say, "nameless and shameless." You know who you are who keep lending/buying/giving me books!

3. Oh, yeah, thanks for the books.

4. I can't count worth shit.

Ms. Manitoba's right. Read the fiction first, it's easier than all those skull-thumpers.

For you, my interested audience (all three of you, c'mon now!) - some of these books have been on the list a mighty long time and still haven't been read. Should I hang on to them, or just let go?

Examples: A Spy's Revenge, Extraordinary Popular Delusions, Heart Politics, Virginia Woolf's work.

Most of these books are about WWII - is this good, for someone still recovering from major surgery? Vote, you get a chance to actually say what I'm gonna kick off my list.

Many of these books have been read and are being reread. Some of them (e.g., Robert Gula's Nonsense) are well worth rereading, repeatedly. Others? I ask you.

Examples: Revolt in Paradise, The Jungle is Neutral, The Mind's Eye (Hofstader, really boring), Howard Rheingold's Virtual Reality (dated), Machiavelli's Prince, The Physics of Star Trek (nerdy nerd nerd!) - really, why reread these? I can understand Camus, I've reread the Plague at least twice in this life AFAICR, but Hofstader? OK, vote already. I'll take your comments into account.

FYI, if you're interested in getting any of these books, they're linked to Amazon, so click and throw a few coins into my wallet, won'tcha? First review coming right up.

From the album of K. Smokey Cormier

All images below are (c) 2009 by K. Smokey Cormier

Tentative title of series: "I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in"

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review 2008

Final. I swear. Enough of 2008, already. End of teh shrub error. So there.

Earlier reviews available here.

Here go:

  • A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya & Leonard Andaya

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? For readers interested in a comprehensive and detailed history of Malaysia from its beginnings through the 20th century.
    Reread? As time permits.

  • A History of Selangor - J. M. Gullick

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Only for those interested in the history of the state of Selangor. For an overall look at the history and politics of current Malaysia, there are much better alternatives. This book is excellent, but somewhat dated and limited in scope.
    Reread? Probably not.

  • A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? This is the second novel of Vikram Seth's that I have read. He is beyond doubt an excellent writer; however, this book lacks the appeal of his first, Golden Gate. A good read, nonetheless.
    Reread? No.

  • Baba Nonnie Goes To War - Ron Mitchell

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Interesting book for those interested in a personal recounting of WWII as it occurred on the Pacific front. The author is sometimes bitter and unhappy, understandable when you consider that, like most little boys, he was raised on the glory and romance of war. Poor preparation indeed for the revolting blood-and-guts farce that it really is. In the end, Mr. Mitchell experienced his own epiphany, and that saves the book from the possibility of floppitude. However, it's not a pretty story, so be warned.
    Reread? No.

  • Broca's Brain - Carl Sagan
    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Carl Sagan's collection of essays titled Broca's Brain deals with science and pseudo-science, and how they affect our lives. His fact-based, lucid approach to pseudo-science is utterly delightful. Each chapter posits one or more questions regarding science and its application to life. This book will leave you thrilled by the philosophy of science, and eager to read more.
    Reread? Probably, after the next X books are finally dispatched.

  • Famous People of PNG: Bishop Sir Louis Vangeke - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Lady Carol Kidu - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Dame Alice Wedega - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Dame Rose Kekedo - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Tui of Gorendu - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Maino of Moata - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Pipi Gari of Elevala - Eric Johns
  • Famous People of PNG: Ligeremaluoga of Kono - Eric Johns

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Highly. This series of booklets describes the lives of prominent Papua-Niuginians. Not much is known by anyone outside PNG about this fascinating country, home to the largest number of languages in the world.
    Reread? Afraid not.

  • Grass- Sherri Tepper

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. I think Grass is probably the best of Sherri Tepper's work (or it might share that spot with Plague of Angels or Family Tree or both of them). This must be the fourth time I've read it in as many years, and it never grows tired or old.
    Reread? About once a year, I reckon.

  • Golden Gate - Vikram Seth

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. The author's debut is utterly delightful, brilliant, witty, and well worth reading.
    Reread? I wish! Someday.

