marcel barang


In English on 14/12/2009 at 9:50 pm


Another day lost, or most of it, Mother Phloi. But for a good cause: that of your almost contemporary, Tharnphooying Cha-orn Sinlapacharn Warutamapharp, the heroine of Thutiyawiseit.

In late morning, I receive a call from the Bunluea Fund. The digital version of my translation of Thutiyawiseit I sent them by email won’t do; could we please have three paper copies, sent by post?

I thought this might happen.

What it meant was: a ride to the stationer’s across the river to purchase two blocks of A4 paper; a walk to the office; the printing out of three times 514 pages; kao lao in the meantime; a hunt for bits of string to tie up each copy (found a whole bundle under the sink in the office kitchen); a tuktuk to the Bang Lamphoo post office (of course, they had run out of the right size of box, so I had to purchase a ridiculously bigger one and stuff it with foam); and then a taxi back to the right side of the river.

The Bunluea Fund will have this triple gem tomorrow before noon, or so the fellow at the post office vouched.

While printing was going on, I was on tenterhooks: was the toner going to dry up on me? This would have meant a ride across town to Panthip Plaza to get a refill and a new one. The ‘economy mode’ prevented that contretemps. The printer just stalled twice; I let it cool awhile.

As if this wasn’t enough distraction in one day a Bangkok Post email in late afternoon asks me whether I have some other story in my ‘stock’ for January.

Sorry, Santa will replenish his stock once Four Reigns is in his sack.

Actually, the Post still have three short stories in the pipeline, one each by Manoat Phromsing, Niweit Kanthairat and Jamlong Fanchonlajit – but, you see, those three fellows have the indecency to live not just upcountry, but in Buddha-forsaken places like Ubon or Ligor, and since they must be interviewed… how about something from some Bangkok resident writer?

As if these barn nork (boondocks) writers never came to Bangkok. The last time I saw Jamlong was three or four months ago at Barn Phra Arthit.

But all of this is no match to what happened in the past week on the French side of things. Through my email, a lady – the fairly recent widow of a French TV public figure – contacts me to ask … for a preface to her novel, which straddles two generations of women, mother and daughter, and two countries, France and Thailand. How flattering! To the email is attached a selection of excerpts of the formatted book – altogether some twenty pages of text in PDF format. If the story is passably written, the editing is awful – in fact, there has been no editing, no subediting, no nothing. Long lines, fancy punctuation, and no fewer than seven gross spelling mistakes at first read. To the lady, I answer: I don’t know if a novel needs a preface but yours needs editing; and give her my phone number: she has told me she is in Chiang Mai but will fly back home the next day. She will not call. Instead, I get an email from her publisher, in her name – a nice email too, I must say. To which I answer confirming that he is in urgent need of a copy editor cum layout artist, and tell him shame on you even as a vanity publisher (I had to apologise for this later: it turns out the poor sod is a budding bona fide publisher). I offered to correct those pages for him if he sent them in a format I could handle. I had half a mind offering him to hire me to do his job, but then thought of Four Reigns, the Bangkok Post,, the blog, Mad Dogs & Co

Anyway, to make a long story short, eventually the lady called … from France. We cleared the cobwebs. She is meaning to put the screws on her publisher, who is due to publish another two books of hers, and make sure he does a commendable work. At least it seems some good will come out of this sorry mess. In a couple of months, the lady will be back in Thailand and will keep me posted, no doubt.


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