Blog Archive

Monday 21 May 2012

Boria: A Form of Malay Theatre (Review)

Random Reviews -5

Rahmah Bujang
(ISEAS, 1987)

For most readers this will probably be a book of surprises.  The first surprise may well be to discover what Boria’s all about. It’s basically entertainment, drama and dance, with a message. Its home amongst Penang’s Malay community. Although it has now been transformed into an art form with a separate identity, the original concept of Boria was adapted from entertainment that members of the British East India Company’s Madras Regiment brought to Penang more than a hundred years ago. This is somewhat ironic as many of the Boria plots described in the book deal with combating non-Malay influences on the community.

Although the book was published in 1987, the actual research for the book was carried out some ten years earlier as part of the author’s doctoral thesis. It is an interesting time as the country is gearing itself up for its first elections since the race riots of 1969. So the Boria plots have a strong emphasis on conflict, usually domestic, which always has a happy ending. This is usually brought about by the appearance of the penghulu (village headman) in the final stages of the drama. Although he represents order, interestingly he also plays the role of the compromise maker.  Given the proclaimed moral certainty that often characterises political leadership, it’s also a pleasant surprise that the message of most of the comedy and songs is that we need to live and let live while retaining our moral integrity. That integrity for the Boria community is naturally based on Islam.

One of the many interesting aspects of Boria that the author draws out is how Boria tries to cope with being hijacked from being a popular participatory art form to being part of a new ‘Malaysian culture’ to be performed in theatres, on radio and TV far away from the kampong where it has its roots. This mirrors the confusion of the times where in the interests of unity and stability, top down was asserting itself over bottom up. There’s a beautifully captured scene of the preparations for a Boria performance organised by a political group where the politicos decide what needs to be done while the performers hardly have a word to say for themselves. Bujang’s subtle portrayal of the meeting demonstrates how an essentially participatory art form grounded in interaction between the performers and their audience is being eroded.

Sometimes the author can be too subtle. Native English speakers may be put off initially by what appears to be her laboured writing in English. However after the first chapter I found I just needed to slow down to capture the very gentle style of writing. As with the Boria performance itself the text contains many nuanced messages about the role of culture in a multicultural society and class, race and gender relations that can easily be missed on a skim read. A book I’ll certainly want to read again.

The book is available at The Penang Bookshelf at RM150. SOLD

Sunday 13 May 2012

The Chinese Dilemma - Ye Lin-Sheng (Review)

Random Reviews - 4

Ye Lin-Sheng 
(East-West Editions, Kingsford, NSW, Australia, 2003)

When I pick up a book whose cover blurb tells me, "This is a book every (lumberjack/Mongolian/card player/lorry driver etc) should read,"  my dormant critical faculties, such as they are, immediately become alert. This, of course, is a book that "all Malaysians, Chinese and Malay alike, should read," according to Mahathir Mohamad, the author of  The Malay Dilemma according to the cover blurb.

Despite Ye's self-effacing protestations at the start of the book, it is very well written and easily readable. Within a short time I was beginning to be convinced that Mahathir's recommendation wasn't too far off the mark. Here was a Chinese Malaysian setting out to examine a set of fairly usual moans and groans of his fellow Chinese Malaysians about the affirmative action in favour of the Malay population since Mahathir came to power. What is more here was a Chinese Malaysian setting out to argue that the New Economic Policy (NEP) was a 'good thing.'

Generally he does make a fairly convincing argument that is, for the most part, cogently argued in the first half of the book. For those who have not lived through the period of change, there are ample statistics to demonstrate the increased Malay participation and leadership in many aspects of life where they barely featured before the start of the NEP. Few would argue that the virtual exclusion of the majority of the population from these areas was something that needed to be redressed. Again most would agree that the policy, despite the grumbles, has been a success. It's gratifying to read these views being endorsed by a Chinese Malaysian, although one wonders to what extent he himself has made the total commitment to the country that he advocates for his fellow Chinese Malaysians. The book was published in Australia and his brief biography states that he's an international businessman. So one wonders whether Malaysia is still his home, but maybe that's being unkind.

