Fixi Novo, RM19.90, ISBN 978-967-0374-37-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2013
If you have read a bunch of my book reviews, you’d know that I prefer mostly romantic tales as part of my daily diet. I have lived long enough to know that any English novel written by a Malaysian is most likely not a romance novel, no matter what the title is, so I had no illusions when I opened Khaliza Khalid’s Wedding Speech. It’s… well, the closest genre I can think of to pigeonhole this one for easy labeling is dick-lit.
The story is pretty simple. Our male protagonist, Yusrizan, defines the phrase “love rat” in every possible way. He loves Kelly, but he generally mucks things up with his immaturity and self-absorption, that it is a miracle that the story opens with his getting his wedding speech ready for his upcoming wedding to Kelly. There is still plenty of time and ways for him to go down in flames, however. The story also flashes back to the past now and then to give me a glimpse of how Yus was back then.
Now, Yus has this story narrated entirely from his point of view, so it is actually a fatal flaw for him to exhibit no character development until the last few pages of this book. I turn the pages, mostly with one brow raised higher than the other, because this guy is a complete train wreck. He even uses his daughter to manipulate women into letting him into their pants, and he shows very little concern for the poor girl throughout the whole thing. Everything Yus says and does is immature and annoying, and I soon feel that I am trapped in a frat party where every guy is drunk and stupid and, oh god, someone please get me out of here.
The narrative is deliberately disjointed – seven out of ten Malaysian authors aspire to convince their readers that these authors are part of a literary wunderkind parade, after all, through contrived use of narrative gimmicks – but the author isn’t consistent with her tenses, so it soon becomes annoying when when both present and past tense show up regardless of whether the scene in question is in the present day or in the past. There are also some unfortunate use of big words at the wrong places – “literally” is used, redundantly, in scenes where the characters can’t not be literal, for example.
There are also moments when it’s obvious that Yus is a character written by a woman. I’m hard pressed to think of any guy who would voluntarily call his penis a “member”, for instance. “Member aku“, yes, I can imagine, but given that this story is written entirely from the perspective of someone thinking in English, this particular usage of the word “member” feels so artificial. There are more instances where I go, “Wait, would a selfish sex-obsessed prick think like this?” and such instances only make it harder for me to get into the flow of this story.
However, I believe that the author has some potential to be good one day. The twist ending is actually quite contrived, but I actually find myself sighing and I think there may even be a lump in my throat. I’m pleasantly shocked by how easily she could manipulate my feelings if she puts her mind into it.
At the end of the day, Wedding Speech could have been a good read, but it is bogged down by juvenile humor, unconvincing characters, and contrived narrative gimmicks. It would be interesting to see what the author can come up with should she deliver a straight-up story without such gimmicks. Until then, I’d just put this book aside.