Things I Heard in A Bookstore : “Diorang baca novel je ni”

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I want The Song of Roland… where is Kate’s daddy…

One of my unfortunate habits was that I frequent in several local bookstore and spent too much in it that they’re a second home for me. I could even keep track on recent reshelving and restocking at certain book section of Bookxcess, Kinokuniya and Popular. But while it was common for book people to haunt these places, people are generally quiet while browsing and in such situation, its surprisingly easy to eavesdrop on people who don’t share the same views with you. For example:

I’m searching for something to supplement the inevitable coming SPA entry exam and there’s these three guys walking by the section with a purpose… to give a social commentary on Malaysian reading habit. 

Most notably, the tendency to look down on people who read novels.

A definition of the word “novel” by Brittanica.

A novel, an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting. Within its broad framework, the genre of the novel has encompassed an extensive range of types and styles: picaresque, epistolary, Gothic, romantic, realist, historical—to name only some of the more important ones.

The novel is a genre of fiction, and fiction may be defined as the art or craft of contriving, through the written word, representations of human life that instruct or divert or both. The various forms that fiction may take are best seen less as a number of separate categories than as a continuum or, more accurately, a cline, with some such brief form as the anecdote at one end of the scale and the longest conceivable novel at the other. When any piece of fiction is long enough to constitute a whole book, as opposed to a mere part of a book, then it may be said to have achieved novelhood.

Alone by itself, the definition of a novel can stretch as far as the imagination could hold onto itself and by itself, it was harder for me to assume that the word ‘novel’ itself can be equalized beneath the level of average literature. Any written work even non-fiction can have some of its fictional qualities in certain aspect. What one accepted as nonfiction is a fictionalization for another. The definitions are interchangeable but the reality remain, personal taste varied from one to another and it can change from time to time. What you think irrelevant junk today might have further literary quality in the future and vice versa.

But this constant repetitiveness of turning noses up on those who browse questionable reading selection was another grandiose view of one’s own over another. You can dress up like picture perfect definition of warak-ness but it won’t protect you from those demonic tendencies of narcissism.

Voices do carry… so while you’re ranting on how the society are going to collapse because people kept reading novels, think for a moment… you’re in a bookstore with a very diverse selection of books and people. One of the things people don’t like was you questioning their reading habit as if it was something to be ashamed of.

The act of reading never should be associated with anything shameful. The act of reading is the act of freedom. Your free will to read and loving that act is what define the love of reading. People who hate reading are the ones who traumatized enough that they became conditioned to associate the free act of reading as torturous and blasphemous.

That’s how things can go dystopia very rapidly.

But nope. You stare at people who were browsing the said shelves and then silently judging people including me when I came nearer to browse the said section… but I could feel the judgement streaming out from the corners of your ears along with your friends’.

Which is weird because its a bloody bookstore and people are free to browse and have choices to read or not to read. People don’t come into a bookstore to be judged by the things they browse or buy.

These are the same kind of group who would just drop by and walk by a shelf and lo and behold, half naked boddiceripper historical novels and they’re like, “This whole bookstore need to be banned. People read these NOVEL things. Inside everything was all porn!”

Yeah.

Ladies do appreciate literary porn.

As do a lot of men – and they write them too.

But not all novels have sex in it. In fact, they can be drier than Sahara.

In fact, real life people rather have actual sex and they do it everyday around the world. 

So, get over it.

Printed Books Are Luxury Items

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This is the response from the reddit I posted a few hours ago and it was another response to someone using Cracked’s post about how useless and disposable books are. I argued that the post use Lauren Conrad reasoning to back up how we should calm ourselves when people gut RM450 worth books just so they could use the spine and paste it on a storage container.

But in a place where you have higher purchasing power, you don’t really see books as we do here in our third world country. I guess this what you called the first world privilege. I don’t think I have addressed this issue before.

Education is a privilege. Learning to read and write is a privilege. Reading for leisure is a privilege.

If you have some disposable income to purchase books instead of food items, you are wealthy by proxy.