  • In The Time Of Butterflies - Julia Alvarez

    Borrowed? No. Someone gave it to me, damn their eyeballs.
    Recommended? This is an interesting book, although it's rather slow getting off the ground. I daresay if one doesn't know much about the Dominican Republic and the (mis)rule of the dictator Trujillo, it's interesting. The writer is an academic and I'm not sure I like the writing and the style. Still, it's informative.
    Reread? Nope. Gave it away already.

  • Kim - Rudyard Kipling

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? I've read many things by Kipling, in that tooth-grinding cross between annoyance at doggerel, jingoism, glorification of racism and Empire and that shabby lot, and plain poor writing that, unfortunately occupies too large a niche in world literature for various reasons. Quite honestly, much as I hate to say this, this is the best thing Kipling ever wrote. Unlike the rest of his work, which I honestly believe is only read because it provides an important background for the times in which he lived, this is a beautiful piece of work. Marred by his innate racism, yet allowing a glimpse of a great story to peek through.
    Reread? Quite possibly.

  • Malaysia - R. Emerson

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Dated, though a useful introduction to an earlier period of Malaysian history and politics. Regrettably, it is marred by the viewpoint that the writer and his ilk are somehow (for reasons unclear) superior to those about whom he writes. Worth reading only if your interest lies in the subject.

  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Vols. 1-4

    Borrowed? Fortunately, I was able to borrow this fine piece of work and return it fairly swiftly.
    Recommended?Miyazaki is just excellent, and the story is just excellent, and I just loved this so much. I tend to think of comic books or graphic novels as quick "skim" type reads, but the book is actually very dense with, like, 2-pt type or something. Anyway, it took much longer to go through these four books than I would have thought. Part of it is, of course, the suspension of disbelief as one enters a world of the creator's imagination.
    Reread? No, but it did make me fervently wish Studio Ghibli would make the whole series into films! The film Nausicaa really only covers a tiny bit of the story.

  • Night Butterfly - Tan Guan Heng

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Mr. Tan really ought to consider a different line of work. Ballroom dancing or something. Or possibly hiring a ghost writer. This dreadful piece of drivel was read in the hope that I could somehow absorb some of the flavour of that era. Unfortunately, the flavour left much to be desired and required quantities of strong drink to wash down.
    Reread? Good grief, no.

  • Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago - Peter Bellwood

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly. This is a fine scholarly piece of work spanning the prehistory of the territories today known as Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia, and includes fascinating information about the tribal communities of the areas and the subsequent migrations from other areas that led to the intermingling of the various groups and development of the languages of the region. Absolutely delightful. Considering the weightiness of the subject the author is gifted in making it not just readable but wonderfully enjoyable.
    Reread? Good heavens, yes, if only there were more time, I'd do it now.

  • Raising the Stones- Sherri Tepper

    Borrowed? No. But it was a re-read.
    Recommended? Highly. Another wonderful piece of fiction by Sherri S. Tepper, who is an excellent writer with visionary power unrivalled by any but, possibly, Philip K. Dick.

  • Rhymes of Li Yu Tsai - Chao Shu Li

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Yes. Although set in the late 40s through the 50s, this charming little book embodies the spirit of the teaching tales found throughout Asia, one of the best examples of which is the collection known as the Tales of the Mullah Nasruddin. Although dealing with more practical and less spiritual matter, it is, nevertheless, enjoyable.
    Reread? Yes.

  • The Crippled Tree - Han Suyin

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly, especially to those interested in China, its history and culture, from the rare viewpoint of one who stands in the middle. Though Han Suyin herself was part Belgian, her sympathies clearly lay with her Chinese ancestors, and her ability to relate clearly the incredible exploitation of China and her empathy for the suffering Chinese people will give you rare insight into the events of the period. It's not easy reading, but well worth the effort.
    Reread? Someday.

  • The Family: They Fuck You Up - Granta

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Especially for those whose family has fucked them up.
    Reread? Um,no. Enough with the suffering.