However, nothing in life is perfect, including the NEP. When Ye starts to tackle criticisms of the NEP he is on weaker ground. Generally in the book he's the master of generalisation with very few facts or statistics to back up his assertions. This really made him ill equipped to argue against the critics of the policy. For example he attempts to tackle complaints that people have been discriminated against on account of their race. He speculates that individual failures may be the result of individual inadequacies. True, but what about those who have suffered purely because of their race and the inadequate who have advanced purely because of their race? He either does not tackle this issue or fudges his response.

The statistics which fail to be used by the author do show that that both Malays and Chinese have benefited from the NEP. However to what extent has it and successive affirmative policies benefited those at the bottom of the heap? Interestingly the Mahathir quote on the front cover of the book only makes reference to Malays and Chinese, but, as in the quote, the Orang Asli, Borneo tribes and Indians barely get a mention in the book. The poor Malays and Chinese are also forgotten in the book. One could argue that affirmative action policies in Malaysia and elsewhere might produce more harmonious and egalitarian societies if they were based on uplifting the economically marginalised rather than members of one or more racial groups.

Despite all that, the Chinese Dilemma is certainly a book that needed to be written. It's refreshing to read something from a member of a minority in support of a policy which in some shape or form was certainly necessary and has had more successes than failures. In fact I would agree that it's a book that needs to be read by all Malaysians who may then be better equipped to deal with the next phase of the country's economic and cultural development. The book is likely to provoke thought, but also many more questions  than answers. The author can be seen to be trying too hard to argue that all in the Malaysian garden is lovely. However he may have provoked someone some day to write a more rounded assessment of all that's happened in the country since Mahathir's The Malay Dilemma was written. The new book's title could well be The Malaysian Dilemma.

The Chinese Dilemma is available at The Penang Bookshelf at RM60 or at our eBay store

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Rudinara: The Story of the Handmade House (Review)

Random Reviews - 3

Rudin Salinger
(Marshall Cavendish Editions, Kuala Lumpur. 2007)
The Penang Bookshelf Price: RM60

I was attracted to this book because I’m not much of a fan of air conditioning or bricks and mortar and wanted to find out how a modern house could be made by using traditional methods.

The book starts with a page of vacuous blurb from The Malaysian Timber Council, which was a bit off putting, but was then redeemed a page later by a useful review of Malaysian timber and the recommended uses for individual varieties of wood. There’s reference to some of these woods in the course of the text, so this is a handy reference.

We are then into the main body of the book, the most striking feature of which is the wide and fairly instructive selection of photographs. They cover not only the clearing of the plot and the construction, but also include lots of detail of the house itself. The owners have immaculate and simple taste which you can see in almost every feature of the building and its contents.  These illustrations together with some sketches would be the parts of the book most likely to inspire architects and others who would like to attempt something similar themselves, even if on a smaller scale. The main glaring omissions from the photographic collection are pictures of basic living areas such as bathrooms, toilets, bedrooms and the prayer room. So in that respect they are confirm this as a coffee table book rather anything approaching a handbook.

This is a pity because the book isn’t helped by the text. At the beginning I admired Salinger’s simple and clear style. Maybe this style was developed during his years as a teacher and academic in Malaysia with students who don’t have English as their first language. His style does make the book very easy to read.  It was also helpful that whenever he used Malay terms, some of them technical, he would provide an English translation. 

However after a time one realised that while this style may well be suitable in the author’s role as an experienced educator, he’s not much of a story teller. I was looking for more zest and enthusiasm or even expressions of despair at the obstacles encountered.  The construction of the house was a monumental achievement, well deserving of its international award. Occasionally one gets glimpses of the struggle when the author describes juggling his finances to get this marvel completed or the difficulties in finding, manoeuvring and preparing the huge pieces of timber used. Generally, though, the text raised more questions than answers.  For example at one stage we’re told how the construction ‘interprets rather than imitates Malay culture and reflects (the owners’) Islamic faith.’ This may well be true, but the text doesn’t explain how. The reader is left to guess.

So the book is brilliant at whetting one’s appetite for more environmentally friendly architecture, but doesn’t give much of a clue as to how others might follow the pioneering trail blazed by the author and his wife. The last chapter gives an inkling that maybe dissemination didn’t occur to the owners at the time of building. Probably after they moved in it slowly dawned on them how much interest the building would generate in others. They now open the house to visitors, both architects and the general public, so that there is a better chance that the lessons learned from the building’s construction will not be lost and may possibly be replicated elsewhere.