Yes, I do book hauls and stuff and I read books by bulk and indeed I always buy books every month. I am wealthy in that sense but I am not as rich enough that I could go into a bookstores and get to spend on everything I had my eyes on. I have my own limitation. I am frugal and I learn to save up and that’s reason why I read mostly ebooks which can be much cheaper than an actual physical book. I am content with what I’m doing right now because I get to do the things I love.

But books are luxury items. Even more so in Malaysia where an average mass market paperback was RM30-40 and average trade paperbacks was RM40-60 and average hardback was RM70-100. I live in the most developed state in Malaysia and it have some of its advantage as well such as concentration of bookstores within one mile radius. But we’re living in a country where RM50 per week doesn’t guarantee a good living, we’re at risk of various price hike and we have poorer local currency value which was an advantage for investors but not much for quality of living. One RM30 book don’t feed a family.

The last time I bought a real hardcover on retail price was Harry Potter the Order of Phoenix on 21 June 2003 and it costed me around more than RM100+ because it was on the published date and the price fell slightly a decade later. I remember because that was the first and last time I bought a book regardless whether I could use that RM100+ to buy three more average priced books and an ice cream. Every hardcover books I have right now came from second hand bookstores, BookXcess and Big Bad Wolf Sale. And trust me, its a gamble whenever you want to get overprinted books that you like. That’s why I call it treasure hunting, because it is.

Now, here are some definition,

luxury good is a good for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, and is a contrast to a “necessity good”, for which demand increases proportionally less than income.

Books tend to be in higher demand when the population can afford it. I won’t lie, I am in an average middle class family and yes, my reading habit is a class privilege and so was my education history. While there’s nothing wrong in the act of reading or being educated but here are some facts : We can live without books. Its just paper and ink. Its some of the earthly item we couldn’t carry into grave and etc. But reading and exploring knowledge does give you a better state of mind than others who don’t. We can learn more things easily from books than the time we spend learning by our own and staying alive on this planet. Civilization also tend to converge upon gatherings of intellectuals and developments and that’s the thing we’re currently in the middle of. These civilizations do get destroyed and destruction of intellectual properties like library and knowledge center tend to drive people to ignorance and dark ages. These inherited knowledge taught us to learn how to react when this happen and preserving knowledge tend to have higher survivability.

We can learn from that history through reading and other medium as well. Ideas and knowledge can be made durable with books and it survive through time as well. Even with the technology we get, we still depended on power source in which the medium and technology are still growing and constantly changeable.

My definition of books as luxury goods have nothing to do with market value demand and ebooks such as Slate graciously contributed about the rise of books being a luxury item do to the people who migrate to digital books.

Cheaper paper or not, books have been a luxury item throughout the history of mankind. The people who read and own books tend to be the wealthiest and its true. It gave prestige and title and intellectual confirmation. Politicians put themselves in front of bookshelves just to appear smart. Shelves full of books is a sign of prosperity. It was shallow but it work all the time.

That is why many are still resistant about the idea of books being downloaded and distributed and contained in barely several kilobytes. We digitize words and it rendered the value of words near worthless. That is why even with all the market and publicity you did, if you don’t have people reading your words, you’re basically worthless. (I reflected this with this blog as well… sigh)

So, really, it is offensive when luxury items such as printed books being seen more worthless by folks who don’t value it as such. No matter what your idea of affordability is, when you stop feeling the value of it, you stop seeing it as something significant to you. When you encourage it on others like Lauren Conrad, and see it as inherently vacuous as they are, basically you’ve dehumanized yourself to the very things that created our civilization. Words and knowledge are priceless.

And yes, this is the privilege we obviously took for granted. And I am disappointed that many are still blind by it.

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Will you burn the book or not?

 

Bercerita Tentang Pengunaan, Penguasaan Bahasa dan Pembacaan

“Bahasa jiwa bangsa.”

Tak lekang slogan tiga perkataan ini dari minda yang sentiasa dikaitkan dengan penggunaan Bahasa Melayu dan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, institusi negara yang kehadiran diri agak malap pada masa kini. Bahasa Melayu yang dinilai sebagai penentuan identiti diri sebagai rakyat Malaysia dan kita harus memartabatkan bahasa bangsa kita serta mempertahankan jati diri negara kita dengan bahasa kita.

