Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who's who

Elizabeth Becker signing copies of her new book Bophana at Monument Books
A who's who of names graced the book launch of Bophana, the latest release from acclaimed former New York Times journalist Elizabeth Becker, at Monument Books earlier this evening. A short speech and questions & answers by Becker was already over by the time I arrived at Monument, having been slow to get away from the football at Olympic Stadium. As I entered the bookshop and saw the massive turnout, I spied Mu Sochua and Roland Eng and knew the heavyweights were out for this particular publication. A mere 83 pages in length, printed in three languages and costing $8, with some of the profits going towards the Harpswell Foundation, Bophana has been published by The Cambodia Daily Press and describes the life of this Khmer heroine as well as Becker's desire to bring her story to a wider audience. Bophana does just that.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Book launch crazy

Monument Books in Phnom Penh are going book launch crazy. They are hosting Elizabeth Becker's new book, Bophana, tomorrow (Saturday) night and then follow that up with Peg LeVine's Love and Dread in Cambodia next Thursday (29 April) at 6pm. Hats off to Monument Books. For Becker, she first told the Bophana love story in her excellent book When The War Was Over and this latest version is published with The Cambodia Daily and available in English, French and Khmer languages. This is a must buy book showing the strength of love under extreme circumstances. For Peg LeVine, she spent a decade researching forced marriages and births under the Khmer Rouge and the traumatic impact this had on so many. Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge is published by NUS Press Singapore.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where's the day gone?

The authors of Cambodians and Their Doctors, Jan Oversen and Ing-Britt Trankell at Monument Books tonight
Not a spare minute in the day. That's my excuse for my lack of blogging. My working day have been full on with visits from hotel sales teams and travel agency partners from Laos and Vietnam. I must finish work early today to get to a book launch, Cambodians and Their Doctors, at Monument at 6pm, then off to Meta House for a film show including Aki Ra's Boys at 7pm and then onto the moto again, this time heading for the Cavern and high volume punk music by Stiff Little Punks. Not sure when I'm going to manage to grab a bite to eat. Any spare time I can find at the moment is being used up on finishing off the manuscript for my travel book, To Cambodia With Love, which we hope will see the light of day sometime this year. I have shamefully dragged my feet with this but there is now light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the pushing, shoving and threatening from the series editor Kim Fay. Gotta run.
Update: The book launch at Monument for Cambodians and Their Doctors was well attended and pretty interesting. The authors addressed some of the key topics they covered in their research which included local kru medicine, Western influences in French colonial times and the Khmer Rouge period, up to the present time. It came as no surprise to hear that whilst many believed Western medicines were destroyed under the Pol Pot regime, they were in fact kept hidden and used exclusively by the party hierarchy, whilst non-cadre Khmers received only ineffectual herbal medicines, if anything at all. As for the bookshop, there's a stack of books I'd like to buy but my bank account wouldn't be able to take the strain. I'll have to do it in small doses (staying on the medical theme). There were two films shown at Meta House, both showing disability in Cambodia and both highlighting the positives with a film about the work of Handicap International in Battambang and the other, Aki Ra's Boys. The Stiff Little Punks were exactly what they said on the label, loud thrashing punk rock, just like I used to listen to thirty years ago.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Health in Cambodia

This book sounds pretty specialist though reading the review by the publisher they promise it's more than it appears. Cambodians and Their Doctors - A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Post-Colonial Cambodia is a 336-page look through the archives at the arrival of modern medicine in Cambodia during the French colonial period and the existing Khmer health practices, that in the main, still exist today. Published by NIAS, Jan Oversen and Ing-Britt Trankell are the authors and they include sections on indigenous healers, spirit mediums and magic monks as well as the Khmer Rouge health regime. The authors are presenting a lecture on their topic at Baitong Restaurant in BKK1 on Wednesday 13th at 6pm and then there's a book launch at Monument Books the following night at 6pm.
On a totally different topic, Meta House, who celebrated their 3rd anniversary tonight with a party, and who will be moving location in a few months, host a new Khmer dance with How Do You Sound on Saturday night at 7pm. Next Thursday I'll be there with the hour-long documentary Aki Ra's Boys as part of celebration for disabled Cambodians and then a second new dance, Moving Into Feeling will take place on Saturday 16th. The Messenger Band are finally back at Meta House on 22nd together with a positive take on the garment industry in the country.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing passions

Listening to a professional talk passionately about their craft is a real joy. And that's what I took away from Tim Hallinan's hour-long workshop on writing at ACE last night, as well as a list of top tips to enthuse and guide would-be authors. Hallinan is a thriller writer who lives in Los Angeles and Bangkok, is writing a series of books about both locations, and who also spends time in Phnom Penh, where he says he can write without distraction. He's written over twenty novels, so he knows what he's talking about. And he is not afraid of dissecting his craft and passing it onto others in a way that is easy to understand. He does this through workshops like last night, he also teaches and his website is a fantastic resource for any writer too. If you are writing a novel now, thinking about writing or, like me, dabbles in writing but have never considered penning your own novel, have a look at his website and catch the buzz, I know I have. His words of wisdom are not restricted to novels either, they can be applied across the range of writing. Hallinan is also a workoholic, he takes a year to write a novel on average of about 100,000 words in length, but will be working on two others at the same time. He targets himself to write 2,000 words each day and says that he has good days and bad days. His own style is not to outline the book beforehand but to fly by the seat of his pants and let his characters decide on where they want to go. He admits his latest novel is giving him sleepless nights, but will get there eventually. I found his lecture fascinating, it opened a series of small doors for me personally and is a brilliant idea by Monument Books' William Bagley to get writers of his calibre to pass on their skill and knowledge to the budding authors of Phnom Penh. To read more about Tim Hallinan and his writing resources, click here. The book jacket above is A Nail Through The Heart and the first in the series of Hallinan's Bangkok novels. I am reading it right now.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Hallinan at Monument

Talking of books and authors, whilst thriller writer Tim Hallinan hasn't written a book set solely in Cambodia just yet, he does spend part of each year here and has been persuaded to talk about his latest series of books in an appearance at Monument Books on Tuesday 28 April (6pm), and two days later, at ACE, will give a master-class in how to finish your novel, which should be an intriguing lecture, which I want to attend. Here's the flyer for the two events.

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