Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Alice on Self-Publishing: Hong Kong's Inkstone Books

Alice Clark-Platts writes our monthly column on self-publishing. Here she talks to Peter Gordon, who founded and runs an independent publishing house, Chameleon Press, in Hong Kong. He set up an imprint of Chameleon, Inkstone Books, to enable publication of books of niche interest, mostly from indie authors.

Peter told me that given the relatively few publishers in Hong Kong, once Chameleon was established, he was soon approached by local authors looking for a local publisher. Those authors had some interesting titles but they fell outside the focus of the larger Chameleon Press, meaning that the costs associated with marketing them could potentially outweigh the benefits of the print run.

Chameleon was the first publisher in the region to use print on demand and soon the company developed the ability to do short print runs - a service that no other business could provide in Hong Kong. Short print runs serve much the same objectives as print on demand in that they keep the upfront print costs down. The process is particularly appealing for a small market such as Hong Kong where enough copies can be printed for initial sales and marketing and then further copies can be printed from the proceeds of the first batch, as and when they are required.

Inkstone chooses the books it publishes; the work must be of a certain standard. Books published under Inkstone have the same production values as the Chameleon Press. Even for short print run books, authors are encouraged to use editors and to work to professional design standards. If a book needs to be produced in larger volumes Inkstone takes on more of the production tasks, helping with editorial and design consultation and project management.

Given its local expertise and resources, Inkstone is primarily of use to authors or organisations based in Hong Kong. As experts in the region, Inkstone’s staff can arrange distribution to book stores and assist with coordinating author events. The company is part of the fabric of Hong Kong writing life; it has worked with the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle for several years to put out their annual anthology. This local knowledge is particularly useful for books whose topics and authors are familiar to potential readers.  For example 
Mike Rowse, a Hong Kong personality who became embroiled in a local scandal, wrote up his troubles in No Minister and No, Minister: The True Story of HarbourFest. Almost all the considerable sales of this book were in Hong Kong and it well demonstrates the particular benefits of a Hong Kong-based publisher for Hong Kong-based authors.

In the world of self-publishing, success can come from unexpected quarters. In 2002 Inkstone published The Phenomenon That Was Minder, a guide to the British television series, written by Brian Hawkins. This was an example of a book Inkstone knew had commercial potential but it fell into a tricky place from a marketing perspective. The book has sold well for more than a decade and has, in fact, just been reissued as The Complete Minder.  Brian Hawkins used the success of the book to negotiate a deal with the actor from the series, George Cole, to ghost his autobiography, The World Was My Lobster.

Inkstone has shown that significant sales are possible for self-published books and for books that might be considered niche and fall outside a traditional marketing strategy. Authors should take heart from this and do their research into publishers that can support their work in a particular market. The quality of the work is obviously key, along with a rigorous editing eye and a proper layout. But the moral of the story is that your self-published short print run title could become a best seller – with the support and knowledge of a publishing house such as Inkstone Books.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Seen Elsewhere: Obituaries for Khushwant Singh


Khushwant Singh (February 2, 1915 – March 20, 2014) was an Indian novelist, lawyer, politician and journalist. He was best known for his secularism, his humour, and his love of poetry. He served as the editor of several literary and news magazines, as well as two broadsheets, through the 1970s and 1980s. He was the recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.

Here are some obituaries seen elsewhere around the web.



The Hindu (India)






Aljazeera (Qatar)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Published Today: Buy My Beloved Country by Lee Chiu San

Buy My Beloved Country by Lee Chiu San from Ethos Books is published today in paperback priced in local currencies.

Chinese naval vessels threaten Philippine patrol boats off the shores of the Philippines. China claims sovereignty over the Spratleys in the South China Sea. China unilaterally establishes an East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone. 

We're all used to the headlines.  And we all know too that East Asia could become a military hotspot. This is the background to Buy My Beloved Country.

What  would happen if citizens of the tiny city-state of Singapore found their island nation at the very heart of global geopolitics? What would happen if, as a pawn in the deadly serious global game, the country was made  an offer that spelled wealth for every citizen; every man, woman and child?