A more complete picture might emerge if the book were read in conjunction with The Malay House by Lim Jee Yuan or by contrasting the book with Tropical Style: Contemporary Dream Houses in Malaysia 

The Penang Bookshelf is on Google+ and also has a page dedicated to books on Malaysian Architecture there.

The Penang Bookshelf May 2012 Newsletter

The Penang Bookshelf
May 2012 Newsletter
From The Penang Bookshelf
Dear Friend

Reviving Slowly 

Once upon a time this newsletter  was entitled 'The March Newsletter' and now it's May! My genorosity in keeping silent has run out. Now's the time to turn the screws again.

It's taken me a bit of time to wake up following my trip to the UK. The trip was short, but hectic. I was theoretically based in London, but made one trip to Scotland and two to Wales. Of course the love affair with Wales had nothing to do with the countryside - barely noticed it -but more to do with a huge stash of books about Malaysia and hereabouts. There were so many I couldn't work my way through them all. What I did manage to retrieve are beginning to appear on the March and April lists of new arrivals on the website. They're mainly the leather bound ones. If either I or thebookseller can be persuaded to communicate with each other more frequently, there could be literally hundreds more on the way before the end of the year, decade or whatever.

Random Reviews 
The UK trip did have one other benefit, for me at any rate - I started reading again, properly instead of skimming. Because of all the fuss about it, I picked up a copy of Malayan Spymaster at the airport and managed to finish it by the time I made it home to Penang again. It's already been more than adequately reviewed by a KL customer, so I won't add any more. However since no one else has followed up on my suggestion that other customers might like to join in the reviewing frenzy, I thought I would have a go myself. As you'll see from my first selection, like the rest of my life, it's fairly random. After I finish one I pick up the next book I stumble over. The first two have just been published on The Penang Bookshelf Blog.  The books will be rare, like the first one reviewed, commonplace, new and old. I'd still love it if others would contribute too. There could be hefty financial incentives involved, so do contact me if you feel inspired or in need of a financial fillip to afford my prices.

Internet Intricacies

Of course the internet is The Penang Bookshelf's lifeblood but I still labour to really get to grips with it. The internet not only reaches more customers, but helps me to concoct an impression that I'm a well organised book 

Public Face
dealer with every book within a few inches of his finger tips. Of course the reality may be a little different. Anyway we seem to have made a little progress with the website changes that I want. You can see what we're working on for yourself. There are several changes we're thinking about such as having past newsletters
Private Reality
 available on the site, feedback, which I'll try not to censor, etc. However if you have any ideas of things that you'd like to see, do contact me. The main change will be to have the base prices in ringgit, instead of USD. At the same time overseas customers, about half of The Penang Bookshelf's clientele, will be able to make conversions into non-ringgit currencies.
.While The Penang Bookshelf's been on Facebook for a while and picked up lots of likes - thanks! - I've also been experimenting with Google Plus which could offer more potential as it appears it's possible to use pages as categoriies  instead of using Facebook's cumbersome albums. The full list created so far is at the end of the email in the 'About the Penang Bookshelf' section. As yet most have just one book in each category.  More substantial pages, at the moment, include Colonial Biography, Malaysian Literature, Malaysia Miscellaneous, and World War II. I think the idea is that you can join a 'circle' so that as new books appear in the categories in which you're interested, you get to know about them and maybe  make rude comments about them too. You may need to sign up/sell your life to Google before you can see them.    

Out and About

After missing out a month, The Penang Bookshelf reappeared at the Little Penang Street Market a week ago and did reasonably OK. However next weekend on 12th May we'll
try to smarten up our act a bit by attending the Super Stylish Shopping event at the Garden Wing Lobby Lounge at Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa. (10am - 4pm) What a mouthful! The Penang Bookshelf's main competitor, Popular Picture History, will be there too, so there'll be no need for air-con. Our frosty looks should keep the temperature fairly cool. Oh, if only life were that dramatic. We put on a good show of friendship and have even been known to buy books off each other! John will be selling maps and other Penang ephemera, while I do the books this time.

