Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Pahlawan Mall Book Fair

"Do you think I need to use anti-aging products? Just for prevention."


"You can't prevent aging"


90%? That's like free, right?

It was the second day of the New Year (I refuse to call it "Chinese New Year" because I'm Chinese, dammit) and I did what I did every year; hang out alone in a mall and reading in a Starbucks cafe. About noonish, I received a text from the Dad telling me that Time's holding a warehouse books clearance sale in Pahlawan Mall - or Megamall, according to people with no sense of scale - and that they are practically giving away books like herpes in a Roman orgy.

Since I was in Mahkota Parade at the time (because I prefer the Starbucks there), it's just a matter of crossing a street to get to it. So got to it I did, posthaste.

An all-you-can-read buffet.

I was totally prepared to be disappointed a little apprehensive considering that Times is behind the book fair. The last time I shopped in a Times bookstore was back when I was still reading Enid Blytons. Immediately after graduating from kid-lit, I have never gone back. I don't want to say this but Times has some of the lousiest selection of English young adult and adult speculative fiction selection I have ever seen. It's like their execs in charge of stocking their shelves have absolutely no idea what constitutes good taste and marketability. I can probably pick out better books pointing randomly at a list with one hand covering my eyes. Heck, a chimp can pick better books throwing monkey-shit in a library! That's the reason why Times went out of business in Malacca years ago.

There was a Times bookstore on the ground floor of Suria KLCC, I think (I'm not sure if it's still there). It was pretty pathetic, to say the least. I couldn't even find a single book I wanted in it, and what made it seem so much more pathetic to me is that Kinokuniya is in the same building, on the top floor, showing Times exactly how a real bookstore chain operates; fully-staffed information counters, helpful bookfinding clerks and, y'know, having the merit of actually selling good books. How did I survive without these last time?

Now the book fair was basically a stock clearance event - which means it consists mainly of stuff that's been sitting in their warehouse for years growing yellow and manufacturing enough dust to bury Perlis under, stuff no one wants to buy. I mean, what do you get after you take what little good out of something bad? I'll tell you what you get; the distilled, concentrated suck of Times bookstore.

It was a fest of books written third and fourth rate authors, and not even their best works too. The fantasy and science fiction novels they have are so pulpy that you'd think they'd be more at home rolled around a cardboard tube in a toilet somewhere. It made me think of just how bloody hard it is to make it in the literary world. It's hard enough scoring a book deal and getting published in the first place, but even when you succeed in doing that, it's still no guarantee that people will read your stuff - as the book fair can attest. There were a lot of self-help how-to-succeed-in-life books written by people who obviously failed at life, lousy contemporary re-writes of classics, operating manuals for computer programs I have never heard of, novels with titles which sounded similar to bestsellers and novels whose authors' nom-de-plume invokes the names of famous writers. I saw a pile of Complete's Idiot Guide to Spells and Witchcraft sitting somewhere beside a book on car loans. And I have lost count of just how many of Sisqó's biography - The Man Behing the Thong - I unearthed in the 5 hours I spent rummaging there,

People don't even read his Wikipedia article.

I have this theory that biographies about musicians and singers are written by fans who just wanted an excuse to meet and interview their idols. Celebrities write autobiographies because they have an overinflated opinion of themselves and think that people wants to know their thoughts and about their lives.

Kinda like bloggers.

Rescued from the crap pile.

Still, it wasn't a total waste of 5 hours. In my first 15 minutes there, I dusted off a perfectly good trade paperback edition of China Mievillé's Iron Council (the third of his mind-screwy Bas-Lag novels). I've been dying to read it but I have held off from buying it because the publisher published it with a lousy cover art that does not match the previous two books. At RM10 for 3 books - also considering that trade paperbacks normally sell for RM40 to R70 - it's just too good to pass up. Besides, if Pan McMillan ever come to their senses and re-publish Iron Council with the proper cover, RM 3.33 isn't much of a loss.

