Saturday, 13 January 2007

Book Review: Honk! If You're Malaysian (Lydia Teh)

Since I ended last year's book reviews with a Malaysian book by Yvonne Foong, I figured it would be appropriate to start THIS year's Hopefully-Weekly Book Reviews with another local book - Lydia Teh's Honk! If You're Malaysian....

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Title: Honk! If You're Malaysian
Author: Lydia Teh


Synopsis:
Long story short, it's a collection of essays and articles by Lydia, both original and previously published before, mostly about the quirly side of Malaysian life and culture.'

What I Liked:
  • Very... MALAYSIAN
  • 'Tis funny!
  • Refreshingly self-depreciating, very honest at least
  • I like the tone of the whole book. It reflects the way a real Malaysian thinks and speaks, without trying to sound too... sophisticated, and use too many bombastic words.
What I Didn't Like:
  • Some of the stories I'm SURE I've read somewhere before. would have ben nice to include a snippet behind the article to tell us where it was published before, and which are new.
  • I wish I'd written some of the stories here. :-(
  • Er... some jokes seem to have been recycled lor... hehe.

Summary:
I have yet to see a quintessiontally Malaysian fiction novel, and so far, I only recognise one 'author': cartoonist Lat, who has actually published a book that can be said to truly represent the funny, quirky and oh-so-colourful aspects of Malaysian culture without over exoticising it in the way a lot of 'mainstream novels' tend to treat Asian cultures.

Anyway, Lydia's book may not be fiction, but it's as close to Lat's cartoons as you can get in terms of topic and style as you can get. The style is quirky, not too blunt, but not too self-righteous either, and the way it is written doesn't make you feel as though you're being talked down to by some Western writer who thinks he has a superior intellect and vocabulary.

On the contrary, reading this book, you get the feeling that you're being told a story by your next door neighbor, your classmates or even a cab driver (I'm talking about the tone, which truly reflects how a Malaysian thinks and talks, and not about the language or grammar. THOSE are fine.)

Frankly speaking, I was kicking myself a few times while reading the stories because I wish I'd thought of that idea and written the story myself. hehe.

Everything, from food, sports, traffic jams, and everything else you can think of that has to do with Malaysian life is covered in there, and then some; and if you're a Malaysian, you can probably relate to most of, if not all the stories told here.

To put it simply, you'd like Honk, especially if you're Malaysian.

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