Dog Pound – Mamü Vies

April 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

First published in 2014

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I’ve only ever read a handful of English fiction books written by Malaysian authors. This may very well be because there is very little fiction being written in English in Malaysia. Or it could more possibly be my own ignorance. Whichever the case, I’m actively trying to read more by our local authors, in both Malay and English, so watch this space.

Anyway, back to Dog Pound, written by a good friend of mine. It starts with the end, or a scene very near the end, where an important man is found dead, and the person responsible for this death, Roy, is being taken away in an ambulance, heavily injured. From there, we move back in time to when Roy was first introduced to the world of underground boxing: Dog Pound.

Perhaps it is because Mamü is also a screenwriter and director, much of his writing reads like a dissection of scenes, sometimes with heavy doses of exposition. This works both for and against him, I feel. It’s nice to be able to visualise exactly what the room looks like, how each character is playing out on “screen”, and all the little details. But at the same time, it also takes away from potentially fast and high-tension scenes. Just like how it works in movies, tension is created when there’s little time to breathe, little time to concentrate on much else other than what’s happening immediately. Everything happens in seconds. On the page, that translates into the number of words and lines. The more words we spend explaining something, the less pressure there is on the character and reader. We have time to breathe, to digest, to pretend that things are happening in slow motion. That takes some of the suspense and thrill away.

There were some strings left untied at the end, and in a way, it almost felt as if Mamü was telling us that it’s not important. Those things don’t matter. And maybe they don’t. Some things that have happened in the past best just stay there where they belong.

As I was reading this book, though, I was consistently reminded of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. I’ve never read the book, but somehow I get the impression that they may be rather similar stories. I’ve just picked it off my shelves yesterday, so I’m looking forward to reading this next to see how they may compare.

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