Bagi saya, tak salah pun berpernyataan sebegini walaupun bagi saya, terasa macam kita didoktrinasikan sebegini dalam pembelajaran dari kecil. Sekali – sekala bila membelek buku sekolah anak buah saya atau melayari internet, saya sentiasa terjumpa ayat robotik yang agak serupa. Ia agak membimbangkan sebab dalam masa yang sama, kita terlebih mengunakan ayat nasionalism sambil melupakan pengunaan harian yang biasa, identiti unik antara kaum dengan bahasa dan loghat tersendiri. Sambil itu, dalam mengejar impian dari lampau, kita terlupa yang penulisan bahasa standard sekarang hanya diperkenalkan kurang dari 30-40 tahun dahulu dan cara pengunaan bahasa harian juga berbeza mengikut era.

Sebenarnya, topik ini saya dah olah berapa kali tapi saya tulis sekadar bagi kelainan sahaja. Ya, saya boleh menulis dalam Bahasa Melayu. Saya alumni UKM dengan pra-syarat nak graduasi pun kena lepas tulis tesis sains dalam Bahasa Melayu dan saya lulus dengan kepujian, terima kasih. Tapi memang saya jarang menulis dalam BM terutama dalam blog ni sebab biasanya saya sentiasa bunyi terlampau formal dalam penulisan (sebab itu saya tak suka tulis fiksyen dalam BM) dan saya terbiasa dengan penulisan saintifik yang formal dan steril. Tapi apa nak buat, saya tengah bosan sekarang.

Saya tahu yang penguasaan bahasa bukan senang untuk sesetengah individu. Kefasihan bergantung juga kepada pengunaan and kebiasaan terutama dari peringkat kecil kerana keupayaan ini ada korelasi dengan pertumbuhan minda. Tapi tak ramai yang membesar tengok Disney atau tengok drama TV1, jadi penguasaan bahasa bermula dari awal dan berterusan sehingga akhir hayat. Tapi saya ada juga berkawan dengan orang bukan Melayu yang mempunyai masalah dengan bahasa Melayu dan saya juga berkawan dengan orang Melayu yang mempunyai masalah Bahasa Inggeris. Apa yang membuat saya pelik adalah ada yang mengatakan kita tidak patut mengkhianat bahasa ibunda kita untuk bahasa asing padahal bahasa Melayu juga adalah amalgam dari pelbagai bahasa. Kita juga duduk di negara yang berbilang kaum dan tradisi, patutnya kita lagi senang mengadaptasi bahasa kita juga.

Sebenarnya, tak ada masalah kalau seseorang itu mampu berusaha untuk memperbaiki dan belajar pengunaan bahasa tersebut, tetapi masalah yang ada sekarang, kita mahukan jalan pintas. Tetapi tiada jalan pintas yang wujud dalam penguasaan bahasa. Tak ada gunanya mengimport cikgu dari US atau UK untuk mengajar murid Inggeris kalau murid tak mahu menguasainya. Lagipun, dalam mengejar ‘penguasaan bahasa’, kita lupa yang bahasa tak akan berkembang kalau pengunanya tak mahu berkembang. Bahasa Melayu berkongsi dengan Bahasa Inggeris dari segi fleksibiliti dan adaptasi dari pengunaan. Bagi saya, tak mungkin Bahasa Melayu akan lesap pengunaannya. Jiran kita Indonesia pun berkongsi rumpun bahasa kebangsaan dan saya tak rasa Bahasa Melayu akan terancam bila pengunanya memilih untuk fasih dalam bahasa lain. Bahasa Melayu tak masuk dalam kategori terancam pun, tetapi dalam masa yang sama, kita jugak bahasa daerah dan puak terutamanya bahasa orang asal. Bukan kah itu patut diberi tumpuan yang sepatutnya ataupun kita masih lagi mahu menulis sejarah baru.

