Friday, June 5, 2009

Being Re-blogged, Psychoanalyzed, and Nominated!

After I completed my The Story Behind the Story of Lovers and Strangers Revisited blog series, I decided to edit and repost all 17, for easy referral, under the new blog, The Story Behind the StoryI also posted them in reverse order, so they’ll appear on the blog in order, starting with the first story “On Fridays”. Otherwise, in the future, finding them would be difficult since they’ll all be archived in different months spread over a year, a frustrating process if you’re looking for one particular entry! Here they’ll be together in the same month and even listed on the sidebar, so it would be easy for anyone – a writer, a teacher, a student or an interested reader – to find The Story Behind the Story they want.

Back in 2006, the Silverfish version of Lovers and Strangers Revisited was critiqued and analyzed and its findings were presented at a short story conference in Lancaster, UK. Quite an honor for a writer based in Malaysia, writing about Malaysia, and with a Malaysian publisher! (Is this a first for a writer from or living in Malaysia?) Of course anytime your work is reviewed, or critiqued, it’s out of your hands, and it’s open to interpretation.
If you’re a critic and you’re looking for symbols, phallic or otherwise, you’re going to find them! Whether they’re true symbols, consciously or subconsciously placed by the writer, or the critic groping at straws to support his preconceived theories is anyone’s guess. No doubt it’s somewhere in between. Also, there will be lots of assumptions made (some right, most wrong) about the author (and his personal life) for writing such-a-such story or book in the first place! Yet, bear in mind, what’s at stake are both the reputation of the one doing the critique and the one being critiqued! So I still have some qualms about this, three years later…

Presenting your findings at a major international conference on short story collections is not for the feint hearted because you’ll be bombarded with questions from writers and literature academics who know their stuff! I didn’t see the actual paper or even the title until after it was presented. Yet once I saw the title, I knew my ego was going to be in turbulent waters so I held on for the emotional ride until the end:

Masculinised (American) Eyes, Feminised (Malaysian) Dreams? A Psychoanalytic Study of Robert Raymer’s Collection of Short Stories in Lovers and Strangers Revisited.

Although I questioned some conclusions – is an umbrella used on a rainy day, as in “On Fridays”, a phallic symbol or merely an umbrella used on a rainy day? Or is a cockroach, like in “Symmetry”, remotely sexual? – I had an enjoyable banter with the critic who gamely responded to my queries and even criticisms, which I was grateful for. I still consider Jem a friend and a former colleague at USM, and I do feel honored that he took the trouble to choose my work (he could’ve chosen someone else) and to analyze it and to present it in the UK. He even passed copies of the book to several prominent people in the publishing industry.!

The reason I’m bringing this up here, nearly three later, is because while doing a recent Google check this popped up. So it’s out there on the Web, and if you’re interested or curious have a look (but please read the book first so you can judge for yourself, because next time you could be on the receiving end!). Also, there’s no need to attack me as the writer (I told you so!) or the critic (how dare he insinuate that!).

If you’re a writer, and you want your work to be taken seriously, it’s time to start thickening your skin, because once your work is out there for the public, even on your own blog, it really is out of your hands, and if you want to defend yourself and your work to the death you’ll only give yourself an ulcer. Just accept that others have different views from your own. It’s rarely personal; either they liked what you wrote, or they didn’t like it, or maybe they were affected by their own mood when they read it (and hopefully they’ll reread it in a better mood). Just move on to your next piece of writing. In the long run, what really stands out is the actual writing itself.

For the MPH collection, as noted in the Story Behind the Story series, I did revise all the stories once again and then worked with an editor at MPH and made sure any minor slips as pointed out in this paper, were duly corrected. I was also glad that all the reviews I’ve received so far have been overwhelming positive (see Media Room from my Website:)

Now for an update, Lovers and Strangers Revisited has just been nominated for Popular Reader’s Choice Awards 2009 (promoting local authors, writings and publishing.) Below are the list of nominees for both fiction and nonfiction:

1) Nayang: The Lure of Southern Ocean to Lands of Opportunity and Danger by Khoo Kheng-Hor
2) Juriah’s Song by Tunku Halim
3) Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
4) The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
5) Lions in Winter by Wena Poon
6) Lovers and Strangers Revisited by Robert Raymer
7) Tales from the Court and Other Stories by Matthew Thomas
8) Devil’s Place by Brian Gomez
9) Mouse Clutching Winter Melon by Kuan Guat Choo
10) Vanity Drive by Yvonne Lee
1) Reaching for the Stars by Sheikh Mustapha Shukor Al-Masrie
2) Mahathir’s Selected Letters to World Leaders by Dr. Mahathir Muhammad
3) Teh-Hong Piow: A Banking Thoroughbred by Paddy Bowie
4) March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up by Kee Thuan Chye
5) Failed Nation? Concerns of a Malaysian Nasionalist by Rustam A. Sani
6) Growing up in Trengganu by Awang Goneng
7) Glimpses: Cameos of Malaysian Life by Adibah Amin
8) by Dr. Mahathir Muhammad
9) New Malaysian Essays #1 by Amir Muhammad
10) Peeing in the Bush by Adeline Loh

Although I’ve had work that has done relatively well in contests both in Malaysia and in the US, this is the first time my work as ever been nominated for an award, so I feel quite proud. It’s not a big, international prize that will thrust me in the world limelight, but it’s a step in the right direction and will mentally prepare me for when that day does arrive. Again, I feel proud being nominated!

If you have yet to get a copy of the book, this also means Lovers and Strangers Revisited (and all the nominated books) will be 20% off at all Popular Bookstores. The books will be voted by readers and decided in August in time for the Bookfest @ Malaysia 2009. Announcements should be made soon in The Star and other media outlets within Malaysia. Keep an eye out for it and if you don’t mind, cast a vote my way!

In the meantime, so my head doesn’t swell too much, the proofs just arrived for my fourth book (and second from MPH), Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia, due out this year, and I really need to go through it and catch any mistakes and rewrite that introduction! Other work is piling up too and that's good if you want to be a writer…

* Here's an update of the Psychoanalyzed part after it got published in 2011.

**Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.


Mikail said...

Your conversational style really jumps out here...

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Thanks. Just got back from KL today. If you write only for yourself (to yourself) that shows. I try to write for others and also for myself. Rewriting helps a lot, too, and that's what a lot of new writers and bloggers can't be bothered with, and that shows, too! Thanks, again! All the best!

Written said...

Hey,Congratulations for the Award!!
I can feel that you are so psyched about it and you should.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Thanks Written. It's also created a few opportunities, like writing a short story with a Merdeka tie in with two other writers, Lydia Teh and Tunku Halim, for the August issue of Going Places, plus a lot more publicity coming my way in time for my next book due out later this year. To be one of the three winners in fiction would be great, too. We all have to start somewhere and I'm starting in Malaysia. Next the world...