Favourite titles

Favourite titles
Whether it is "Redefining literary techniques and devices", "Justifying Papua New Guinea Literature", or "Translating the Bible into Anuki", these offer valuable reading for the paperless student of literature, and indeed the best sort of literary entertainment you can get out of Papua New Guinea. Check them out either on Soaba's Storyboard or The Anuki Country Press.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Regarding September as a book hunting season

The weeks following the National Book Week in August and the beginning of preparations for the Independence celebrations in September should be an ideal period we could regard as a book hunting season. Armed with bilums, pocket note books and pens we could go out on a book hunting spree. A travel book left at the airport by a tourist, or a rare book spotted at a second-hand clothes shop, would do nicely as our first shot at the sitting ducks of a lucky find in this hunting season.

Sometimes we could come across a book we have once read at high school, such as Day That I Have Loved or Cry the Beloved Country. Other times we would be fortunate enough to spot Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird at an unlikely corner of the Waigani Market, among electrical appliances as spare parts displayed for sale. Occasionally, perhaps, we would come across that dreaded text book that we couldn’t get hold of right at the end of the semester when we were advised in earnest to base our thesis on it or risk not seeing our names on the graduating list.

Such expeditions would help us alleviate some of the problems we experience in the scarcity of reading material in our schools, universities and libraries. In fact, ours is the only country in the world where books are considered unnecessary commodities, simply because there are no plans for them in every clever budget passed by the government.

A parent whose child studies literature at UPNG, for example, might complain of spending extra on “hidden costs” for texts, aside from meeting the nominal fees of tuition and board which amount to five or six thousand kina. But this difficulty can be overcome if we regard times such as this very week in September as our annual book hunting seasons in preparation for the following years of study.

A book hunting season pays a lot of dividends in the end. It is a time when we search for and find that rare and out of print book about to be auctioned. But it is also a time when we must produce a new book that will sell as fast as the Independence celebrations itself.

There are several people who can help us make these book hunting expeditions become successful. Firstly, parents of students studying literature. A parent whose job demands a lot of conference travel is in an advantageous position. During those busy travels overseas he can always spare 10 minutes to visit a book stall (most major shopping malls usually include a book supermarket) where he can buy a book for his child. That child in turn will bring the book to us and announce that perhaps we in literature need it more because he is majoring in Mathematics or Law. I can cite two occasions when I received some of the most needed books for my literature courses this way, thanks to students and their generous parents who understood the needs of our department. On yet another occasion, a former student of mine who went away to read law at Deakin University, brought home for me a copy of T.S. Eliot’s The Sacred Wood.

The second lot are the academics themselves. Here also, I would like to acknowledge a gift I similarly received from Professor Lawrence Kalinoe (School of Law) who brought home for me from one of his conference travels a copy of Professor Paul Sharrad’s study of Albert Wendt, the Samoan writer – a book we use extensively in our literary criticism courses.

And the list would go on, of course.

But these being fair examples of how we could treat the month of September as a book hunting season, I do believe that the exercise would be an enriching one for us, long before we think of getting that school fee loan from BSP or Teachers Savings and Loans for next year.

Now with the limited amount of learning resource material made available to us, how we manage to survive with our students each semester is a miracle. A good number come to school prepared.  They in turn help others and the rest of us get by, especially in the area of photocopying when our own machines are exhausted or have actually expired. Since the 1990s we have been spreading the word among our good students that in order to excel in literary studies one has to spend one’s own money. Sometimes I feel guilty enough to ask if I can reimburse a student’s K10.00 spent on photocopying for the benefit of all of us in a literature class to which the reply I get is, “Oh, no, sir; don’t worry. We are doing this for our own good.”

But writers particularly must take this idea seriously. Every time a book is published, several copies must be deposited with us so that we can include them in our course offerings. It is pointless publishing and operating out there, in isolation, when our students are in dire need of reading your work.

Finally, one other group of people who can help in this book hunting exercise is our successful business men and women themselves. There is always a kind of premonition in store somewhere that makes them believe books mean virtually nothing to them, particularly works of fiction, drama and poetry. When I was at the Institute of Business Studies during book week in August, I was asked by a lecturer there if there could be ways through which those in the business sector and those in the humanities would come together and form some sort of collaborative partnership that would help us all one way or another. I replied immediately that the suggestion was a good one, because as with other instances of partnership liaisons I do not see why people of two different entities altogether cannot converge and have a party with books.

By a party with books I mean simply buying books and giving them away as gifts, especially to certain segments of society which need them most. A good business man or woman is not quite the one who dreams of becoming a prophet of Wall Street one day, but the one who, instead of having so many hours of restless and sleepless nights, actually relieves himself of all worry and trouble by buying a book in September and sending it away by sea or surface mail to The Anuki Country Press, P.O. Box 1375, Boroko, NCD 111, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.


Gouri Guha said...

Going through this post, I came to know the difficulties these students face. Very informative and an eye opener of such an environment.
Thanks for visiting my blogspot. I have another blogspot Leisure Rambling which, at present is more about the school I'm associated with. In coming days I will be writing about school going children and discuss on various topics like behaviour, attitude, lack of interest, parental guidance and more that comes to my mind. You can have a look there.
Thanks for visiting and your nice comment. I'll be following this blog.

The Anuki Country Press said...

Thanks Gouri. This is very encouraging indeed.
I also enjoy reading Leisure Rambling and recommend my children keep that in mind for my grandchildren.