Lee imagines heart-wrenching discussions taking place everywhere from the coffee stalls where workers congregate, to the rarefied dining rooms of the nation’s elitist clubs. In the run-up to a referendum in which Singaporeans will have to make the hardest choice, the arguments threaten to divide families and friends.

In this chillingly plausible page-turner, journalist-turned-novelist Lee Chiu San,  examines the relationship between a country and its citizens. Are the ties that bind them purely financial or more emotionally deep-rooted? 

New and Notable

Body Boundaries is an  anthology of works by twenty‐seven women writers from  Singapore, edited by Tania De Rozario,  Zarina Muhammad, and Krishna Udayasankar, published in paperback, priced in local currencies.   

Comprising works of poetry and prose, the collection breaks down barriers between public and 
private, and personal and political, to reveal both collective and diverse experiences threaded together by identity markers of gender and geography. 

The collection is the first volume of a series by EtiquetteSG,  a multidisciplinary platform  dedicated to developing and showcasing art, writing, film and music created by women in 
Singapore.  It is published by the Literary Centre, Singapore. 


Thursday, 20 March 2014

World Storytelling Day by Verena Tay

World Storytelling Day logo
Today, March 20, is World Storytelling Day, an annual celebration of the art of oral storytelling.  Here Verena Tay, a founding member of the Storytelling Association (Singapore), and a co-founder of MoonShadow Stories, a group promoting live narrative art forms, talks about oral traditions in Asia, and how you can help to keep them alive.
If you are reading this blog, you are interested in the written word, texts and stories. But how did people communicate before the invention of writing? Through the spoken word and through oral storytelling, of course.
Even though we now live in an age where there are so many forms of visual communication to take up our attention, we are still hardwired as humans to listen to stories and gain much satisfaction from the experience. Remember as a child how you felt thrilled when an older person told you a story, be it a folk tale or some family anecdote or history? And what better way to bond with friends and family as an adult than to sit down and chat and swap stories? Nothing beats that direct, heart-to-heart, one-to-one bonding that comes with sharing stories.
Oral storytelling had an honoured role in times past in all parts of the world. Often the designated storyteller was the repository of community knowledge and culture and the stories that he or she told helped to pass down that information from one generation to another.
Within Asia, some examples of storytelling transforming into a performance tradition include:
·  storytellers who told stories in Chinese teahouses, various regions of China developing distinctive styles of telling;
·  the Japanese rakugo storyteller sitting alone on a stage and entertaining audiences with comic stories;
·  wayang kulit in the Malay archipelago where the dalang told stories often based on the Ramayana with the aid of shadow puppets and a whole ensemble of musicians.
Within recent history before the age of television and the Internet, Chinese immigrants brought their love of storytellers and storytelling along within them to Singapore. Click here for a poignant photo in the online National Archives of Singapore dating from 1960 of working men gathering along the Singapore River one evening after a hard day’s work just to hear stories from a traditional storyteller. From 1938 to 1982, the famed Cantonese storyteller, Lee Dai Sor, thrilled listeners with stories over public radio on a regular basis.
Far from being an archaic art form, there has been a global revival of oral storytelling since the 1980s. This wave of interest reached Singapore during the late 1990s. Individually and as part of MoonShadow Stories, I am part of this growth of contemporary storytelling as an art form here in Singapore and have particularly promoted storytelling for adult audiences.
One of the regular activities that MoonShadow Stories conducts is celebrating World Storytelling Day in various ways since 2005. On 15 March, we carried out Dragon Tales and Monster Stories and Stories of Faith at The Singapore Arts House for World Storytelling Day 2014.
The idea of World Storytelling Day was first developed in Sweden during the early 1990s to commemorate the art form on March 20, the day of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere. Throughout March this year, World Storytelling Day is being celebrated in Canada, the Netherlands, Greece, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Kenya, the USA, Hawaii, Argentina, the Philippines, Croatia, Venezuela, India, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, the UK, and of course, Singapore. Click here for a programme of events worldwide.
Anyone can celebrate World Storytelling Day. You don’t need to be a professional storyteller, an arts group or a production house to do so.
So today, March 20, all you have to do for World Storytelling Day is turn to a loved one, a colleague, a family member or a friend and share a story, any story, with that person. Go on! Make that person’s day and your day as well. Just tell and have fun!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

It’s always too late for someone / Crime Wave Press

Two friends, Tom Vater and Hans Kemp, have recently launched Crime Wave Press, in Hong Kong.  Here Tom explains how they began their publishing (ad)venture.