Even more intrepid adventures are planned for June when The Penang Bookshelf hits KL for 
the first time! There'll be more news later, but for the time being maybe KL and Klang Valley customers might like to note the dates of the 23rd and 24th June from midday to 8pm for the 5th KL Alternative Bookfest at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market. If there are any particular books or types of books you'd like me to bring, do let me know.

Enjoy yourself till we're in touch again, unless you've made other plans   

William Knox
The Penang Bookshelf

Anyone Have These?

As I repeatedly remind you, I do my best to find books for customers as well as try and sell what's already lounging about on my shelves. In about 20% of the cases I fail, so there's a Customers' Wish List on The Penang Bookshelf Blog which seeks to tempt those of you miserably clutching onto such gems, to part with them. Recently the following have been added to the list -
  • A Gallery of Chinese Kapitans - C.S. Wong
  • Black and White Fairies of Old China - Cheah Keng Cheen 
  • Malayan Notes and Sketches - A.Talaivasingham (Nanyang Siang Pau Press, Singapore 1921)
  • Misa Melayu (any pre-1967 edition)
  • Seorang Tua di Kaki Gunung - Azizi Haji Abdullah
  • Tuhfat al-Nafis (the 1965 edition by Munir Ali)  
If you have any of these works why not dispose of them for a bit of cash and then fill the empty spaces on your bookshelf  with more purchases from The Penang Bookshelf?

The Oldest Profession

When finding books for customers, I don't just confine myself to Malaysian/Asian books. I am prepared to  to find other books by prostituting myself on street corners to earn a few extra ringgit. Recently The Penang Bookshelf has tracked down copies of Homer's Iliad and 'Brilliant Copywriting.' (An extra copy for the writer of this newsletter wouldn't have gone amiss.) However my most enjoyable purchase was 21 novels by the king of cowboy writers, Louis L'Amour, who I'd never heard of before. I'm told that The Penang Bookshelf often provides a better service than some of the major Malaysian book stores, so do try us.  

In and Out of Print, but You Can Help  

I suppose it's the obsessive compulsive in me, but one of the real binds about this business is when books go out of print.  I'm one of those people who always must have an extra tube of toothpaste, bottle of orange juice or bar of soap in the cupboard. I just hate running out of things. It all started last month when I discovered that The Penang Bookshelf's  last copy of Andrew Barber's Penang under the East India Company was sold 
 when I was in the UK and then another customer embarrassingly ordered a copy when apparently there was none to be had. In this case the story had a happy ending as some badgering of the publisher managed to unearth a few extra copies which should be here this week. I am also told that the book is being or has been reprinted. 

However there are sorrier stories about. I also discovered that  Penang Trams, Trolleybuses & Railways have run out of juice and are unlikely to be refuelled. If you want the last seat - no I'll abandon this laboured metaphor. There is one copy left at double the normal price. You  know how it is lah.

A miserable discovery was that The Penang Sketchbook had also gone down the swanny. (I suppose it's the result of my shameless plugging of the book in the past.) However in this case, dear reader, you have a part to play. I have been in touch with the publishers and they may be able to get the presses rolling again if they can be guaranteed the sale of at least a thousand copies. That doesn't mean that you have to go out and find a thousand people who don't already own the book, but you may know of one or more institutions who have sufficient shilling at the bottom of their drawer to make such a commitment. If you can think of any, do let me know. In the meantime The Penang Bookshelf does still have a few copies and the price is actually less than the recommended retail price - for now!

A much happier tale, which quite honestly had tears rolling down my cheeks, was the really heart warming story of the discovery , sale and republishing of P, Ramlee's Sitora Harimau Jadian. 
 It was part of the cache of  Malay Books  that The Penang Bookshelf got hold of last year. There's no need for me to repeat the lovely story just read it all here in Amir Muhammad's Blog. I already have a copy in stock, but needless to say will be ordering more. Why the tears? Because it illustrates for me why I'm in the book selling business, i.e. to find and preserve books for you to enjoy and make use of. Here's another illustration of this in a US bookseller's blog.

