Thursday, September 8, 2011

Teohlogy, by Patrick Teoh

I recorded this book by special request for Malaysian Association for the Blind. The author is well-known to most Malaysians -- he's a very popular television and radio personality, and Teohlogy: The Word According to Patrick Teoh is a collection of his columns for Off the Edge magazine.

These are the writings of a Malaysian curmudgeon.  In this case, you should judge the book by its cover, because this photo captures the very essence of the essays.  With scathing wit, colourful language (not all of it bowdlerised with random punctuation marks, $^%I*@#!) and a profound, nostalgic sadness, Teoh discusses what's going on in Malaysia, and what's wrong with it.

Off the Edge was a Malaysian magazine with a local readership. Non-Malaysians (by which I mean those who are unfamiliar with the local scandals and the scoundrels responsible for them) should give the book a miss. Not only will they fail to appreciate Teoh's jabs at politicians, much of the local jargon will sail over their heads.  (He thoughtfully includes a glossary at the back, which even locals might find helpful, as he peppers his writing with expletives in Cantonese, Hokkien, Tamil, Malay and Manglish, or Malaysian English.)  Wonder what it would be like to sit in a kopitiam and tokkok with Patrick Teoh?  Aiyoh, lah, just buy the book! You one of them mata-mata flers? You should read the book, lor. Patrick tell you what to do with the kapchai flers who got new name, mah, now call mat rempit. And politicians? Comedians can't hold a candle to them. Want a good laugh, one til you cry what, read Malaysian politics issinit.

He does, of course, write most of the essays in flawless English, which he learnt from the Malaysian education system of nearly 50 years ago, before the politicians started mucking about with it in the name of nationalism.  He comments in one essay about the uncanny Malaysian ability to forget.  It must be something in the air or in the water, because his essays from only 4-5 years ago recall scandals and outrages that I, too, had forgotten. Maybe it's because there seems to be no end to news that leads us to bang our heads on our desks.  Maybe our forgetfulness is from the concussions.

Although I laughed out loud while recording it, Teohlogy also had me fighting back despair. I've lived in enough places to know that governments do crazy and silly things. Period. Fine, the Albanian government is sillier than, say, the Danish one, but I bet the Danes grumble in coffee shops, too.  I know better than to expect sanity here. What saddens me, though, is Teoh's assertions that the country is deteriorating. It's not dysfunctional in a stable sort of way -- it's going downhill. He forced me to acknowledge that race and religion are even pricklier topics today than they were when I arrived in 2004. Patrick Teoh describes himself as a patriot, Malaysia as his country.  I'm not Malaysian, but I love this country, too. I can't vote nor speak out, but I hope Malaysia's politicians are heeding 'the word according to Patrick Teoh.' The baarger is pandai, lah!

1 comment:

  1. Let me tell you one thing: Patrick Teoh was being polite in his spelling - tokkok is actually 'talk cock', that phrase should be self-explanatory, right? LOL!


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