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New on the shelf

Bunga Emas (Second Edition)
RM 36.00

Bunga Emas and Tracks of a Tramp first appeared over half a century ago, in the period after Merdeka, the Malayan Independence in 1957, when the nation, still a fledgling, had so much hope and promise. Malaysia Day, 1963, was just round the corner.

Bunga Emas means tribute, as the editor explains in the glossary, an offering of Chinese and Indian writers and poets, who had made Malaysia their home, to 'their evanescent mother culture'.

This anthology of Malayan/Malaysian Literature in English, Chinese and Tamil from 1930 to 1963 (all translated into English), is something that's never been done before, nor since. Apart from being an excellent historical record of pre- and post-independence Malaysia writing, this collection proves that good stories never grow old or tired.

Although this volume is only a small sample from the period, and it will be dangerous to draw too many conclusions from it, one can't help but admire the sheer quality, the ideas, and the craftsmanship. They might have been written half a century ago, but they sound so current. More importantly, in here are voices of the other that we seldom hear (and often ignore).

A must read.

Bunga Emas (Second Edition)

RM 36.00

A 14th Century Malay Code of Laws : the Nitisarasamuccaya

RM 137.00

Malaysia-Singapore Fifty Years of Contentions 1965-2015

RM 100.00

Tragic Orphans : Indians in Malaysia

RM 137.00

An Alternative Vision for Malaysia

RM 25.00

Kajian Perbandingan Pantun Melayu dengan Nyanyian Rakyat Cina

RM 40.00

Institutions and Social Mobilization

RM 110.00

Fifteen Letters : Khamsata 'Ashara Maktuban

RM 28.00

The Eurasian Core and its Edges

RM 126.00

The Politics of Religious Expression in Malaysia

RM 35.00

Silverfish magazine
Silverfish Writing Programme -- new intake
June 6, 2014

The next intake for the Silverfish Writing Programme will be on Saturday, July 12, 2014, and will run for 10 consecutive weeks, right through fasting month, (except for holidays) from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Registration will open on June 1, 2014. The past few programmes have been extremely popular and we have had to turn away many late inquiries, because the maximum number of participants we can accommodate is 10 (ten). We have, to date, received 30 inquiries already. So we encourage those who are interested to register early and avoid the last minute rush. (Please, tell your friends who are interested, too.) The registration fee will be RM1000.00 per participant for the full ten week programme, but an early bird discount of 10% will apply until (and including) June 30, 2014.

The world is full of stories. Humans are the only storytelling animals on the planet. We may miss meals (ask your teenager buried in a book or your aunt or mum hooked on a television soap) but not our stories.

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Malaysia: shouting, shouting
June 4, 2014

Running a bookshop like Silverfish is fraught with danger, given the quasi-intellectual nature we appear to project. We love the free exchange of ideas (many ambassadors visit us for that reason), but when some people insist that we should agree with them no matter what, it becomes difficult to say the least. They don't understand, that while we may call a spade a spade, we are not always interested in taking sides; that even if we do chose a side, facts remain unaltered. It became really bad during the run-up to GE13, and no amount of factual correction made a difference. Unfortunately, even a whole year after GE13, it still hasn't stopped, and this will probably continue to GE14.

Another quote from the story: "In a study, Kelly Garrett and Brian Weeks looked to see if political misinformation ... that was corrected immediately would be any less resilient than information that was allowed to go uncontested for a while.

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Courage and fear
June 04, 2014

Frank dropped in to visit me (and buy some books) yesterday. He is an interesting one: a mathematician, a photographer, and a lover of arts and literature. (I always get the eye-roll when I tell anyone that I also enjoy reading books on mathematics. So there. He, of course, is an academic; quite a different level that.)

We were talking about over-intellectualising everything, reading more into a situation than there is. I told him the story of my housekeeper, recently diagnosed with a malignant growth in her breast. Panic, panic, panic: that is, by everyone else, except her. I was shocked too, but also a little taken aback by her passive response. Was she in denial? Was everyone else simply doing the Chicken Little, the-sky-is-falling, dance on her behalf, with limited understanding of the situation? Why don’t you panic, damn it! Or did she really not understand the implications?

“She is like a cat,” I said to Frank. “Simply living; taking life in its stride.”

“Meow, meow. Scratch, scratch, scratch,” Frank responded, understanding.

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The Cooler Lumpur Festival
June 05, 2014

Countdown to #FAST:

PopDigital, British Council and BMW Group Malaysia
Southeast Asia’s first and only festival of ideas

Date: 20 – 22 June 2014
Venue: Publika, Solaris Dutamas

Kuala Lumpur, 3 June 2014 – The capital is set to become a nucleus of ideas and hub for creative exchange when creative media shop PopDigital, British Council and BMW Group Malaysia present #FAST: The Cooler Lumpur Festival between June 20 and 22 at Publika, Kuala Lumpur.

Last year, The Cooler Lumpur Festival’s inaugural edition, #WORD, celebrated the written and spoken word in all its forms. Founded upon the notion that words are the primary medium by which we transform the world around us, the festival aims to champion expression in all forms.

This year, The Cooler Lumpur Festival is proud to present #FAST. In expanding the scale and philosophy of the festival, #FAST will cast a wider net to include activities ranging from the abstract to the experimental, setting the agenda for Southeast Asia’s first ever festival of ideas; one that is powered by literature and the arts.