Saya sedar yang isu kita pun serupa dengan isu negara luar juga. Kita ada isu identiti diri, ketidakyakinan diri dan negara, penapisan buku, penyekatan dalam pembacaan, statistik pembaca, trend membaca dan sebagainya. Tapi dalam masa yang sama, kita hanya mahu diktasi pengunaan bahasa tertentu seperti bahasa melayu yang terlampau atas, diktasi hanya kepada karyawan yang mengikut peraturan tertentu dalam kumpulan tertentu yang elit, jenis suka melabel penulis baru sebagai hingusan, indie, pornografik atau sebagainya. Baru-baru ini, ada juga yang menghalau pengerakan pembaca yang bukan formal. Pembaca sendiri dilabel sebagai pengacau, asing dan lain.

Pegunaan dan penguasaan bahasa juga bergantung kepada hasil kesusasteraan. Mungkin, ramai yang berfikir senang dengan citarasa mereka dan saya tak rasa itu salah, tetapi saya mahu persoalkan mereka yang cenderung berfikir remeh dan kalanya mengutuk pembaca buku yang tidak mempunyai minat yang serupa. Ada juga yang jenis memikir sesetengah genre mempunyai lebih merit literasi dari yang lain dan ada yang meninggi hidung kepada pembaca buku ‘novel’. Umpama, pembaca novel dan karya bawah novel hanya untuk bacaan ‘ringan’ sahaja.

Resepsi negatif dari saya lebih bertumpu kepada buku tersebut dan saya tak suka mengutuk penulis/pembaca/kategori buku hanya kerana kedudukan klasifikasi buku. Saya juga ada kecenderungan membaca sesetengah genre buku tetapi kadang-kadang saya serik dengan reaksi retis sebegini. Hanya kerana anda anggap anda sebagai seorang pembaca tegar atau pencinta buku atau bahasa dan sebagainya, ia tidak bermakna anda ada lesen untuk meremehkan tulisan dan bacaan orang lain.

Internet mendekatkan penulis dengan pembaca dan memudahkan sebaran buku secara viral. Internet juga merobohkan jurang interaksi dan melebarkan ruang berdiskusi antara penulis dan peminat buku dari dalam dan luar negara. Diluar negara dan dengan media sosial, peminat buku boleh berinteraksi secara terus dengan penulis dengan senang. Tetapi ia juga boleh bertindak dari luar jangkaan dan membuka ruang kepada pembuli cyber.

Tetapi dalam dunia ni, terdapat berjuta buku untuk dibaca dan masing-masing mahukan pembaca. Dalam keseronokan kita mahukan standard sempurna dalam penguasaan, kita lupa yang bacaan sebegini yang menyelamatkan bahasa dari pupus. Walaupun tiada lagi pengunaan biasa untuk bahasa kuno seperti Old English, Archaic Latin, Ancient Greek tetapi bahasa ini masih lagi digunakan dalam pembacaan kerana bacaan ia masih hidup kerana diminati dan ramai masih lagi belajar bahasa ini walaupun tidak mempraktiknya. Mungkin penulisan yang kita anggap temeh pada masa sekarang boleh menjadi klasik masa hadapan dan mungkin pengunaan bahasa kita akan mengalami lagi evolusi bahasa, tetapi dengan adanya penulisan, bahasa kita tidak akan mati di dunia.

Secara jujurnya, solusi kepada masalah berkaitan dengan bahasa dan pengunaan adalah mudah. Kita patut menyokong budaya penulisan dan budaya membaca tanpa deskriminasi mana-mana bahasa, stail penulisan, penerbitan, format, jalan cerita dan lain-lain di Malaysia. Bagi ruang eksperimentasi dan ruang ekspresi kepada penulis dan pembaca untuk mencari kelainan untuk lebihkan variasi dalam rak. Takkan hanya kerana satu novel meletup, yang lain kena tiru jalan ceritanya? Satu lagi, kita kena latih generasi muda mengunakan daya fikiran, bukan di tekan untuk mengisi acuan yang sama. Tambah lagi, fikirlah secara mendalam dalam semua topik walaupun ia sesuatu yang dibesarkan bersama kita.