Monday, August 18, 2014

100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World

Silverfish Public Talk by Anya Schiffri

GLOBAL MUCKRACKING is now available at Silverfish Books for RM77.90 only)

Topic: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World
Time and Date: 5:30pm on Saturday, 6 September, 2014
Venue: Silverfish Books, 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +603-228 448 37 (email:

This is an open event. (We expect a good turn out, so please RSVP by email or telephone, to tell us how many will be coming.)

About the speaker

Anya Schiffrin is the editor of the soon to be published (August 2014) book: Global Muckracking -- 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World (New Press, 256 pgs, ISBN: 978-1-59558-973-6).

She is the director of the media and communications program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She spent ten years working overseas as a journalist in Europe and Asia. She is also the editor of Bad News: How America’s Business Press Missed the Story of the Century and a co-editor, with Eamon Kircher-Allen, of From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring (all published by The New Press). She is married and lives in New York City.

Other speakers

Ying Chan is journalism professor and director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong. She has worked as a journalist in New York City for 23 years and has edited six books on the media in China.

Anton Harber was founder-editor of the anti-apartheid newspaper the Weekly Mail (now the Mail & Guardian). He is now Caxton Professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, chair of the Freedom of Expression Institute, a board member of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, writes a column in Business Day, and is the author of several books.

About Anya Schiffri's work

This (Global Muckracking) is no mere collection of exposés. It is a global look at the 20th-century writers who have dared to uncover stories of injustice and abuse. (Kirkus Review).

Anya Schiffrin (Media and Communications/Columbia Univ.; editor: Bad News: How America’s Business Press Missed the Story of the Century, 2011, etc.) literally dug through boxes of articles that disintegrated in her hands. Many of the included contributors suffered imprisonment or died at the hands of those they exposed. “This book is a collection of pieces that launched campaigns, exposed military atrocities, and called for justice for the downtrodden and the colonized,” writes the author. Each article includes an introduction and background information by carefully chosen journalists or activists well-informed and often deeply involved in the subject. The articles are especially noteworthy since the problems are indeed global, from the smallest villages in Africa to India, Colombia and New Zealand. Over the decades, a host of different writers have covered the same situations again and again. Schiffrin shows writings that span the entire 20th century, examining such situations as labour abuse, which has been evident in dozens of different locales across the world. Among the other topics are anti-colonialism, corruption, oil and mining, food shortages and famine, and military and police. What factors are required for these exposés to be effective? The author suggests that local interest and elite support is vital, as well as social movements pushing for reform; most importantly, wide media coverage brings the situation to the attention of the world. The collection begins with a 1904 article by E.D. Morel (introduced by Adam Hochschild), and other important contributors include Robin Hyde, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alma Guillermoprieto and Christian Parenti.

The incredible amount of work that Schiffrin put into the selection of the articles and those who explain them makes this a top-notch anthology of significant journalism.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Silverfish 15th Anniversary Party


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 have 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 old 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

Special invitations will be going out to all Silverfish authors (some of whom are pictured below), including Antares, Chua Kok Yee, Dina Zaman, Farish A Noor, Huzir Suleiman, Isa Kamari, Kow Shih-Li, Matthew Thomas, MA Quayum, Rozlan Mohd Noor, Salleh ben Joned; non-Silverfish authors like Alfian Sa'at, Cecil Rajendra, Amir Muhammad, Chua Guat Eng, Kee Thuan Chye, Mahbob Abdulah, Mohamad Jayzuan, Peter Brown, Rehman Rashid,  Robert Yeo, Rumaizah Abu Bakar, Sufian Abas, Tash Aw, Tan Twan Eng, Tengku 'Abidin Mukriz, Wong Phui Nam, etc; and friends of Silverfish who have grown with us. (We do not know how many will be free to turn up on the day, though.)

The occasion will be a time for us to forget about books and simply have a party: There will be no readings, no book launches, and no public talks, only mingling, the odd book signing (if you manage to corner your favourite author) and makan and minum, that is, a mini literary festival of authors and readers without the boring stuff.

And talking about makan and minum, since this is a party for friends, feel free to bring a pot (or a tray) or a bottle. We will be organising some refreshments, of course.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Book event: The Sum of Our Follies

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.

About the author:

Shih-Li Kow is a home-grown Malaysian writing sensation who came to light with her first book of short stories, Ripples and other stories, in 2009, which was immediately shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award that year, beating Ali Smith and Kazuo Ishiguro to the list.

Shih-Li Kow's short stories have appeared in several anthologies since her first publication in 2007. She currently works in real estate management and lives in Kuala Lumpur with her extended family, cat and a beehive.

About the book:

Stylish, subtle and funny, Shih-Li is an amazing storyteller. The Sum of Our Follies is the story of characters living in a backwater town, Lubok Sayong, in Malaysia with no claim to fame apart from its annual floods, a dubious legend and entrenched mediocrity, struggling with modernity; one that could be compared to the little towns and characters of Amado and Narayan, with just a touch of Calvino. It is not surprising that it attracted much interest in Frankfurt in October last year, and Italian rights have been sold. (All this before the manuscript was finalised and published!)