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Call for Papers for Special issue of Asiatic
June 05, 2014

Special issue of Asiatic: Narratives of “Unstable homes” in Asian American Literature

Date of publication: June 2015
Co-editors: Chingyen Mayer and Mohammad A. Quayum

The advent of globalization, voluntary and involuntary migration and displacement, technological innovations such as the internet, Skype, satellite TV, and YouTube, and the accelerated speed of modern means of transportation have given the concept of “home” a renewed significance. Stable concepts of home and belonging have become the exception rather than the norm. In Shame, for example, Salmon Rushdie writes, “We pretend that we are trees and speak of roots. Look under your feet. You will not find gnarled growths sprouting through the soles. Roots… are a conservative myth, designed to keep us in our places” (84). For a myriad of reasons, a sizable segment of Asia’s population, wedged between different socio-political and cultural domains, between homes, and between different allegiances, are uprooted and residing in disaporic communities in America. The special issue seeks contributions that engage in the explorations of the “Unstable homes” in Asian American literature.

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Silverfish 15th Anniversary Party
June 05, 2014


Yes, it has been fifteen years since Silverfish Books first opened its doors in Desa Seri Hartamas 1999, in the wake of the Asian Currency crisis,the Reformasi movement and the public sacking of a Deputy Prime Minister. In the 15 years, we made many friends, offended a few, published almost 60 books, five of which have been on the short- or long-list of various international book prizes since 2009, organised two International Literary Festivals in Kuala Lumpur, and organised many readings book launches an public talks, fought many battles, won some, lost some, still fighting others, and may have made a tiny dent in the Malaysian literary world. So to celebrate, we are inviting all Silverfish authors, other Malaysian authors and long time friends of Silverfish Books who have traveled with us on this often challenging the journey, who have helped make it all possible, who have made a difference, to our fifteenth birthday party. So, please, please, please accept this invitation and come to our do on:

Date: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time: 5.30 to 7.30 pm,
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru. Tel: 228 448 37

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Green coconuts
April 01, 2014

We have a housekeeper (who in theory comes on designated days and times in a week, but in practice comes any time she likes) who has a 14-year-old boy and two younger children. The older boy declared to her recently, "Amma, I don't think I need to go to school any more, or study." (He is already making RM1200.00 a month tutoring younger children.) So what are you going to do, his father asked. "Give me two green coconuts and I'm good," he replied.

Hey, that's creative, I thought. And funny. March has been a horrible month with everything in it: arrogant, posturing politicians; self-promoting civil servants; gross incompetence; exhibitionism; Israeli plots; Chinese scientists' plots; Afghanistan; the wrath of God for alcohol served on board; the wrath of God for an unfair Appeal's Court verdict; birthday cakes; one-ringgit chicken, and comic relief with jugglers and clowns ... wow, like a Hollywood blockbuster, only real and better.

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The greatest bookworms of them all
April 01, 2014

According to NOP World (a leading provider of syndicated and custom market research) individuals globally spent (each week) 16.6 hours watching television, 8 hours listening to the radio, 6.5 hours reading and 8.9 hours on computers/the internet (for non-work related reasons). (Source: PRNewswire)

I can hear it already: some of you are saying, "Is that all?", while some are going, "Oh my God."

Interestingly (Anglophiles take note) the US and UK are below average (5.7 and 5.3 hours per week) in reading, but above the average on TV viewing (19 hours per week in the US and 18 in the UK), listening to the radio (10.2 hours per week in the US and 10.5 in the UK), and just slightly below the global average for computer/Internet usage (8.8 hours per week in both the US and UK).

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Short-stay scholarships from Mexico
April 01, 2014

(Received this from the embassy and is reproduced -- almost -- verbatim)

The Embassy of Mexico has the pleasure to announce that the 2014 Special Program of Scholarships for Foreigners is open for applications in the following categories:
• Visiting professors
• High level conferences
• Mexican Studies
• Artistic Residencies
• Media Residencies
• Studies to improve the Quality of Mexican Medium and Higher Education Institutions

Convinced that this Program is a valuable opportunity for strengthening the Cultural, Academic and Intellectual exchange between Mexico and Malaysia, the Embassy of Mexico respectfully recommends this information to be widely disseminated in your institution, or advertised through the channels available to you.

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Book event: The Sum of Our Follies
April 01, 2014

Yes, we are not calling it a book launch (it is such a cliche), but a book event. Shih-Li will talk about the process of writing her book, which she says took longer than she expected. We can imagine the process and thoroughly enjoyed editing her work (which turned out to be minimal). No sledgehammer work here, nor slash and burn.


Speaker: Shih-Li Kow (Author)
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-228 448 37
Date and time: Saturday, 12 April 2014, 5.30pm.
Admission is free.

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Rabindranath Tagore book event by Prof Dr MA Quayum
April 01, 2014

(This event is in early May, but I may not have enough time to send out the mailers before that because I will be back from the US just then.)

Speaker: Prof Dr MA Quayum (of the International Islamic University Malaysia)
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Date and Time: Saturday, 3 May, 2014 at 5.30 pm
Admission is free.

The book, The Ruined Nest and other stories was planned to be released in 2013, 100 years after Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. But Prof Quayum, the perfectionist that he is, decided it would be better to publish a good book late than rush one out that we're not fully satisfied. This is in full agreement with the ethos of Silverfish Books. The date for the book event was not picked accidentally, as the 153rd anniversary of Tagore's birthday would fall on 7 May, 2014.

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USA, here I come!
February 15, 2014

My visa interview was for 10.00am. I had picked that time slot to avoid the rush hour, which I did, but took a wrong turn and went into KLCC instead. But my GPS guided me back. So it was 9.45 by the time I got to the guardhouse to the 'forbidden city', which is what most people I have asked consider the US Embassy on Jalan Tun Razak to be.

Before I could join a visible short queue, the guard on duty, Clement, asked, "What time is your interview, sir?"


"You can go to the counter with your documents, then," he smiled.

"Don't I have to queue?"

"For you special, sir," he grinned. I learned that the queue I saw from a distance was for entering the premises, which was after showing the guard my appointment letter.

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