An Achievement

At last at the end of last month I managed to reach a target  of having loaded 40% of The Penang Bookshelf's priced inventory on to the website. The rest of the stuff hanging around waiting to be uploaded one day still appears on The Penang Bookshelf's Full Inventory where you'll find more of bits and pieces picked up on my UK trip as well as my  visit to the KL International Book fair last week.

The Next Target

The plan  for May is to tackle  this lady and the rest of her pals amongst the stacks of Jawi Books that are cluttering my storage space as well as the 50s and 60s  Rumi Books that keep them company. I doubt I will manage to get through them all, but at least you should see many more exposed to view, so they'll be easier to buy, if they catch your fancy.    

Calling All Japanese Bibliophiles

A fellow IOBA member has alerted The Penang Bookshelf to the fact that there's a collection of books in Japanese from the mid-1970's and earlier available from an Illinois University. There are nearly 500 books on Japanese history, literature, cultural studies and Korean and Chinese history. The librarian will supply a catalogue to anyone who's interested. If you know of anyone who might like to find out more, please put them in touch with the librarian, Patricia A. Tomczak. There's no need to use The Penang Bookshelf as an intermediary, but if you wish to do so, let me know. However, in that case I would want to charge.


About The Penang Bookshelf
The Penang Bookshelf specialises in providing book lovers with a broad range of new and second-hand books, both fiction and non-fiction, primarily about Malaysia, but also about other parts of Asia as well. 

Independent Online Booksellers Association, Professional Member.

Also at: ,Ebay and at IOBAbooks

The Penang Bookshelf at Google+

For other general books, bargains & collectables, please visit Amok Amongst Books


Telephone: +60-12-972-6485 
Shop: c/o Areca Books, 70 Lebuh Acheh (Acheen Street), George Town Penang. (Opening Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11am - 3pm & Saturdays 10am - 1pm. Other times by appointment.) 
Business Address:  Aquarius, 4-8-8 Jalan Low Yat, Batu Ferringhi, 11100, Penang. (Opening hours by appointment only.) 
Mailing Address: 36, Cheeseman Road, 11600 Penang, Malaysia

Registered Business No: PG0282219-D
The Penang Bookshelf's Loyalty Points   
Whenever you make a purchase from The Penang Bookshelf, while being a subscriber to this news letter, 10% of the purchase price of the book excluding postage will be credited to you to use to discount the price of your next purchase.You will not earn points if the purchase price was discounted or the book was on special order where a service fee is charged. Points will also be awarded as special prizes announced in the newsletter. Points will expire six months after they have been earned.  Points will be recorded in Malaysian Ringgit and you may check your available points balance by contacting The Penang Bookshelf at any time.

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Monday 7 May 2012

A Shared Destiny by A. Shukor Rahman (Review)

Random Reviews - 2

A Shared Destiny – A. Shukor Rahman
(Published by the author – 2011)

I decided to read this book not only because it was given to me by the author but also because, being the son of a journalist, I’m usually interested in how other journalists practice their craft.

The book is a collection of short essays mainly about the changes that have taken place in various parts of the country over the last 60 years or so. These are the best parts of the book. The author’s native Penang, Langkawi, Ipoh, Alor Setar, Kelantan, Sungai Petani, Kota Kinabalu (Jessleton) and others get the same fascinating treatment. What I liked best were not only the anecdotes picked up presumably during his career as a writer but also the fact that Shukor tells the stories of former times without much judgement. It’s all too tempting for nostalgia writers to hark back to ‘golden times,’  but he manages to avoid this. Instead Shukor just gives us the facts as he sees them.

Naturally Penang gets pride of place amongst the places the author chooses. There are lots of interesting stories of characters of the past. I felt it was a pity in his descriptions of the physical changes in Penang and Alor Setar that he wasn’t able to add a map or two which might have brought the transformations to life a bit more. However this is compensated for to some extent by a wide range of mainly black and white photographs throughout the book. There’s also a collection of colour photos in the middle of the book.

When Shukor  was not dealing with history of changed places and customs of the people who lived there, the book became weaker. At this stage he seemed to forget that he was the impartial observer and became the polemicist .  The most notable example is his article on whether or not Chin Peng, the guerrilla leader during World War II and the subsequent Communist insurrection, contributed to Malaysia’s independence or not. Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. The trouble is that when someone tells me that someone’s a rascal or someone’s a saint, my life experience tells me that something doesn’t ring true. We’re all a complicated mix that cannot be described in a series of black or white statements with no shades of grey in between.

