Thursday, December 31, 2009

Asian Literature: Titles from Selections 98

Here are five Asian Literature titles that were featured in Selections 98.
  • Between Stations by Boey Kim Cheng. Boey Kim Cheng is a prize-winning poet with four published collections. Between Stations traces Boey's travels through India, China, Egypt and Morocco. In each place he visits, the cosmopolitan mix of peoples, the markets and crossroads, the overlays of history and religion, remind him of old Singapore and of his gambler father, who would return after long absences to walk with him down the vanished arcades and alleys, past the shophouses and hawkers' stalls. Boey's essays capture a historic moment in the modernisation of the Asian city; they chronicle the break-up and the resilience of the family.
  • Different Voices: The Singaporean/Malaysian Novel by Rosaly Puthucheary. Different Voices: Singaporean/Malaysian Novel focuses on the challenges that face a novelist in the literary representation of a multilingual environment. The early writers used strategies like vernacular transcription and mimetic translation. However, the close readings of 12 selected novels by non-European writers from 1980 to 2001 indicate the increasing use of strategies like lexical borrowings, code mixing, code switching and varieties of Singapore-Malayan English, instead. Puthucheary asserts in her book that the methods of language appropriation have a direct connection to how the writer conveys the multilingual nature of the Singapore-Malayan society through the speaking person while developing the central theme of the novel. The book maps out the verbal artistic representation of the speaking person and the correlation between speech and character in a multilingual environment.
  • Sudden In Youth: New and Selected Poems by Felix Cheong. Sudden in Youth: New and Selected Poems brings together the best of ten years of Felix Cheong's poetry, as well as his recent writings. Sucking up the marrow of his life, from crisis of faith to divorce, from fatherhood to being, yes, tattooed. Voices of killers and prostitutes. Poems at once intensely personal and universal about love, God and things that matter to the heart.
  • Tong Lei: Nan Nan Zhi Jian De Qing Shi Yu Ta Men De Xi Nu Ai Le by Ken Hong. Fictional stories based on the lives of gay and bisexual men living in Singapore. They reveal the everyday lives of these men as well as the struggles that they face as homosexual people. In the appendix 1, the author reflects on the process of "coming out". Local resources on HIV are also found in the appendices. In Chinese.
  • Writing Asia: The Literatures In Englishes Volume 2 - Sharing Borders: Studies In Contemporary Singaporean-Malaysia Literature II edited by Gwee Li Sui. This is Book Two of Volume Two of the Writing Asia series. This series contain significant studies of Singapore-Malaysian literature written in English since the 1940s. The 30 papers by leading scholars in both countries illuminate and analyse both the very considerable output of poetry, fiction and non-fiction works, the political, social and academic contexts from which they emerged, and also some of the controversies which have been associated with local writers and their views. With bibliographies and index.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Selections 98: Books on Singapore