I bought 9 books in total for less than the price of one standard paperback, most of which are titles not on my current booklist (though I am aware of, and am somewhat interested in them),
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
  • The Legend of Luke by Brian Jacques. I have a half-heartedly maintained collection of Brian Jacques' Redwall junior fantasy epic which I indulge guiltily in from time to time. He's very formulaic, mind you, and his books are about anthropomorphic mice, hares, badgers and other woodland animals - but dammit, the man certainly knows how to keep you reading. He's like the Agatha Christie of children books.
  • Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith. It's the third novel about the psycho killer Tom Ripley (you might know him in the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley, where he was played by Matt Damon). I have been wanting to start on this series for the longest time but somehow, I have never gotten around to do it. Oh well, I did start reading the Harry Potter series from its 4th book, and spoilt the godfather Sirius reveal in Azkaban for myself.
  • The Tribe of Tiger by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. It's a hardback non-fiction about cats. Yeap. Cats. Don'tjudgeme.
  • The Talisman of Troy by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Well, since I loved Manfredi's historical epic trilogy about Alexander the Great (my childhood hero), maybe I'll like this one too.
  • The New Discworld Companion by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs. I helped Shaki buy this one because he's a hopeless Discworld and Pratchett fanboy. He actually bought a hardcover edition of The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld, which consists exclusively of quotes from the Discworld novels! Why isn't just buying the series enough? Why?!
  • Brett Easton Ellis' Lunar Park. It's a semi-autobiographical novelisation of the author's life (semi- because it's a ghost story). He's the guy who wrote American Psycho. A movie was adapted from in starring Christian Bale as the giddily hilarious murderous psychopath Patrick Bateman, if you remember.
  • A hardcover edition of The Last Hour of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. I first learned about in a scary documentary on global warming hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio, The Eleventh Hour.The parts where they interviewed Thom Hartmann totally changed my views on fossil fuels, and I have been keeping an eye out for this book ever since.
Today is the last day of the book fair. In fact, it's ending in less than 3 hours. Tell you what, I'm going to head down there right now and see if they are going to mark their prices even lower. I actually found a copy of Looking for Jake by China Mievillé on the first day I was there which I stupidly did not buy (because it's not part of the deal and costed RM 10 on its own). Also, there's that chance that they have some hidden gems stashed away that they did not put on display before.

Wish me luck. I'm off.

Update: Picked up two more books; Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure (RM12) and Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel (for a tenner).

Your friendly neighborhood book nut,
k0k s3n w4i


Betsy said...

I'm the one that told dad about the book fair xD

Jia Hui said...

If you ever come around to Petaling Jaya area in Selangor, drop by at the Atria's shopping mall. It has a book fair all year round. So you might find your hidden gems. I can't remember how much a book costs though... It's still cheap but not as cheap as RM 10 for 3.

PS. Phoebe is so cute! XD

renaye said...

i have never heard of those books u bought! only talented mr ripley...

times bookstore in klcc sudah gulung tikar. i heard it was a franchise. but the times bookstore in pavilion was not bad.

rentawitch said...

cos even though Terry Pratchett has been churning his masterpieces out a rate of two or one a year for 2.5 decades! If you are a fan, you hoover them up, re-read them, listen to them, go to the plays and then STILL want a fix.
The Wit and Wisdom shows how clever he is because just the random passages and quotes are funny on their own.
Nice find the China Mielville. I met him at EasterCon in UK last year :)

Innocent^^Guy said...

something totally unrelated, but u could probably say, "U can anti aging all you want but there's no escaping" :)

Pikelet said...

Obviously you can prevent aging. I thought of shooting someone off on a rocket faster than the speed of light at first, but then that person won't exist if he's going faster than the speed of light... Which led me to think.. Well, if you're dead, then you're not aging. You'd be rotting. There.

The cruel fact to all women out there:
The only way you can prevent aging is by dying.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Betsy: Oh, thanks for the heads up then!

Jia Hui: That's Jen's favourite hangout for books! She's been telling me about that place forever (and bragging about how she got a copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for a quarter of what I paid for it). I might just check it out when I go to KL somewhere at the end of this month. And yeah, Phoebe says the most random, funny things :)

renaye: Oh, I didn't know that there's a bookstore in Pavillion. Might just look into it the next time I'm there.

rentawitch: Well, I am sort of a fan (I like his Tiffany Aching novels best - less satire, more story). You were at Orbital 2008?! Did you also meet Neil Gaiman? I love his Sandman graphic novels!

Innocent^^Guy: I could have. I prefer to be laconic though.

Pikelet: Faster than light-speed travel is impossible - or at least it's impossible at our current understanding of Physics. You can theoratically prevent aging, but you can't prevent aging. About dying, I have to agree xD

Anonymous said...

Have you read Rudyard Kipling's "Kim." It is a wonderful book and you would relate to it well since you have been to North India-in fact Shimla is part of Kipling land.
As for Kim himself, he is a magical boy, sentimental, quick witted with a touch of Eastern spirituality which is surprisingly related to Buddhism.

A book with many many layers.
Try it some time.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Anonymous: No, I have not. I read his (awesome) Just So Stories though. And The Jungle Book. But I have Kim lying around somewhere, I think. I'll go dig it up. Thanks for the heads up :)