In the summer of 2012, Hans and I were sitting in Bangkok talking about the changing world of publishing and the new challenges facing small independent publishers and writers. We had just collaborated on a successful illustrated book, Sacred Skin, Thailand’s Spirit Tattoos, for his Hong Kong based publishing house, Visionary World.  Meanwhile, I had just had the rights to my first novel, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, returned to me by a local publisher. I was also sitting on a crime novel, The Cambodian Book of the DeadI had not yet managed to sell.

Our conversation went something like this.
“Why don’t we start a crime fiction imprint?”
“We could specialise in crime fiction from Asia. There’s bound to be lots of writers out here trying to find a publisher. And there’s plenty of crime to write about.”
“And we’d have two titles to start with immediately.”
“We could call it Crime Wave Press.”

It was really as easy as that. Well, sort of. Well, not quite.

In 2012, there were already a number of small crime fiction imprints in the West, publishing mostly eBooks, but there weren’t any in Asia. Both Hans and I had lived in the region for many years and both of us had had long and independent careers in media. Hans started out as a photographer in Hong Kong and Vietnam, then became a successful publisher of his own illustrated books, most notably Bikes of Burden, a collection of images of motorbikes in Vietnam, which is currently published in four languages. I have a long history of writing features for newspapers and magazines, documentary screenplays, non-fiction books, all with a focus on Asia. Hans came up with the perfect tag line for our piratical endeavour: It’s always too late for someone.

And so, with just a couple of titles - mine - Asia’s first boutique crime fiction imprint was launched with some fanfare at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali in October 2012.  We had a great start, hanging out with Nick Cave, John Pilger and Colin Falconer, schmoozing with agents and feeling like, well, publishers. And it just seemed to get better.

Within weeks of having our first two titles online either as eBooks or as print editions through print on demand, we sold The Cambodian Book of the Dead to British publisher Exhibit A Books. Shortly after we sold the Spanish language rights to The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu to Editorial Xplora.  And we got lucky again by signing the Father Ananda Mystery series by Nick Wilgus, which had been published in Thailand a decade earlier. Now we had a handful of titles, we were organising promotions, interviews, podcasts and we began to shift some copies.

But we received no submissions. Well, that’s not entirely true. We did receive some bar girl novels set in Thailand, quite a few Vietnam War reminiscences by former US soldiers and a handful of titles so badly written we could not even get through the first page, a 120,000 word manuscript on Satanism amongst them. It’s part of our company policy not to publish right wing, racist, sexist or otherwise demeaning fiction. That cancelled out the bar girl novels and most of the war stories. We blogged, we tweeted, we Facebooked, we networked and we sent out thousands of emails. We travelled to the Frankfurt Book Fair. We reached out to literary connections in Japan and India. We cajoled our friends to write novels. And our slush pile remained just that – a pile of low quality slush.

Granted, we found Jame Dibiasio’s excellent Gaijin Cowgirl, the incredible adventure of Val Benson, Tokyo hostess, World War II treasure hunter and a wonderful, if reckless, female protagonist who will be back in a follow-up at the end of the year. But that was pretty much it. We couldn’t find any more crime novels set in Asia. Crime Wave Press, it seemed, was stuck.

In late 2013, I connected with my friend, writer James Newman, who had also started up a small publishing imprint, Spanking Pulp Press. James didn’t seem to have as much of a problem attracting writers, despite not being able to offer advance payments, just like us. He did throw his net wider though, signing any pulp genre fiction from anywhere. Hans and I had to make a difficult decision – carry on publishing a few criminal tales from Asia or broaden our submissions policy and accept crime fiction from all over the world to expand our catalogue. We went for the world.