These are the 4 new books on Singapore featured in Selections 98:
  • Men In White: The Untold Story Of Singapore's Ruling Political Party (Revised Edition) by Sonny Yap; Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam. Men In White is the inside story of one of the world's most successful political parties, the People's Action Party (PAP). Based on more than 300 interviews and 200 oral history interviews conducted in Singapore and the region, the story is woven together by three Straits Times writers. The result is a dramatic account of PAP - warts, blemishes and all - and of the pivotal moments in its history which changed Singapore forever. Narrated in three parts, the story is told in a journalistic mode and enlivened with anecdotes, quotes and stories of human interest. Part One tells how Lee Kuan Yew, a Cambridge-educated lawyer, and his anglicised associates collaborated with radical Chinese-speaking trade unionists to drive out the British colonialists and how they fought each other. It also chronicles the party's clash with the ruling UMNO which led eventually to separation from Malaysia. Part Two captures the agonies of leadership renewal and charts the ascent of Goh Chok Tong, who succeeded Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's second Prime Minister. It ends with Lee Hsien Loong taking over from Goh in 2004. Part Three wraps up the PAP story by delving into the key principles that characterise Singapore governance and concludes with the intriguing poser: will PAP outlive Lee Kuan Yew?
  • Singapore And Asia: Impact of the Global Financial Tsunami and other Economics Issues edited by Sng Hui Ying and Chia Wai Mun. This book is an annual effort by the economists at the Nanyang Technological University to provide analysis, interpretations and insights of contemporary economic issues affecting Singapore and Asia. It covers two key themes: (1) Global Financial Tsunami and (2) other economic issues affecting Singapore and Asia. The Global Financial Tsunami is currently ravaging the world financial systems and the world economy. The authors brilliantly tackle pertinent issues such as fiscal and monetary management of the current crisis, impacts of the crisis on the Singapore and Asian economies, policy measures implemented by Singapore and other countries to combat the crisis, and regional efforts to mitigate the adverse impacts of the crisis. A wide range of important economic issues affecting Singapore and Asia, including inflation, exchange rate, workfare, environmental economics, population and worth of human life in Singapore are addressed competently. The chapters build on economic and analytical frameworks to help readers better understand the economic and policy issues discussed.
  • Singapore: A Biography by Mark Ravinder Frost and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow. This substantial "biography" of Singapore draws on the resources of the National Museum as it brings to life people and events that since early times have shaped the island of Singapore. Anecdotes and sidelights as well as archival material make this both a scholarly and an accessible view of the country's people and development up to 9 August 1965. With high-quality illustrations, end notes, bibliography and index.
  • State, Society and Religious Engineering: Towards A Reformist Buddhism in Singapore by Kuah-Pearce Khun Eng. The book looks at how religion in Singapore is being subjected to the processes of modernisation and change. The Singapore State has consciously brought religion under its guidance. It has exercised strong bureaucratic and legal control over the functioning of all religions in Singapore. The Chinese community and the Buddhist Sangha have responded to this by restructuring their temple institutions into large multi-functional temple complexes. There has been quite a few books written on the role of the Singapore State but, so far, none has been written on the topic - the relationship between state, society and religion. It will help to fill the missing gap in the scholarly literature on this area. This is also a topic of great significance in many Asian, particularly Southeast Asian, countries and it will serve as an important book for future reference in this area of research and comparative studies.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Books on Mahathir

Following on from a previous post listing some interesting books on Mahathir, here are three more books providing further insights into this most enigmatic of leaders. In particular, the recently published Malaysian Maverick by Barry Wain has added to heated debates about his legacy (see some online posts here).
  • Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times by Barry Wain. The grandson of an Indian immigrant and the first Malay commoner to become prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad turned the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country into one of the developing world's most successful economies. During his 22 years in power he adopted pragmatic economic policies alongside repressive political measures, and showed that Islam was compatible with representative government and modernisation. Abrasive and outspoken, Mahathir emerged as a Third World champion and Islamic spokesman by condemning the West, not least for trying to impose liberal democracy and neo-liberal economics on developing nations. By raising living standards and winning international acclaim, he contributed to a sense of national identity, pride and confidence among ethnically diverse Malaysians. But in mixing business and politics, Mahathir encouraged cronyism and failed to prevent the spread of corruption. Authoritarian and impatient, he jailed opponents, sacked rivals and undermined institutions as he pursued his obsession with development. In retirement, he broke a promise to stay out of politics, falling out with his two successors while using all available means to protect his legacy.
  • Dr. Mahathir's Selected Letters to World Leaders edited by Abdullah Ahmad. Seventy-one letters written or received by Dr Mahathir during his term as Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981-2003 are reproduced for the first time in this book. His correspondence with George Bush, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles reveal their contrasting positions on terrorism, globalisation, economic and diplomatic relations as well as war and conflicts.
  • Unmaking Of Malaysia, The: Insider's Reminiscences Of Umno, Razak And Mahathir by Ahmad Mustapha Hassan. What have two past prime ministers of Malaysia achieved, and what is the legacy they have left behind? While many have tried to provide answers to this question, few people have had the courage and determination to come forth and make their assessments public. The author, Ahmad Mustapha Hassan, takes the reader through the various phases of his involvement in the country's administration and in UMNO politics during the country's formative years. In particular, he focuses on the various facets of the administration of Tun Razak and that of Dr. Mahathir. This book therefore represents the first insider account of the post-independence administration of Malaysia in the 1970s and 1980s from a ringside observer's perspective. It should appeal to anyone interested in Malaysian politics, particularly those who want fresh and critical insights into the administrations of Tun Razak and Dr. Mahathir.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hike It! in the Sunday Times

Hike It! Bras Basah & Waterloo was selected as one of the 5 books in the "Children" section of The Sunday Times's "Top 50 Gift of Books" list (December 13, 2009).

