Hikayat Nakhoda Muda


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The story of the Young Sea-Captain exist in various earlier versions but this is an edition from a manuscript written in 1830s. The story is about a princess who got tired of waiting and she went out and saved her stupid brother’s life while disguising herself as a man and unfortunately for her, a prince fall in love with her and in severe emotional confusion over his feeling to a girl who dressed like a boy and everyone was convinced that she’s a boy and he insisted that she’s not. So, he and his father made up things to test her in front of everyone that she’s a man… including peeing in front of everyone, gambling, horse-riding, dancing and almost sleeping together. Luckily, she have a magic bird who spy on the emperor and the prince and the princess churn out clever ways to outwit these two scheming people who were bent on trying to humiliate her in every way possible.

This hikayat was full of feels and weird sex jokes and occasional groping. I thought these aristocratic literature would be dry and proper considering it was a favorite in the old Malay courts and the cover was bland even with those gold lettering. It was surprisingly a very well-constructed romance. A girl meet a guy. The guy fall in love and pursue the girl and the girl tried so hard to push him away but then that night together they spent telling stories instead of sleeping which reminisced 1001 Nights and then that “I’m gonna leave you now and I don’t want you to chase me” scene. Honestly, Prince Bikrama was an asshole and then he became this simpering puddle of depression (he actually fainted when she ran away) but he redeemed himself when he won her hand in a competition and fought a war with other princes over for his love.

In fact, I do think the whole book was better than most Malay romance we had now. Its like Fantaghiro except the girl uses more wit than Fantaghiro do and her reason to disguise herself as a boy to save her brother was more solid and there’s a lot of feminine empowerment qualities from this captain princess alone. Which I think it was grand.

Sadly, despite some era of Malay literature appreciation during British Malaya days, there weren’t any English translation for this hikayat. Of all fairytales, you’d expect this kind of feminist story of a clever Malay princess who save the day from men’s idiocy (because really, every major conflict in this book was cooked up by these incompetent feudalistic men) would remain famous for centuries.


Who Is Afraid of the Big Bad Reviewer?

A reviewer is just a reviewer who reads and have some opinions about the book after reading it. Anyone can be a reviewer as long as you can read.

This is me being repetitive but apparently I need to repeat them.. over and over again.

That being said, I never consider myself a book critic. I’m just someone who think life is too short to read minimally and restrictively. I don’t want to reach certain age and wish I had read more. Plus, I aspire to be a novelist so naturally its a job requirement.

But when you’re being accused of burning the coffers of hardworking sad authors and publishers, I can’t help myself but wondering, how on earth are you being published or have the ability to publish if you’re so rattled by one reader’s opinion that you can simply decide they had the hand to destroy your own livelihood… when they supposedly undergo the strenuous grueling exercise of being rejected by publishers and endless rewrites and punishing editor commentaries before it was being published.

I know. I get a lot of rejections and “you shouldn’t be writing” comments by many and I am a struggling yet to be published writer but weirdly apparently I have more street cred as a reviewer than I do as a writer. I guess, that is one of my hidden multiple-talents between my supposed expertise as a medical scientist, a professional makeup model, a theater MUA, a childcarer, a baker… and… custom officer, next? (Hey, maybe it does good for my anti-censorship campaign)

Officially, I learn academical journal reviewing by my professor for a pathology elective some years back and along with it I decided that reviewing books is way more fun than studying a journal’s methodology, reading statistics and pointing out its flaws. Some people love doing peer-reviewing academically… well, I’m certainly do not. You haven’t seen something so steeped in negativity and constant skepticism as peer-reviewing scientific journals. Its like high brow literary journals except everyone have a minimal of one postgrad degree and you’re being judged by your experimental methods and pipetting skills.

Here’s the thing. Even if I want to do it for fun, as a book reviewer, I have my own set ethics on reviewing : I must listen to my own head and my own heart and my own feelings and write reviews based on that. I must not lie.

If I said I like it, I like it. If I love it, I LURVE it. If I hate it, I hate it. If I think its meh, I think it is meh.

This bears repeating whenever I write something about reviewing : I don’t write reviews to sell you books nor do I write reviews to prevent you from selling your books. I write reviews to tell you how I feel and think about the book and I want to record it and apparently its available to the internet to be read by everyone who want to read them.

Nobody can influence someone to read anything they don’t read. Nobody can influence someone to buy books they don’t want to read.