Crime Wave Press is now reading manuscripts for whodunits, noir and hardboiled, historical mysteries and espionage thrillers, literary crime, pulp fiction, highly commercial page turners and marginal texts exploring cultural underbellies from around the world. The slush pile has grown and so has the quality of the work we receive.

Since changing the policy we have signed five new writers. Ironically the first two titles we publish this year have strong Asian connections. Skewered And Other London Crueltiesby Benedict J Jones, just out, is set in London’s Asian community.  Salaryman Unboundby Ezra Kyrill Erker takes place in Japan.

But those elusive great books, the ones that have a special quirk, a singular tone, a narrative arc that swings like a jazz beat and an immediacy that cuts like a knife, those remain rare discoveries.  Crime Wave Press is looking for great manuscripts. We plan to publish 24 titles this year – if we can find 24 great crime novels.

Submissions

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Andrea Pasion-Flores / overview of lit life in the Philippines

Manila-based, multi-talented Andrea Pasion-Flores is a copyright lawyer, and an academic – she teaches English at the University of the Philippines as a member of the faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She is also an agent with the Jacaranda Literary Agency – the first agent in the Philippines. She was previously the Executive Director of the National Book Development Board of the Philippines (NBDB).

I interviewed Andrea by e-mail, to find out more about books and readers in the Philippines. I started by asking her about her work at the NBDB. Whilst she was the Executive Director, she was known for her pioneering work introducing literary events to the Philippines. Starting with Lit Out Loud (2010), followed by The Great Philippine Book CafĂ© (2011) and Read Lit District (2012), she helped establish the Philippines as a venue on the world literary festival circuit. How did she now feel about that achievement? “I was working with very few resources yet trying to make things work. That was a lot of heartache, but very rewarding, too. So I do feel like a proud parent of sorts.”

Beyond the festivals, what does Andrea consider the legacy of her time at the NBDB? I don't think I should claim anything as mine. There were many men and women working for each success, so each one was the institution’s: things got done because of collaboration; people saw the vision; we were focused. I was lucky in timing, too. When I was appointed to the NBDB, the agency was in transition and was still finding its way from a complicated past. So I was free, with the support of the Chair, Dennis Gonzalez, to test a lot of ideas. I began with some housekeeping: a revision of the vision/mission, the agency's framework, the re-assigning of personnel, and the setting of goals. Meanwhile, Dennis Gonzalez was working to establish a trust fund for authors, to help those who were working on manuscripts that were important though perhaps not commercially viable. He and I, and the whole NBDB, wanted to help others to generate content, to help in the creation of knowledge - the larger vision of working towards a knowledge-based economy was always in our minds. So we made sure that legislation to establish the fund would pass, lobbying congressmen and senators to get behind the bill to secure our trust fund. I remember sitting up with Dennis Gonzalez until 2 or 3 in the morning at the Senate because our Senator-sponsor, Senator Allan Peter Cayetano, was planning to sneak legislation onto the agenda - it was not calendared for the day, but he was confident it would be taken up and believed in it as much as we did. We had to be there just in case there were questions. And he did get it in, and it was passed: supporting writers is now an on-going activity. It's a great thing. I'm proud to have been a part of that law's journey.”

What about other initiatives to help authors to survive money-wise? “It's very difficult for authors to live off their writing, and it’s doubly painful when their copyrights are infringed. Hence the NBDB helped establish a collective management organisation for authors. Now, many authors are compensated for the use of their works in the public school system. The amounts aren't fantastic yet, but they're improvements from nothing.”

Copyright infringement is a big problem in Asia, and not just within publishing, either. How did Andrea’s background as a copyright lawyer help her fight the pirates? “I was in a position to help in the Intellectual Property Office's quest to have a new copyright law pushed through the legislature, to provide strong copyright protection in the Philippines. Whenever there was a request for comments on proposals, or for someone to go to congressional hearings, I would just slog on. By my time, legislation had been languishing in congress for so long with many people working on it, contributing so much in different ways then having it shot down then revived again, that I didn't think I would ever see the fruit of all that hard work, but the bill was passed!”