It mentions that the book is suitable for "parents and kids looking for shared activities to do". We couldn't agree more!
The press clipping is shown here:

We have now started work on the second book in the series. It will feature the area around the Singapore River. As part of the research, we hope very much to interview people who lived around that area from before the War to the 1950s, so as to incorporate their stories into the book. It will be great for children to read these stories and "experience" them while they walk around the area. Do contact us if you know of someone who did or if you are one of them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Selections 98

We have just released the latest edition of Selections, our monthly catalogue of new titles: Selections 98. Here are five interesting titles from it:
  • Fisheries Exploitation in the Indian Ocean: Threats and Opportunities edited by Dennis Rumley and Sanjay Chaturvedi. This book aims to further the debate on the impacts of fisheries policies in the Indian Ocean Region in order to facilitate a new regional policy direction. A key argument of the volume is that ecologically sustainable and socially just development and management of Indian Ocean fisheries require a paradigm shift in the perceptions and policies of major stakeholders. A central policy challenge is to identify a collective regional interest for fisheries and accordingly the development of integrated management policies that link ecology and society and which incorporate individuals, communities, agencies, states and regimes into a holistic cooperative endeavour. Successful ocean governance therefore requires greater inter-state and inter-agency consultation and cooperation, an improvement in linking national initiatives to local action, increased participation of local government and local communities and the enhancement of local capability. In order to achieve this overall goal requires either the enhancement of existing regional institutions or the creation of a new regional body.
  • The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew. The University Socialist Club (USC) was formed in February 1953. In the 1950s and 1960s the USC and its organ Fajar were a leading voice advocating the cause of the constitutional struggle for freedom and independence in peninsular Malaya and Singapore. The Fajar Generation tells the hitherto neglected story of a remarkable group of men and women who advanced a radical agenda of anti-colonialism, democracy, multiculturalism and social justice through the agency of the USC. Through personal memoirs and analytical essays the contributors to this collection illuminate the roles that they played in that extraordinary era of political turmoil in the modern histories of Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore, where different strands of nationalist thinking and competing political formations battled to define and shape the character of the future nation states.
  • Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin by John Blofeld. She is the embodiment of selfless love, the supreme symbol of radical compassion, and, for more than a millennium throughout Asia, she has been revered as "The One Who Hearkens to the Cries of the World." Kuan Yin is both a Buddhist symbol and a beloved deity of Chinese folk religion. This 2009 re-issue of John Blofeld's classic study traces the history of this most famous of all the bodhisattvas from her origins in India (as the male figure Avalokiteshvara) to Tibet, China, and beyond, along the way highlighting her close connection to other figures such as Tara and Amitabha. The account is full of charming stories of Blofeld's encounters with Kuan Yin's devotees during his journeys in China. The book also contains meditation and visualization techniques associated with the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and translations of poems and yogic texts devoted to her.
  • Gender and Labour in Korea and Japan: Sexing Class edited by Ruth Barraclough and Elyssa Faison. Bringing together for the first time sexual and industrial labour as the means to understand gender, work and class in modern Japan and Korea, this book shows that a key feature of the industrialisation of these countries was the associated development of a modern sex labour industry. Tying industrial and sexual labour together, the book opens up a range of key questions: In what economy do we place the labour of the former "comfort women"? Why have sex workers not been part of the labour movements of Korea and Japan? Why is it difficult to be "working-class" and "feminine"? What sort of labour hierarchies operate in hostess clubs? How do financial crises translate into gender crises? This book explores how sexuality is inscribed in working-class identities and traces the ways in which sexual and labour relations have shaped the cultures of contemporary Japan and Korea. It addresses important historical episodes such as the Japanese colonial industrialisation of Korea, wartime labour mobilisation, women engaged in forced sex work for the Japanese army throughout the Asian continent, and issues of ethnicity and sex in the contemporary workplace. The case studies provide specific examples of the way gender and work have operated across a variety of contexts, including Korean shipyard unions, Japanese hostess clubs, and the autobiographical literature of Korean factory girls. Overall, this book provides a compelling account of the entanglement of sexual and industrial labour throughout the 20th century, and shows clearly how ideas about gender have contributed in fundamental ways to conceptions of class and worker identities.
  • Malay Peninsula: Old Photographs of Malaya and Singapore By Kleingrothe C. 1900 by John Falconer et al. This impressive volume presents a selection of works by German commercial photographer Charles J. Kleingrothe, who was active in the Malay Archipelago during the early 1900s. His large-format photographs are one of the key visual records of Malaya at a time of great transformation, and record life and landscapes in Malaya at the dawn of the 20th century. The book is based on the more than 100-year-old portfolio Malay Peninsula (Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States) from the personal collection of HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Sultan of Selangor. Slip cased.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book launch: 冲出云围的朝阳

