Having visited Putrajaya in a personal and professional capacity makes me wonder how the world’s first intelligent garden city resonates with these 14 writers. Lost In Putrajaya exudes a sense of place that befits the federal administrative centre.
In his light-hearted introduction, editor Zurairi A.R. enlightens how visitors often lose their way despite sophisticated technology. Throughout this collection, the landscape is vividly described with its labyrinthine precincts, fairytale architecture, immense park, sprawling lake and hot air balloons.
Before addressing some of the stories, I would like to state that this review is made in the context of general fiction, not just Malaysian books specifically, as I do not believe in compromising my expectations when it comes to local publications.
“Lost at the Immigration Department” is a subject much dealt with in this anthology, a predictable angle, but each piece has its own strength. Narrated with old-fashioned charm, Drifting Azaleas by Paul Gnanaselvam features an opinionated foreign wife and mother facing her advanced citizenship assessment. In Green Onion, Marc de Faoite shares an expatriate husband’s early horror.
“I feel the tension and agony, but I am baffled why the protagonist is not opting for the easy way out." Eileen Lian relates how a pair of blue jeans connects two contrasting worlds after visit to the Immigration Department in Blue Jeans.
As the title suggests, various forms of being “lost” are portrayed, especially deeply in these four stories: Broken Kaleidoscope by Timothy Nakayama fascinates me with its engaging non-linear narration of a graduate distracted from his dreams by a posh job in the capital.
The heart-wrenching Listen To Your Grandmother by Jeanette Goon dives into the personal turmoil of a journalist on assignment at the Education Ministry. In Lost Toy, Claudia Skyler Foong effortlessly shows how a father and son’s search for a toy within a green maze leads to something more valuable.
A fallen diplomat returns home with her daughter to face her furious employer and other nemeses in the intense Mosquito Heart by William Tham Wai Liang. The idea of being “lost”, literally and metaphorically, is explored imaginatively, although some tales fall short.
And I personally would have loved more of the type of surprises Hadi M. Noor’s The Signs Of End Times offers: he recreates the administrative centre as a holy land with ruling disciples. It is witty and refreshing – though nowhere near the author’s mind-boggling Sepucuk Pistol Di Dalam Laci (A Pistol In The Drawer) Malay-language anthology.
The nighttime weather-control ministry hosts a series of rain and sunshine parties in the hilarious The Ministry Of Sun And Storms by Terence Toh. I like the writer’s casual style and bizarre ideas, which run through many of his works.
The unseen also lends a surreal touch to the modern Federal Territory. Nizam Shadan launches the mission of Sangsalibut, a sluggish jinni, to locate a client by scent in the vicinity that defies magic. Its unexpected ending leaves a lasting impression.
The plight of supernatural residents is unearthed by Alistair Yong in Bunian Diaspora. Unfortunately, I found the protagonist a bit distant, as senses are not well utilised. Otherwise, the intriguing premise of an exodus could have stood out as the highlight of the collection.
While Lost In Putrajaya’s cover pales in comparison with the publisher’s other titles, this is one of Fixi Novo’s better anthologies content-wise.
Zurairi has done a commendable job in picking stories that capture the essence of Putrajaya. However, it does not give me the satisfaction of reading a good book. With the exception of Drifting Azaleas and Lost Toy, the other prose appears unfinished. If only every piece had been carefully reworked with its writer, these tales could have been brought to their full potential.
Pulp fiction may be sensational fiction meant for the masses, but that does not mean the quality of writing should be ignored. In fact, author Rozlan Mohd Noor, who is mentioned in Fixi Novo’s “manifesto” online, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for the Asia-Pacific region in 2010 for one of his pulp fiction works.
As a young and dynamic home-grown brand, Fixi has made us proud with its rapid-fire efforts to publish darker and bolder tales to fill a void for such works in the local market. With the strong following garnered, perhaps it is time for Fixi to focus its resources on taking its’ existing readers to the next level of appreciation rather than continue to expand its customer base at the same standard.
Since all other elements are already in place, quality control is the only missing piece needed to complete the big picture. Only then can Fixi cause a significant ripple in the international publishing scene and take global readers by storm as it has done with local ones.