That must have been a great day for authors, as well as for lawyers? “Sure. I was always keeping in mind that I had to watch out for the rights of authors. I was aware I had the responsibility to watch out for the public interest, especially in a developing country like the Philippines - I think everybody involved was aware of this responsibility. With the Intellectual Property Office leading the effort, I do feel the Philippines now has a copyright law that is progressive yet fair to copyright owners. The law is a source of pride for the many who worked on it.”

Beyond legal and financial issues, how did the NBDB reach out to the wider literary community of the Philippines?  How did it help develop a thirst for reading Philippine literature? “I think the very basic thing the Philippines needs to do to grow readership is to raise the quality of education in the public school system. At the university, I see the large gap that has to be bridged when dealing with students from the public schools. Though efforts are ongoing, it's a long a process, but I have hope that I will see this happen. In terms of my work at the NBDB, under my watch we put Philippine poetry in the train system. It was called Tulaan sa Tren  - roughly, poetry in the train - it sounds better in Filipino I assure you! We recorded celebrities reading the poetry, and had the recordings played on the radio, on partners' websites, in coffee shops. We distributed Tulaan sa Tren posters - poetry posters - to schools and libraries. We ran Tulaan sa Tren twice, and both times the reception was fantastic. We also raised the profile of the National Book Awards, which are given every year by the NBDB and the Manila Critics Circle to the best books written, designed, and published in the Philippines, and established the biannual National Children's Book Award.”

Moving away from Andrea’s old role at the NBDB, I asked her about her new one as an agent. I didn't know how isolated she was, professionally, but I did remark she surely couldn’t have many competitors for clients.  “Right. I have a feeling I am not only the first literary agent in the Philippines, I suspect I am also the only one!”  Really?  “Really. I think there should be more, but people here still have to get used to the idea of an agent. Here, content creators deal directly with publishers, but, as everywhere, creators and publishers have distinct interests. Also, people here find it difficult to talk about compensation, especially when the authors and publishers are friends, which is always the case because the publishing industry is tiny. So sometimes you have authors unable to make good deals for themselves, or they can't collect monies owed them, or they sell the rights to their own work for very little.” 

What about other publishing professionals – editors, for example? And what about other parts of the infrastructure, review journals, book fairs etc? Does the Philippines have these things? “Like many young markets, I think the Philippines still has a lot to improve on. We lack editors able to give high-level advice on manuscripts, though we do have a good number of copy editors. We need more distributors, marketers and publicists, more experienced book designers, more translators. I can go on and on with my wish list.” 

Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore, where the National Arts Council is a strong supporter of literature.  Andrea drew a comparison with the situation in the Philippines: “I do wish the Philippines could afford the kind of government support Singapore is giving its creative sector. But maybe someday we'll get there, too? We are a generally happy people, and I fall into the mould of the optimistic Filipino!”

Government support is one thing, but a mature publishing industry surely needs a strong selection of commercial publishing houses. Are such houses to be found in the Philippines? “We have many publishers - but there's always room for more good ones. If you have a vision for how books should be made, or how content should read I think there's room for you in this large, diverse market.”

What about marketing to that large, diverse market? “There is still a long way to go in terms of marketing and publicity. We need to reach out to mainstream media. Authors need to help. More authors are going out there to make their works and themselves known, and social media is helping, but there's a lot of work still to be done. Also, we do need more distributors and retail outlets aside from the current ones. The Philippines is an archipelago, and has difficulty distributing to more than 7,100 islands populated by about 100 million. We need more libraries and bookstores and other creative channels of getting books to their readers. Digital publishing should be the solution, but it has yet to really catch on here. Many things are being done, some more quietly than others, and people are working together to make it happen. So I think the industry will soon be focused in its goals.”

You can’t have a publishing industry without readers and writers, and in Asia, for many authors, a big barrier to gaining readers is lack of English, on either one side, or the other, or both. I asked Andrea for her thoughts on this perennial problem. Are most local authors in the Philippines writing in English?  If so, do they resent this?  If an author wants to write in Tagalog, or another local language, is there much chance of translation into English?  