There are other chapters on, amongst others, the state of football, sports, craftsmen and on the late P. Ramlee. All these had interesting anecdotes, but again were not as strong as the articles on the changing nature of Malaysia’s towns and their inhabitants. This was probably because this time Shukor was not wielding his black pen, but his gold one. As a result he fell into the same trap as when he was describing Chin Peng. All these people were just too brilliant to make me feel comfortable with them.

The book is well written and readable throughout. You realise you’re being entertained by a skilled journalist. All that was missing was a sharp editor who would have cut out the two or three small repetitions I noticed and probably made a slight re-arrangement of the chapters. The book would be a useful companion to The Streets of George Town , as it deals  with the non-‘heritage’ parts of the city in a lively fashion, and also to Ipoh, My Home Town .  I certainly intend to take the book with me when I’m out and about in Penang and visit other places mentioned in the book. I hope Shukor’s next book well share more of his store of knowledge as a journalist and his grounded knowledge of the country’s history.

Oh I almost forgot  - Shukor also passed my ‘true Malaysian’ test. I couldn’t spot any occasion when he unnecessarily added an ethnic label to any of the wide range of the characters who pop up in the book.  The people described were just people – plain and simple.

Copies of the book have yet to reach The Penang Bookshelf, but you can order copies by contacting me. The retail price is RM25.

Sunday 6 May 2012

The Confessions of a Rubber Planter in Malaya - Leopold Ainsworth (Review)

Random Reviews - 1

The Confessions of a Rubber Planter
in Malaya
Leopold Ainsworth
(H.F. & G. Witherby, London. 1933)

I chose this book because because I had read Boris Hembry's Malayan Spymaster recently. It's another planter's memoir, which has previously been reviewed on this blog. I suppose, as the title suggests, Spymaster didn't tell me so much about planting as about bashing Japs and then CTs (Communist Terrorists). I was hoping to find out more about how the 'development' of the country came about. This book certainly helped.

The opening of the book was fascinating. Ainsworth didn't have any significant education or experience to qualify him for the job. He was just a bored clerk in a London plantation company office and managed to persuade his superiors that he might be better in the field than behind the desk. Obviously he was middle class and so came from the right background, so it was worth giving him a go. In this case the risk paid off, but one wonders how often it didn't.

So Ainsworth started as a 'creeper,' following around the more experienced staff and doing the heavy jobs that weren't already being done by the large labour force. He was on the go from before dawn to after dusk, a pattern that seemed to be fairly regular even as he climbed up the ladder. There isn't much in the book about stengahs with his mates in the local club. It seems Ainsworth preferred to be on the estate.The real people he writes about with affection are his co-workers who did most of the hard grind. The main social occasions he writes about are in kampongs, not in the club.

He comes across as a sensitive type too. After a few weeks on his first plantation, he was apalled at the way the labour force was treated. He compares the conditions of the indentured labour to slavery. It's not clear whether it was because of this that he eventually managed to break free to set up his own rubber milling and, later, tapioca milling operations. 

Excerpts from the book turn up in occasional modern writings about the British/European racial outlook of the time. Although the book has its fair share of  racial stereotypes, e.g. the 'lazy' Malay and the 'primitive' Orang Asli (indigenous people), the author not only presents the people he comes across as more rounded, but also often admires and seeks to explain their customs which must have appeared so alien to many of his readers of the time. He only mentions one expatriate as a friend, Carveth Wells, the author of  'Six Years in the Malay Jungle,' but he was a mate from school. However, it's interesting that the subconscious racial profiling that besets Malaysia today was already in full swing nearly a hundred years ago. Every character who appears in the book is given his or her racial classification even when it's unnecessary. For example he employs 'Chinese' mechanics to build his mill or calls for help in an emergency from a 'Sikh' watchman.

