marcel barang

Born prolix

In English, Reading matters on 01/08/2011 at 11:46 pm

This morning’s Bangkok Post had a glossy supplement featuring 65 Women of Influence in Contemporary Thailand. Guess who has pride of place as one that ‘will make history for Thailand and Thai women as the country’s first female prime minister’.
The female of the species is flavour of the year this August. Expect more such egg foo yong in the months to come.
I flipped through this advertising vector for Ford, SCG, modernform, EGCO Group, Air, ptt, Better Food and a few others long enough to see that it was negligently edited (‘champion for’ on page 10; ‘The founder of … believes ‘katoeys’ were females trapped in a male’s physique’ and ‘sex workers want the same labour welfare and protection like workers do’ on page 29; ‘fourty years ago’ on page 33; ‘was the first lifter in over a century to have set world records’ on page 48), until I came to the ‘Books’ section, which definitely wasn’t edited at all, because I read it and found in it too many mistakes of all kinds to report here, and learned that the female movers and shakers in this department are, to go by their (main) pen names, Krisna Asokesin (1 page), Tomayanti (1 page), Vor Vinicchayakul (1/2 page), Kingchat (1/2 page) and Chiranan Pitpreecha (1 page), whose real name this is.

With the exception of poet Chiranan (hello, Jit!), it’s obvious that the selection was made on bulk rather than on quality.

Keeping in mind that ‘one novel’ usually means up to a thousand pages printed in two volumes, as often as not hard-covered to withstand manipulation in rent-a-book stalls, the following information is mind-boggling.

Krisna [], 79 years old, ‘has penned around 140 novels’ [since she started at 15, that’s over two novels a year]; ‘Tomayanti [74] has written 110 novels to date’ [since she ‘started at 19’, that’s two novels a year]; Vor (whose name by the way is pronounced wor wi.nit.chai.kun) ‘has penned more than 100 novels … over the past 30 years’ [three to four a year, then]; and upstart Kingchat, who’s only 43, ‘has written 32 novels and a book of short stories’. But then, we are also told, ‘Kingchat writes only one novel a year’, which means she started at 11 … ah, beg pardon: ‘in her high school years’. Go figure.

These four female compulsive pen pushers are indeed top purveyors of popular reads that also pollute the mind in the form of countless dreadful TV sitcoms. Since the section is entitled ‘Books’, I don’t have any quarrel with the selection.
But on second thoughts, what about Botan, a National Artist for Literature?
What about Sophak Suwan?
What about Seefa Ladawan?
The first two at least are a notch above the other four in literary terms, and sell well too. There are probably others I haven’t read or heard of, since I’ve long given up on Thai sub-literature. What bothers me, though, is that so many young writers take those market queens for models, and that one of them occasionally makes it to the short list of such a discriminate Thai award as the SEA Write.
But maybe that’s just a way of carrying on tradition: didn’t the prize in its early years go to … Krisna Asokesin?

  1. Teenage novels, of course, are a sub-genre of sub-literature.
    Praekarn (Pier) Nirandara, whose pen-name is Pieretta Dawn, wrote a quite acceptable, don’t-rot-your-mind, trilogy of mermaid novels in English starting when she was a 15-year old at Bangkok Patana. They have been translated into Thai by Ajarn Sumalee Bumrungsook who also translated most of the Harry Potter books for Nanmee. The first is The Mermaid Apprentices (2009) (Pachonpai nai daen ngueak – ผจญภัยในแดนเงือก), I have not noticed English copies and have been meaning to phone the publisher. The second is titled The Nymph Treasury, forthcoming this month, the third The Elven Ambassador, due summer of 2012.

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