Andrea said: “There are many authors working in Filipino (Tagalog) as well as in English. The Philippines has around 170 regional languages, 12 of which are designated mother tongue languages. Of course, there really needs to be more translation work going on for all these languages, not only from English to Filipino and vice versa but to all 12 mother tongues at least. It's happening, slowly, children's books are leading the way because our education system has recently introduced the requirement of learning in the mother tongue. One publisher forged the way with the translation of popular young adult novels like Harry Potter and Hunger Games and other titles into Filipino. More titles have been following this path, with translations happening in other regional languages. Translation will help broaden the market and keep people hooked on books. So that's a great development.” 

How eager are local people to read books by local authors?  Is the market dominated by bestsellers from the West?  Or not?  How do local authors get their voices heard locally?

“For local books, the bestsellers are those written in Filipino (Tagalog). The English titles don't come close to the numbers bestsellers in Filipino rack up. For the English-language books, most bestsellers in other markets would also be the bestsellers in the Philippines. Of course, genre fiction sells, romance, religious and inspirational books, self-help, etc. In any language, those kinds of title will sell. I hear graphic novels in English are not doing so badly either, but it's a niche.”

I wondered whether Andrea detected any trends, concerns or fashions particular to the literature of the Philippines at the moment?  What currently concerns local authors?  “I like what's happening in the comics scene. There is a very loyal fan base that packs comics conventions here - kids do cosplay, swap comics, and lots of indies show up to sell, too. The book bloggers, writers, and illustrators are there, with readers in kilometric lines asking for autographs. It's a community. Meanwhile, I just attended an opening of an exhibit in a museum featuring the art of comics and graphic novels. I thought it was very cool to have comics in a museum - an important thing for the genre. 

I also see a lot of crime and fantasy being written. For more popular lit, romance is still up there, especially with a little bit of a twist - interracial romance, paranormal romance. Kids are also writing a lot of fantasy and sci-fi within the romance genre. Young adult lit is flourishing. I've read a few narratives that happen within games. I thought that was interesting. Books on finances aimed at younger people are also growing in popularity.

Wattpad is big, and has been dictating what gets published by commercial publishers. Kids are using Wattpad as a launchpad for a writing career. I think that is very interesting. The language being used is Filipino mixed with English - lots of Taglish going on. The stuff that's written might not meet professional standards, but Wattpad is its own space, and what a large space it is! There's a lot of fan fiction and erotica being written in that space, too. It's interesting.”

I commented that it all seemed very lively. “Yes. It's a very vibrant scene actually. In Manila, there are books launched almost every week – although it would be nice to have more exciting book events, with lots of activities aimed towards young people aside from just readings, which are standard at the moment. There were a couple of local movies that were based on books that came out recently, with big name celebrities playing the major roles. Film adaptations are great if they get people buying the books. Still, we need to do more of everything to reach out to the market. We need to be out there all the time getting people excited about books and reading.”

I asked Andrea if she could recommend any local authors as ones to watch, or books by local authors she thought everybody ought to read? “Oh, there are so many!  I am sure to get in trouble for this, but here goes anyway - I should say I have a soft spot for women authors. For novels in English, remember the names Vicente Garcia Groyon, Katrina Tuevera - daughter of another great woman writer, Kerima Polotan Tuvera - Glenn Diaz, Tara F.T. Sering and Dean Alfar. For crime, I would recommend F.H. Batacan. For writing on the conflict in the southern Philippines, Criselda Yabes. I like the essays of Rica Bolipata Santos and Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo. In Filipino, I enjoy the funny yet painful coming-of-age essays of Beverly Wico Siy. Among the men, I would say Charlson Ong is a really fantastic novelist writing about the Filipino-Chinese experience. I also always enjoy the short fiction of Jose Y. Dalisay and Sarge Lacuesta. 

People ought to read Gilda Cordero-Fernando's short stories, especially A Wilderness of Sweets and People in the War and Ninotchka Rosca's State of War. Anything that comes out of the mind of Merlinda Bobis is worth reading, too. If you ever get the chance to listen to her, she is such a treat. 

