Friday, March 25, 2011

Expatriate Archive Centre’s Book Review Tropical Affairs—22 March 2011

Two good news for Tropical Affairs: Episodes of an Exapt’s Life in Malaysia. One, a book review appeared on Expatriate Archive Centre’s blog.  Expatriate Archive Centre, located in Den Haag, Holland, is also one of the libraries that I mentioned in a recent post. This is, unless I’m mistaken, my first book review outside Malaysia/Singapore!  (*correction, the original Lovers and Strangers by Heinemann Asia was reviewed by Asia Magazine in Hong Kong back in 1993.)
Thoughts on Robert Raymer’s “Tropical Affairs” Written by Amanda Potter
Narrative essays collected into a book are a little like the predecessor to modern blogging. Robert Raymer’s “Tropical Affairs”, a collection of previously published non-fiction narratives about his life and times in Malaysia, almost reads like one (in a good way). Through his years of essays we learn a little about Robert’s life as an American living in Malaysia for more than 20 years, sympathize with his struggles, and cheer in his successes.

Tropical Affairs collects essays from Robert’s own life through relationships, work, children, and hobbies and after 20+ years in his adopted country, it’s clear that Robert loves Malaysia and the people who call it home. The book is organized into a series of themed sections with a little something for everyone to relate to. Personally, I found the expatriate, writing, and “being myself” sections the most interesting, but parents and even movie fans will find entertaining and thoughtful morsels as well. Humor and candor play equal parts in Robert’s writing, reflecting the complex and multicultural experience of living abroad.

However, although the essays are interesting, often entertaining, and sometimes even inspiring, I was left wanting a stronger central narrative to carry the book as a whole. I had hoped to learn a little about Malaysia through Robert’s experiences, but without any prior knowledge of the region, the essays didn’t lay the groundwork for me to fully understand his encounters. In addition, I found the way the essays “time traveled” back and forth through is life to be a bit jarring; especially when there were two essays written about the same exact event but not placed side-by-side.

Ultimately I found “Tropical Affairs” to be best read by simply flipping the book open and selecting a story at random. Each on its own is sweet and filled with experiences that anyone can relate to. And I like the slightly provocative title which encourages you to have a short, fun affair with each story, but maybe not a long term relationship.

Robert Raymer is also the author of (the equally provocative) Lovers and Strangers Revisited, a short story collection about Malaysia. He writes for several publications and also blogs and maintains a website at
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The second good news, I just got the Tropical Affairs royalty statement, though not as high as I’d like it to be—is it ever?— but it did mention a second printing around June 2010.  That’s good because I recently added buy links on all my 2009 Tropical Affairs excerpt posts, which I accidentally left out.  Several of these, particularly on Indochine and Paradise Road, continue to be my most popular posts, maybe because of the cool costumes that I get to wear in the films. 

***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..

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