  • The Malay Archipelago - Alfred Russell Wallace

    Borrowed? No.
    Recommended? Highly, but only to enthusiasts of a particular type of writing once known as "naturalism." Wallace was Darwin's contemporary and quite the enthusiast of the natural world, especially that to be found far from his own home. Unlike most other Englishmen of the period, he appears to have a genuine love and respect for the other cultures he encountered, and other than displaying a regrettable tendency to kill lots of creatures in order to learn about them, is a thoroughly enjoyable writer. Sort of Gerald Durrell in a previous century.
    Reread? If I ever find the time.

  • The Rabbi's Cat - Joann Sfar

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Highly. Sfar is a Moroccan Jew (I believe), a very talented artist, and owned by a cat rather like our own Gojira, all of which makes this wonderful book well worth reading. Personally, I liked the Rabbi and his cat best of all the many colourful characters herein.
    Reread? Someday!

  • The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd

    Borrowed? Yes. Well, it's all Ms. Manitoba's fault, y'know.
    Recommended? Er. Um. It's not a bad book, as books go, as H.H. Munro might've said, and, any road, it went, of which I'm glad. Let's just say that this is the world of white people's views of nonwhite people. Or something. Not a bad book, just not my cuppa tea.
    Reread? No.

  • The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie - Malu Halasa & Rana Salam

    Borrowed? Yes.
    Recommended? Utterly fascinating look at the intimate life of Syrian women, and women in that part of the Muslim world. Given that these women are veiled, mysterious, and unknown to those of us who don't share their culture, their taste in underpantment is, shall we say, revealing. How interesting this book is, I leave you to discover. There is a certain sweet innocence to the pictures, especially to one who is more used to the Victoria's Secret models, who look more like expensive horses than real people.
    Reread? If only for the photographs, I mean, the anecdotes. Srsly, though, this book is recommended.

  • The Unabomber Manifesto - Ted Kaczynski

    Borrowed? Found.
    Recommended? No. I was fascinated (though not approving) of this man, expecting to find a genius, possibly a mentally ill one. He might well be one or more of such, but the tone of this book is one long whine against the society wot hath wronged 'im. Geez. Hates women, hates people, hates small furry things. I could barely plough through the drivel, and I don't recommend you do unless you're planning to write a book on the bastid. Though why anyone would want to is utterly beyond me. What a sniveling wretch!
Feck, no!

So I read a lot, but not all the books I'd planned to read, and a lot of what I read ended up being lifesaving entertainment, but so what? The whole purpose of creating an annual list is to have a guideline for getting some of these fecking things off the floor, out of their boxes, and, hopefully out of mah house. I feel good. So there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Me

irish me
i need irishing
it's that time of year
but i don't want
leprechauns promising pots of gold
shiny shamrocks
kiss me pins
green beer

in my blood
both ancient and new
the bodhrán beats

tell me about
the Picts, Gaels, and Druids
Bridget, the Book of Kells, and the Tara Brooch
the Viking tyranny fought by Mahon and Brian Boru
and, from the time of the Normans,
tell me about Gaelic Ireland
home of the wild Irish
oh, yes, tell me of them,
defiant, from which I come

tell me about how
the Irish saved civilization
but couldn't save themselves

the bodhrán
in the center of my chest
beats the blood around

and can you explain so I understand:
how did the Great Famine happen?
didn’t the English have any food to share?
I’ve heard rumors about those English warehouses …
full of food

talk to me of the Black and Tans,
the Ku Klux Klan of Eire
brought into Ireland
by the British government
to make Ireland
a hell

tell me about my grandfather
born in Galway
buried in Mayo
didn't like him much
but eventually I had a tribal respect
he ran the village's
cooperative grocery
living above it with my grandmother

tell the true true story
about how the Black and Tans
held him at gunpoint many times
to steal gasoline, coffee, sugar
then, as they got desperate
from losing
they gasolined and torched his home
my mother, a baby at the time

(c) k. smokey cormier

bodhrán = ancient Irish drum still used by musicians; pronounced BOW-RAN;