If people want to get to know the fiction and poetry of the Philippines, they should get copies of all the anthologies of Gemino H. Abad, who also happens to be a fantastic poet. The poems of Edith Tiempo and Marjorie Evasco are wonderful, too - here again is my bias for women writers.  For poetry and criticism in Filipino, I'd go for Virgilio S. Almario. He is ably translated into English by Marne Kilates. Krip Yuson and J. Neil Garcia's poems must be read, too.  

Among the younger poets, I'd say pick up the books of Rafael San Diego, Mikael Ko, Mark Anthony Cayanan, Paolo Manalo, Isabelita O. Reyes, and Conchitina Cruz. For graphic novels, you will be blown away by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldismo's Trese series. If you want to get to know Filipino food, Doreen Fernandez is the canon.” 

For children's lit, I like Ompong Remegio's story books. Candy Gourlay's novels are fantastic, too. I would say for children's lit everyone ought to read Doll's Eyes by Eline Santos, a horror story for children that happens in the labyrinthine city of Quiapo, a chaotic, mystical place in Manila. It's wonderfully terrifying! The illustrations of Joy Mallari are riveting as well.” 

Finally, I asked Andrea if she were appointed spokeswoman to the world for the literature of the Philippines, what would she say? “The literature coming from the Philippines reflects the pain and suffering found in the everyday realities of the Filipino people. Remember we're always in the path of destruction - we're in storms' way and in the ring of fire. Many parents leave children behind to work overseas. We've had a long colonial past the effects of which we're still suffering from. Many are mired in poverty still. Yet despite this history of suffering, Filipinos were found to be one of the most optimistic and caring people on earth. They are not flippant or dismissive of the harsh realities they face, but are persistent and resilient, and are constantly showing people how to overcome the harshness of a difficult life. I believe with all my heart that a novel reflecting this part of the world's realities from a writer who lives in the Philippines will soon blow everyone away. I am determined to find that novel and represent it, and it's not going to be just one novel but many. I am sure Filipino writers writing in English are working on it. Maybe the big books will come from writers writing Filipino-Tagalog or any of the regional languages and will be translated into English for the world - from being written in Filipino languages they will forge their own form - I am excited to find those, too. I do know Philippine literature is rich and varied - and grossly underrepresented in the world's publishing arena. Jacaranda intends to stop this underrepresentation of Asian literature. I intend to stop the underrepresentation of Philippine lit. I feel very strongly that the world is ready to read Asia. I promise the world Asian literature won't disappoint.”

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Published Today: Capital by Rana Dasgupta

Capital: A Portrait Of Twenty-First Century Delhi by Rana Dasgupta is published today by Canongate Books, available in eBook and hardback priced in local currencies. 

Capital is an intimate and wide-ranging portrait of Delhi, one of the fastest changing, and fastest growing, cities on earth. India has rapidly become a global economy, and in only the last decade Delhi has moved from a quiet colonial capital to a vast, teeming twenty-first century city, with slums and markets demolished, and luxury offices and apartment blocks springing up in their place. As elsewhere in Asia, the change has been breathtaking, fast, and brutal. While many have prospered, others have lost everything. English-born Dasgupta, who has lived in Delhi for the last fourteen years, explores the transformation of his adopted hometown into a twenty-first century megalopolis through the eyes of its people - its billionaires and slum dwellers, drug dealers and call centre workers, the playboys and Sufi mystics, members of the so-called middle classes, whose relatively high incomes make them a local elite, and sons of the true global elites of the political and business classes. 

As you'd guess from its title income - money - is important in this book. Like Beijing and Jakarta, Delhi can be seen as an accelerated microcosm demonstrating the impact of rapid globalisation linked to an unregulated market economy. 

Residents of Asia's other rapidly-developing hotspots of capitalism will surely find in Capital many parallels with their own experiences of living in corrupt, sometimes violent, traumatised cities, ones growing so fast they are almost unrecognisable to their own inhabitants. 

Capital is Dasgupta's first work of non-fiction. His earlier work includes the much-acclaimed novel Solo, and Tokyo Cancelled, a collection of urban folktales. He hosts a website and blog here