marcel barang

The Seven Samu(t)rai of 2011

In English, Reading matters on 18/09/2011 at 7:14 pm

Kudos to Anchalee Kongrut for her presentation, in the Brunch supplement of this morning’s Bangkok Post, of the seven finalists of the 2011 SEA Write Award, whose winner is due to be announced two days from now. [Read the article online.]
She has read the seven collections of short stories in competition and reports on each of them in the order they were listed by the pre-selection committee with enthusiasm, clarity, and a critical literary sense that ‘damns with faint praise’. Samples:

– of Fah Poonvoralak’s ‘entertaining read’: ‘its interesting cast of characters and simple storytelling style make it particularly well suited to younger readers’ [the SEA Write is for grownups, right?];

– of Pichedsak Popayak’s ‘accessible prose’: ‘He should write more about them’ – ‘them’ being ‘simple things such as football and motorcycles’; [mind you, I agree with her on this point];

– of Anusorn Tipayanon’s ‘book that is thinner that the rest of this year’s SEA Write finalists’: ‘a cocktail – a mojito, perhaps – of travel writing, non-fiction prose and stylish contemporary writing’; [fancy being compared to a Cuban highball; and what does ‘non-fiction prose’ sound like, pray?] or

– of Jakkapan Kangwan’s ‘entertaining’ book: ‘it’s like chatting with a pal … though sometimes his dialogue seems to be a tad long’ [spot on, but too lenient: the fellow can’t write properly, as I have shown (‘Literary Junk’, 29/07/11), and this book should never have made it into a selection with presumably high literary standards].

Why Anchalee keeps writing ‘Krajoek’ instead of ‘Krajok’ (กระจก) – or ‘Krachok’, according to the asinine transcription rule for ‘จ’ of the Royal Academy – for what she translates as Stairway of mirrors by Watn Yuangkaeo is a mystery. But never mind that: her transliterations are wobbly throughout.
What astonished me in her presentation of that book is that she goes out of her way to praise one particular piece: ‘…the real treat in this book, and a standout among all of this year’s shortlisted works, is Chong Warng (Empty Space), a semi-erotic and religion-mocking tale of a young woman with a problem with her genitalia who serves as a medium…’
So astonished was I by this claim that I’ve just read ‘The gap’ (Chong Wang) all over again and found it as shambolic, fanciful and wer (Thai for ‘over the top’) as I had the first time around.
The ‘problem with (the woman’s) genitalia’, you see, is that she was born without any and made do with proxy lovemaking thanks to a hole in the wall. Fear not: a not-so-middle-aged writer met on the net who, through the power of his drill, had made that hole, will, through the power of his … pen, drill the missing hole into that gap of hers. Ah bah!

Which reminds me: this year’s selection is politically incorrect: male only. No (Ying) luck this year.
And, as you can see from the above paragraph, it shows.


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