June 15: Look at the treasure I found, courtesy of accomplished American author Margaret Read Macdonald whose long list of works reflect sparkle, colour and fun! A secret chest too, I’ll maintain and for good reason.
Several online booksellers in the UK, USA, and Australia including their respective libraries
have readily advertised and stocked the tempting 191-page book of tales (pictured), since it was first published by Libraries Unlimited in August 2008. Yet when I scoured the online web for two major Malaysian booksellers, the names of author, title and ISBN number all drew a blank.
As I skimmed quickly through Google, no Malaysian book blog seems to have mentioned it either with the exception of one as a tucked-away ‘reading list’ a few months ago. None popped up but then to be honest, this once robust scene has now dwindled to a trickle.
Still as a consolation, I doubt that Macdonald, the lively-spirited Fulbright scholar, children’s librarian, author of over 55 print and audio folklore tales and the grand dame of storytelling would have noticed. Not when it sounds like she could be having herself a ball at this very moment, travelling the world. Studying the animated writer’s illustrious portfolio on her cheerful website, nothing I write could possibly do her justice.
Dedication and pure passion spell the author’s life work as she reads and acts the perfect role of raconteur at storytelling workshops, festivals, conferences and schools worldwide. Already, her calendar this year looks pretty full.
The Singing Top: Tales from Malaysia… is Macdonald’s latest title. The writer who is expert in recording various ethnic folklore, sketches 15 Borneo tales in this anthology as part of a specialised World Folklore Series. Having a quick glance through the titles, it’s easy to see that Macdonald has gathered all the right enriching fables that provide for an exotic and flamboyant Malaysian history – there are Malay legends and intriguing if not humorous stories of the sultanate as well as the wily, cunning mousedeer. Tales of orchards, princesses, curses and animals offer decorative plots for the rest of the fare. Accompanying novelties include colour photography, puzzles, games, proverbs and notes sketched alongside the tales. Having grown up with all these stories told us by teachers, friends and parents, while I was at school in Malaysia as a little girl, I can assure you there won’t be a dull moment.
I will let you know more once I’ve read the book. I’m glad to see the title on Waterstone’s database. I’ll be along tomorrow to order it for sure, never mind that the hardback stands at the slightly steep price of £22. Already, it feels like a nostalgic heritage for me here in Dublin. I’ll probably have a moment flicking through the beautiful tales and remembering my classmates long gone. But then I who never really stopped being the child, long for the excuse.
Photograph of Margaret Read Macdonald courtesy of MargaretReadMacdonald.com
I don’t mind if I get a 100 rejections from this literary agency. Of course, that’s a dire wish I don’t expect to come true. But India’s new literary agent, Sherna Khambatta who studied in Scotland and now resides in Mumbai, owns a one page website that to me feels as gently exotic as her name. Khambatta is the UK based Wade & Doherty’s Literary Agency Representative in the Indian sub-continent; although she is on the lookout for manuscripts at the moment, from anywhere at all.
Incidentally, one of Wade’s exciting discoveries was the young British scholar, Helen Oyeyemi who brought Nigerian fiction into a popular new light in England with the publication of her novel Icarus in London. Her newly-released novel, White is for Witching, waits impatiently in my library.
I am drawn into the parlour of Khambatta’s website for its poignant and slightly romantic indoor scene that speaks so much for my life as a traveller and writer. The falling rose petals reminds me of a sensuous scent or soap and also my great love for the Middle-East. The photos of exotic lands bears faraway thoughts of an old India. It doesn’t just hint of Rushdie’s literary grandeur but also triggers memories of both my grandparents’ and father’s lands in the Punjab and Kerala. The books, coffee mug and clock say all the rest about my waking day. And those Post-Me reminders from where her website details are placed…
Khambatta’s website would do far more for me each morning with exuberance, than any inspirational Patience Strong verse or the aroma of good filter coffee. It’s tidy, elegant and inviting in a way that would stay tenderly pleasing to any rejected writer’s eye.
Silver needles spiking trees
Gardens sewing leaves
The rain languished,
resting woman in her
Not brittle, no
summer sun dwindle.
Cold wet repose,
baked heat meltdown.
– suzan abrams –