All in all Ainsworth comes across as someone you could imagine wanting to get to know. He's enthusiastic and self-effacing. He's a sucker for the wildlife and enraptured by the people. At one point in the book he speculates on the reader considering his life to be a lonely one. He counters this by saying he never had time to be lonely because he enjoyed his work so much and, after work, if there was time, he socialised with his work mates. However the scarce information about his home life in Malaya could lead the reader speculate whether he left much unsaid. He leaves behind a sweetheart in England at the beginning of the book, but she's never mentioned again. There's an occasional reference to flirty women on the plantation or in the kampong, but not much more than that.  His work was obviously a hard grind, but when rubber prices crashed 75% between 1929 and 1932, he decided his time was up and went home.

While the book maybe isn't a classic, if you take into account the time when it was written and the background of the writer, it is notable in giving a picture of an expatriate planter's life in the early 20th century where clubbing and boozing takes second place to hard work and love of the people and country. He's an amusing and keen eyed raconteur who takes second place to what's going on around him.

This book has now been sold, but another copy will be available soon. Please click here for details. At the time of writing this is the only copy available on the internet.

Books Ordered in May - Offers!

Books Ordered in May

As usual I'm letting you know of books I am ordering in the course of the month. They usually take up to a month from the date of the order to reach me. Please assume that the books are used, unless I indicate otherwise. I have also given the expected price when the books reach my shelves in blue. Sometimes I can offer some of the titles at a reduced price if they are ordered and paid for within a calendar month of the date of my order. In such cases I  indicate the discounted price in red. If the books arrive within a calendar month of the order, such offers can be withdrawn. So if you want to pre-order any of them or have any questions, do contact me at

6th May

Elizabeth Choy: More Than a War Heroine - Zhou Mei (Landmark Books, Singapore 1995) RM80  Sold!
Old Penang - Sarnia Hayes Hoyt (Oxford University Press, 1991) RM190
Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society - Michael J Peletz (University of California Press, 1996) RM50
Chinese Street Opera in Singapore - Tong Soon Lee RM130

8th May

Britain, The Brookes & Brunei - Nicholas Tarling (Oxford University Press, 1971) RM200

14th May

Sampans, Banyans and Rambutans: A Childhood in Singapore and Malaya - Derek Tait (Amberley Publishing, 2011) (New) - RM60

Eastern Customs: The Customs Service in British Malaya and the Hunt for Opium - Derek MacKay ( I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2005) (New) - RM160
Sunset of the Empire in Malaya: A New Zealander's Life in the Colonial Education Service - TK Taylor ( I.B.Tauris Co Ltd, 2006) (New) RM150

20th May

The Impact of Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya - Wilfred Blythe (Oxford University Press 1969) RM120
Introduction to the peoples and cultures of Indonesia and Malaysia  - Koentjaraningrat (Cummings Pub. Co, 1975) RM40
Common Malayan Wildflowers - MR Henderson(longmans, 1961) RM60
Fragmented Vision: Culture and Politics in Contemporary Malaysia - Joel Kahn & Francis Wah (University of Hawaii Press, 1992) RM110
Origins of Malay Nationalism - William Roff (Yale University Press) RM120
British Intervention in Malaya 1867-1877 - C Northcote Parkinson (Uiversity of Malaya Press Singapore 1960) RM100
Prints of South-east Asia in the India Office Library: East India Company in Malaysia and Indonesia - Foreign and Commonwealth Office RM50
Seven Poets: Singapore and Malaysia - Edwin Thumboo (Singapore University Press, 1973) RM150

21st May

Farmers of a City State, The Chinese Smallholders of Singapore - Rodolphe de Konninck (Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association Montreal 1972) RM80/RM70
The First Contest for Singapore 1819-1824 - HJ Marks ( Martinus Nijhoff, 1959 Author signed copy) RM150/RM120

Out in the Midday Sun: Singapore 1941-45 The End of an Empire - Kate Caffery (Stein & Day, NY, 1973) RM80/RM70
Nanyang Perspective: Chinese Students in Multiracial Singapore - A. William Lind ( University of Hawai'i Press, 1976) RM100/RM80
The Last Cruise of the Emden - Edwin P Hoyt (Mayflower, U.K., 1969) RM110
Chinese Minority in A Malay State - Tan Chee Beng (Eastern Universities Press, 2002) RM110
Islam and Politics in a Malay State - Clive S Kessler (Cornell University Press, 1978) RM250/RM230
Triad and Tabut: A Survey of the Origin and Diffusion of Chinese and Mohomedan Secret Societies in the Malay Peninsula AD1800-1935  - ML Wynne (Singapore Government Printer,1941) (from the library of Victor Purcell) RM2,000

