I always feel I’m a little hard on local writers. I want to like them, but. So far I haven’t really found anyone who writes the way I want to read. Maybe my standards are too high or too particular, or maybe I just expect more from them, being a fellow Malaysian and all. So I was happy to come across Little Basket 2016: New Malaysian Writing, as it’s been awhile since I’ve read a compilation by local authors written in English. Silverfish Books use to do them, and I don’t even know if they still exist.
I have to admit that if I based the decision of purchasing this book solely on the first few stories I probably would not have not taken it home with me. So I’m pretty glad I stuck with and those first few were not an indication of the rest of the stories to come. There were a few decent ones that I really enjoyed, so instead of picking on the ones I didn’t, here are the ones I did:
Diaspora by William Tham Wai Liang. Less story, more essay, but a really well-written one.
Man on the 22nd Floor by Tunku Halim. A ghost story, but not the kind you think.
Family Business by Kris Williamson. An interesting perspective on ’tissue-seller’ beggars that make their rounds during mealtimes, but one that has probably crossed all of our minds before. He just wrote it in print.
Love Potion No. 5 by Chua Kok Yee. A great cautionary take on using a bomoh to get the one you love!
21 Across by Lean Ka-Min. A cute, short, unrequited love story.
Full Circle by Terence Toh. Takes love sci-fi.
Monsters by Cassandra Khaw. Poetically written.
Abracadabra by Timothy Nakayama. Another story that comes full circle.
There were some stories I felt had potential but fell a bit short of the mark, as well as those I thought were just ho-hum. And still others I thought would have benefited by a proper editorial team who did more than correct spelling and grammatical errors but actually guided their writers to do better. That said, I did come across some spelling and grammatical errors, and one fairly big error in the FIXI NOVO manifesto pt 6 which states that they DON’T publish poetry. Except that they DID and even called for poetry entries for the next collection. Doh.
Overall, I am, however, looking forward to 2017 and 2018’s Little Basket, and I certainly hope it exists!