marcel barang

One out of ten

In English, Reading matters on 27/12/2010 at 9:40 pm

Today I took time out to read an anthology of ten short stories in kinds of ersatz English I’d be ashamed to ladle out here.

And I’m glad I did: I discovered a great new talent, a born writer.

His name is Phil Dodd. He’s English, of unstated age, has written and self-published a few short stories, teaches in Cheltenham – and is also involved in records and brewery, or so Google tells me. Tucked almost at the very end of a string of duds and workaday stones, his ‘Island. House’ short story is a jewel of the first water: obviously inspired by the impromptu visit to Aung San Suu Kyi of an American twerp that earned her a lengthening of her house detention in 2009, it’s a pointillist, understated, highly symbolic narration of a few moments in the life of an unnamed influential woman living in a lakeside house cocooned in nature and trying to write when she’s not enraptured by its creatures or importuned by them and the barging-in of an unrequited admirer. In this short text, there is a fluidity and limpidity of style unmatched in the rest of the shoddily edited anthology, with its ‘Foreward’ and over helpful glossary.

Oh, yes, sorry: the anthology is called The Rage of a New Ancestor, which is the title of its lead story, and it’s the first volume published by New Asian Writing, a small independent press based in Bangkok which is in urgent need of finding itself a proper editor (the current one claims ‘he can be contacted at’ – good luck to you).

No, let’s be fair: not all of it is time wasted. There are three or four other stories any magazine would print, even though they hardly rise above the level of a good read – the very short last one, ‘A Single Step’ by A.D. Thompson (American – Hemingway corrected by Elmore Leonard) and the longish yet clever ‘Going Home’ by Mithran Somasundrum (Sri Lankan – set in Japan), as well as ‘Mangoes’ by Trirat Petchsingh (a rare Thai writer more at ease in English than in the vernacular) and ‘An Accident on Route 2’ by Voicu Mihnea Simandan (Rumanian Bangkok non-resident).

On the other hand, if you want to laugh for all the wrong reasons, boiling down to writers’ awkwardness compounded by editorial incompetence, I recommend two stories in particular: ‘Adolescence’ by Mohammad Aljarmoshi (Jordanian), about the early morning palpitations of one character over another who ‘would be about my age – in his early twenties’, and the Indglish of ‘Happis Grills’ by Joie Bose Chatterjee, with such gems as: ‘The host of Indian slang was sandwiching an awkward silence’, ‘In heart of hearts’, ‘his head was drooped’, ‘his eyes were half closed like dead dogs’, ‘his snores sounded like that of a dinosaurs sneeze!’.

  1. Dear Marcel Barang, I do like your blog but am not e-savvy enough to figure out how to contact you. If you have noticed “Best of Southeast Asian Erotica” (Monsoon Books, 2010) in the bookshops in Thailand, I am the author of “Good Morning, Bangkok”.

    As the most junior author in the collection (unpublished, unknown, vs contributors such as John Burdett and Stephen Leather), I’m NOT ashamed to beg you for a review. Having read this review by you, I am a bit worried because I can see that you take no prisoners. BUT it was the first book review I had read in months which actually made me laugh! […]

    I also really hope you will contact me,

    Kind regards,

    Andrew Penney

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