26th May

The Killer They Called A God - Ian Ward (Media Masters) (New) RM40
The Passionate Islanders -  Ralph Modder (Horizon Books) (New) RM60
The Bomoh: Magician & Spiritualist - A. Rafi (Horizon Books) (New) RM30
Tears of A Teen-Age Comfort Woman -  Ralph Modder (Horizon Books) (New) RM40
Unseen Occupants - Othman Wok - (Horizon Books) (New) RM30
Haunting Stories - Khadijah Moore (Planet Press) (New) RM20
The Disused Well & Other Tales  - Othman Wok - (Horizon Books) (New) RM20
A Getai Singer's Love Affair With A Ghost - Ralph Modder (Horizon Books) (New) RM30
Rehearsal For War: The Underground War against the Japanese - Ban Kah Choon  (Paths International Ltd, 2003) (New) RM50
The Singapore Chinese Massacre - Ralph Modder (Horizon Books) (New) RM40
Singapore And The Many-Headed Monster - Joe Conceicao (Horizon Books) (New) RM40
Durian, The True Pearl of The Orient - Peta Yeap (Pepeta) (New) RM40
A Friendship with Birds - Dr Amar Singh (Desktop Systems)  (New) RM70
Souls The Gods Had Forsaken -  Ralph Modder (Horizon Books) (New) RM30
The Old House & Other Stories - Chuah Guat Eng (Hologram) (New) RM30
Myths & Legends of Malaysia and Singapore - Ralph Modder/ Aeishah Ahmed (Horizon Books) (New) RM30 
Sacred Structures - Artistic Renditions of Hindu Temples in Malaysia and Singapore - Krishna Gopal Rampal (Bluetoffee, 2008) (New) RM280/RM240
Sandakan: A Conspiracy of Silence -  Lynette Ramsay Silver (Sally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012) (New) - RM90
Deadly Secrets: The Singapore Raids 1942-45 - Lynette Ramsay Silver (Sally Milner Publishing Pty Ltd, 2012) (New) - RM90

29th May

IQ: Collected Works of Ibrahim Quraishi - Ibrahim Quraishi (National Museum of Singapore, 2007) RM70
Malayan Monochromes -  Hugh Clifford (John Murray, 1913) RM40
Historic Cities of Asia: An Introduction to Asian Cities from Antiquity to Pre Modern Times - MAJ Beg ( Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia., 1986)  RM30

30th May

Batek Negrito Religion: The World-View and Rituals of a Hunting and Gathering People of Peninsular Malaysia - Kirk M Endicott (Oxford University Press) RM170
The Origins of British Borneo - LR Wright (University Press Hong Kong 1970) RM90
Thinking Allowed?: Politics, Fear and Change in Singapore - Warren Fernandez (SNP Editions, 2004) RM50
Switch On, Switch Off: Mass Media Audiences in Malaysia - Newell Grenfell (Oxford University Press., 1979) RM80/RM70
Borneo People - Malcolm MacDonald  (Jonathon Cape) RM50/RM40
Freshwater Fishes of North Borneo - Robert F  Inger & Chin Phui Kong (Chicago Natural History Museum, Chicago, IL 1962) RM110
Divide and Rule: The Roots of Race Relations in Malaysia - CER Abraham ( INSAN 1997) RM60
The Pagans of North Borneo - Owen Rutter (Oxford University Press,  1986) RM60
A History of Malaysia - Barbara Watson Andaya (University of Hawaii Press, 2001) RM90
Malaya -  Norton Ginsburg & Chester F.Roberts (Univ. of Washington Press, 1958) RM50
Islam in Malaysia: From Revivalism to Islamic State? - Ee Heok Kua & Hussin Mutalib (University of Hawaii Press, 1994) RM340/RM250
Natural Man. A Record from Borneo - Charles Hose (MacMillan & Co, 1926) RM250
The White Rajahs: A History of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946 - Stephen Runciman (Cambridge University Press, 1960) RM110

more to come...