The book launch for 冲出云围的朝阳 was successfully held on 28 November 2009 at the National Library Board.

We were honoured to have a distinguished lineup of moderator and panelists for the panel discussion:

Moderator: Mr Lin Xingdao (Singapore media veteran)

Panelist: Dr Ong Yong Peng (academic)
Panelist: Mr Chen Keng Juan (former principal of Pei Chun Public School)
Panelist: Mr Tan Kok Siew (author)

A common theme from the panellists as well as audience members was the educational value of 冲出云围的朝阳, from a range of perspectives: educating a new generation of Singaporeans about our heritage; inspiring young Singaporeans through sharing how our ancestors overcame great difficulties through determination and perseverance; and using the book as a means of teaching Chinese in schools.

The turnout was great; in fact, bettet than
expected, so we had to scramble to find another hundred or so chairs, and even then, many had to stand.

Here are photos from the launch.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Books on Bhutan, Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon

This is a selection of book on Bhutan:
  • Hidden Bhutan: Entering The Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon by Martin Uitz. In 2006, Time magazine listed the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, as one of the 100 "leaders and revolutionaries" who are changing our world today. Yet it was only in the 1960s that the first road linking the Kingdom with India was opened. Martin Uitz, a renowned expert on Bhutan, describes how the Bhutanese, in pursuit of the principle of "Gross National Happiness", are carefully moving towards a more modern future, including a constitution and democracy, whilst preserving their traditional society and conserving the environment. This modestly-sized book offers a fascinating insight into a little-known country that is engaging with the stresses of modernisation and opening up to the wider world in a unique way.
  • From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan (Reprinted 2008) edited by Diana K. Myers and Susan S. Bean. 2008 reissue of the 1994 illustrated account of the textile arts of Bhutan. The book originally accompanied the first major presentation of Bhutan's textile art in the West which took place at the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts. Specialised papers are grouped and address: textiles in the country's cultural history; women and men in textile use and creation; and meaning and materials involved. Graphics and archival material as well as colour photographs of the exhibits indicate the beauty and diversity of Bhutan's past and present textile artefacts. With glossary, notes, catalogue of exhibits, bibliography and index.
  • Bhutan: Hidden Lands of Happiness by John Wehrheim. One hundred and eight fine, black-and-white photo studies illuminate the author's ruminative exploration of geography and life of the Himalayan country of Bhutan. The journey through mountains, ricelands and towns shows aspects of the structures and present, often age-old, ways of life of the kingdom's 480 000 people who are now starting to deal with new impacts from the globalising world. Stories, anecdotes and informal interviews offer insights into Bhutan's philosophy and its stated priority for happiness. Glimpses of future changes are seen and discussed as the book ends in the streets and nightclubs of the capital Thimphu Town.
  • The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan (DVD Included) edited by Terese Tse Bartholomew and John Johnson. This impressive volume complements the ongoing international exhibition of the sacred arts of Bhutan, which is the fruit of many years of scholarly work by the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the religious and government authorities in Bhutan. Twelve illustrated essays by Bhutanese and Western scholars discuss the history of the country and some of its leaders and religious teachers, as well as the significance and conservation of its Buddhist artefacts and living traditions. The catalogue presents 100 sacred objects with colour plates, provenance details and detailed descriptions. The accompanying DVD presents the ritual dances, which are an important part of Bhutan's history and religious rituals. With glossary, time charts, lineages, bibliography, map and index.
  • Unbecoming Citizens: Culture, Nationhood, and the Flight of Refugees from Bhutan (Reprinted 2006) by Michael Hutt. Many general and local issues are discussed in this careful study of the situation of the hundred thousand refugees of Nepali ethnicity who, in the 1990s, were evicted from Bhutan and now live in refugee camps. The account of the history, culture, settlement and occupations of these now rejected and stateless people is enriched by interviews with refugees and authority figures. Issues relating to the problems and challenges of national identity, nation-building and international responsibility are explored against the backdrop of this ongoing tragedy of displacement. With bibliography, illustrations and index.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Books on Indonesia Art and Collectibles