An extract:

“Call us Tim and Peggy,” they said. Mami kept getting their names wrong and she called them Tom and Jerry. I thought that she did it on purpose. I wondered if Tim and Peggy shared my suspicion. They wanted to know about the house. Everyone who came wanted to know about the house.
“My father built this house. He was an unnatural man,” said Mami.
“An unnatural man?” Mr Miller raised his eyebrows at his wife. They didn’t know that Mami used the word ‘unnatural’ a lot. They must have thought she meant her father was a perv.
“Yes, unnatural. Funny funny, you know. Not normal, not your usual father. He built this house for the loves of his life,” explained Mami. “He had many loves in his life, but the greatest were these four. The rest, he did not marry. More interestingly … eh … Jerry, was that these four agreed to marry him, considering he was not half as good-looking as your Mr Tom here. My father was as ugly as a monkey crossed with goat, but he was very charming. He could talk birds down from trees.”

Rabindranath Tagore book event by Prof Dr MA Quayum

(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.

After reading just one of the 20 short stories (the title story is actually a novella), we were convinced that this was not the work of a journeyman translator but by a master and a lifelong scholar of the works of Rabindranath Tagore. Add this to the fact that Prof Quayum is a native Bengali speaker and a professor of English, and we have a work that can only be described as beautiful. Although universally acknowledged for his poems, and dubbed gurudev (master teacher), kabiguru (master poet) and bishwaskabi (world poet), Tagore was a master of the short story form in Bengali, having written 95 and compared favourably to Anton Chekhov and Guy de Maupassant.

Praise for Prof Quayum from The Daily Star, Bangladesh. (There are literally dozens of them, but this is one we like).

In any translation it is very difficult to keep intact the sense of each context. Quayum’s translation is as close as one can get: clear, contemporary and accessible to a modern English-reading global audience. It is not handicapped by the ignorance of the translator of certain delicate nuances of the Bengali language, especially in the context of intimate household expressions. There is commendable fidelity and honesty in Quayum’s translation. It once again opens up the possibility of discovering a relevance of Tagore's creations more than a century after they were composed…. Without hesitation I recommend Professor Quayum’s volume as an authoritative and eminently readable translation, an essential Tagore for collectors. It should find a place on every discerning reader’s shelf.   

About the author

Mohammad A. Quayum is professor of English at International Islamic University Malaysia, and Adjunct of Professor in the School of Humanities, at Flinders University, Australia. He has previously taught at universities in Bangladesh, Singapore and the United States. Quayum is the author, editor or translator of 27 books far too numerous to be listed here. His essays on American and Postcolonial Literatures have appeared in prominent literary journals in Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, the UK and the USA. Quayum is a leading literary scholar in South and Southeast Asia. He is the Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, and is on the Advisory Board of several distinguished literary journal around the world.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Silverfish Public Talk -- March 2014

Topic: Uneasy Alliances, Writers and the University: A Report from Both Sides of the (Diasporic) Border by Shirley Lim
Venue: Silverfish Books Sdn Bhd, 28-1, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-22844837
Date & time: Saturday, 15 March, 2014 at 5.30pm

An abstract by Ms Lim says: "While writing is often constructed as a solitary endeavour undertaken by an individual talent, works of literature, particularly contemporary fiction and poetry, achieve their reputation and after-life through the circuits of public reception, often with academics and scholars as gatekeepers. This talk looks at the cognitive dissonance, complicity and negotiations undertaken in that relationship in the U.S., and asks what and why is the state of that relationship in Malaysia."

Okay. If that was a mouthful, Shirley clarifies: This will NOT be an academic paper with endless citations, but an Alice through the Looking Glass, let's go down that rabbit hole together evening ...

As Malaysians, we like to claim Shirley Lim as our own. Universities teach her books, she continues to sell steadily in our bookshops, and she has lots of friends and relatives here. If Lin Yutang was right when he said, "What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" then she is thoroughly Malaysian. Yet, by citizenship she's American, and a proud one at that.

Her biodata is a mile long, so we shall simply highlight a few points.(If you want to know more, look here.) She was born in 1944 in Malacca, Malaysia, and describes herself as "a wild girl who ran with the boys and alone through the streets" (Among the White Moon Faces, 49). In interviews, she has talked about her "stubborn spirit" that she utilized in school, making her a leader as well as an outcast. She has reportedly said, "Growing up when I did, there weren't many other recreational alternatives, and I had a pretty unhappy childhood ... Reading was a huge solace, retreat, escape. I was a really obsessive reader. Somewhere along the line, I had a sense I should write about things I knew rather than read about things I didn't know. I wanted to write my own voice, my own community."

Her early education was at a Catholic convent school under the British colonial education system. She won a federal scholarship to the University of Malaya which she attended from 1964 to 1969, earning a BA with First Class Honors in English. In 1969, at the age of twenty-four, she entered graduate school at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, earning her Ph.D. in English and American Literature in 1973.

She says that poetry is her driving passion. "That was my first form of literary expression and is the most primal for me." Her first poem was written and then published in the Malacca Times when she was ten. Her first book of poetry, Crossing the Peninsula and Other Poems, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1980. She was the first woman and the first Asian to receive the award.

Shirley Lim is disarming, articulate, intelligent and a wonderful human being. So, come, let's go down that rabbit hole together with a glass of red -- bring a bottle  if you can! -- or tea, or water (plain or sugared).

Admission is free, but do RSVP by replying this email, or call Phek Chin at the number above. (We need to know how many chairs we need to put out.)