Book reviewing is one of the simplest thing anyone can do as a reader and I encourage it to regular readers as well. Frankly, book reviewing is one of the things I enjoy as a practical form of freedom of speech. The freedom to criticize where normally it would be very rude here…. or commonly known as ‘seditious’ and offensive and disagreeable to one’s own sensitivity.

I don’t usually review books (yeah… I crack up decent number but I have many more books I’ve read, in dire need of reviewing. I began to neglect this blog because Goodreads didn’t have too many buttons I need to push like WordPress do) but at this point, I read too much and care too little about how one out of hundreds of my reviews affected the livelihood of the said involved.

I am that sort of a book bitch. Luckily, nobody has yet to launch a social media campaign or created a twitter meme for me so I haven’t achieve that level of notoriety.

Yes, I know how hard it was to write a book. How painful it was to read every line to make it perfect and how sucky it was to receive rejections and red marks and stuff and I completely understand that.

But being too deeply concerned with how your book fares in reviewing communities is to ignore the possibility of your books being completely ignored by everyone. That is the special post-publishing eternal purgatory of being forgotten. My writer-self understand that completely. And that is okay, I am still young and I have writers who are successful when they’re older as an aspiration. And many more writers don’t even get to feel like they’re successful as authors until after they died. The many authors with successful posthumous works : Steig Larsson, Niccolò Machiavelli, Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, Herman Melville, Anne Frank etc.

If you felt cheated upon receiving multiple negative reviews or felt doors closing on you that you started to have this perception that your readers don’t know what they’re doing and you’re free to ignore them all because you disagree with them, maybe you’re not mature enough to think that the point of writing itself is not to anticipate grandeur upon publishing but to reach out and share your works with others.

To know that you’re forgotten as a writer after you’ve died is more hurtful than a negative review. Knowing that you’re just a blimp in the publishing world or in the universe itself (we all are). Which is why I try to read a lot because if I’m not going to a known as a writer, the least I could do was to read the works of others who might be forgotten and relive them inside of me. Because no author deserve to be forgotten.

On the other hand, I do realize that I have a problem where I limit myself to reading mostly international publications. Despite my intention to support local authors, I find its harder to be an honest reviewer in a place where people can easily reach you out or drop next to you and threatened you directly. Well, not me but there’s another local Goodreaders who experienced that.

I’m not saying international publications are all perfect but I don’t have to be afraid of having differing thoughts or being criticizing because frankly, it was encouraged! Publishers don’t care about perfect positives reviews, they just want the book out and people talking about it. Negative reviews also encourage book discovery way more effectively than a positive review. Because in this age where you can interact with many potential readers almost instantaneously, you do not want to be at the other side where you’re being accused of paying 5 stars sockpuppet reviewers.

Its not the issue whether I am published myself or not but the issues of those who think they’re entitled to good reviews because they think negative reviews are unfair to all their hard work and careful research about local taste demographic and need and demand.

Well, I have a bigger problem with that too. Especially around romanticizing rape and sexual and domestic violence in our own local Malay romance literature and subsequent tv adaptations!

In the end, appreciating a good book is just a simple act of being human. Its also very subjective. I do not expect others to like what I read but I don’t expect others to think that only I can decide what they want to read. I want everyone to enjoy the simple act of book discovery and the leap of faith everyone had when they open up to the first chapter. I want people to be surprised or disappointed when they read something and expect something more. I want readers to respond and analyse their readings.

But when you mock the reviewers and started to call names and started to whine about how giving negative reviews will deplete their coffers. Like, telling writers about;

“Be wary of Goodreads reviewers. Don’t read the reviews. One do bad review and everyone did bad reviews and the publisher pull it off the shelf…”

Its telling another story about how you should be afraid of your readers…

Horse Raid: The Making of a Warrior by Paul Goble

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One of the most gorgeous book about cultural heritage and coming of age surrounded the Native American’s tradition of horse raiding. The foreword explained a length about the history and basically tried to explain the basic around the horse tradition and how things changed since then (because these horse raids technically is a civil war among tribes). It was sad to know how these stories became more obscure in modern literature but the colorful artwork brought the tale into life and its glory.

There was some mystical quality and there’s action and violence in the tale as expected. At a first glance, I thought the artwork was about Mongolian horse nomads. Although it seemingly written in a way similar to children’s book format, I don’t genuinely think it was meant for younger audience. The text content was too descriptive and lengthy, stylistically similarly to coffee table books. It was obvious to see the amount of hard work and careful details being rendered into the storytelling.

The ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.