Here is a selection of books on Indonesia art and collectibles:
  • Javanese Antique Furniture and Folk Art: The David B. Smith and James Tirtoprodjo Collections by Bruce Carpenter. Quirky, enigmatic and uniquely beautiful, the art and furnishings of Central and East Java's villages and palaces are little known to the art historians, museum curators and collectors of the world. Armed with all the charm and characteristics of folk art - bright, bold colours; na?ve forms and compositions; flattened perspective; anonymous origins; functionality; humour and social commentary - it is the product of a complex and ancient culture renowned for its ability to pick and choose from outside influences without impairing the integrity of the original. Javanese Antique Furniture and Folk Art celebrates this delightful art form with more than 300 colour photographs, while insights from experts reveal the history and fascinating culture embodied in one of the world's most impressive collections of Javanese art.
  • The Javanese Kris by Isaac Groneman. A substantial article by the Curator of the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, introduces this first translation of the major 1910 study of the Javanese Kris by Isaac Groneman (1832-1912), Court Physician to the Sultan of Yogyakarta. New colour photographs drawn from several collections enhance the original study. This definitive study on the kris provides details of the processes of forging, selecting tools and materials, of styles and symbols, the significance of different handles, dress (sheaths), motifs, ceremonies, usage demands, and maintenance. All of these are detailed with illustrative drawings and photographs. With extensive glossary and some working diagrams.
  • Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia by Sandra Niessen. Weaving in the Batak region of North Sumatra is an ancient art practised by women, and exhibits some of the oldest design and technical features in the Indonesian archipelago. Since colonial annexation at the turn of the 20th century, innovative Batak weavers from the Lake Toba region in northern Sumatra have successfully adapted their art to new economic and social circumstances - but at great cost. In recent decades, weaving has fallen into decline and the tradition is threatened, while at the same time Batak textiles are highly prized in museum collections around the world. Legacy in Cloth offers the first definitive study of the woven heritage of the Toba, Simalungun, and Karo Batak. The most complete analysis of Batak textiles ever published, it provides a record of more than 100 different design types, including archival and contemporary photographs showing how the textiles are woven and how they are used in Batak culture.
  • Gerard Pieter Adolfs 1898-1968, The Painter of Java and Bali by Eveline Borntraeger-Stoll and Gianni Orsini. This major volume conveys the diversity and beauty of the works of the Dutch artist Gerard Pieter Adolfs (1898-1968). Adolfs was born to a Dutch family in Surabaya and became known as an architect and then painter of Java and Bali. After 1939 his career was mainly in Holland. Many examples of his art and design show the variety and extent of his oeuvre, most of which relates to Indonesia. The account of his life is interleaved with archival photographs, insets, and several hundred colour plates; his techniques and developing ideas are also discussed. With bibliography, catalogue of works 1923-67, and chronology.
  • Indonesian Odyssey: A Private Journey through Indonesia's Most Renowned Fine Art Collections by Helena Spanjaard. In this major volume the senior art historian Dr Helena Spanjaard has brought together some 230 Indonesian paintings in 21 private collections in Indonesia which are normally not open to the public. The artists are either locally born or foreign - mostly Dutch - who worked in Indonesia. The paintings reflect both international training and ideas and indigenous traditions and techniques many of which have been redeveloped into new forms in recent years. The selected paintings are by both widely acclaimed artists and the almost unknown. They are complemented by interviews and thoughtful commentaries and the fact that the colour plates are of outstanding quality.