I was feeling rather drained at the end of this week, and logic dictated that I should just plant my feet into a pot of soil on the balcony, sprout leaves and photosynthesise. But I couldn't pass up the session of Readings that celebrated its third anniversary.
Many of the regulars where there: Leon, Chet, Dr Shanmugam, Mr and Mrs Ted Mahsun, a few of Sharon Bakar's friends, Animah Kosai and daughter and Readings' own technician, Reza. Luminaries who graced the event included Seksan, owner of the venue, Eric Forbes of MPH Publishing, columnist Daphne Lee, the controversial Amir Muhammad, Shahril Nizam and Jerome Kugan, whom I last saw at La Bodega, KL. Eugene a.ka. Dreamer Idiot, Philipp the Eternal Wanderer and Kenny Mah were glaringly absent, though. And I kind of miss Sharanya Manivannan.
Had a chat with Eric about books and favourite reads (why do I get the feeling I was being interviewed?) Lainie Yeoh sported a stitched wound from an encounter with a snatch thief; the rest of us should be fortunate to encounter them on newsprint. I mistook Catalina Rembuyan for Liyana Yusof (a behemoth of a boo-boo!). Hope she wasn't too offended. Photographer Sufian got much of it on film.
(Ooh, watch me drop names like bad habits - a habit I should also drop, I think.)
But I was late for this month's session. When I stepped into the hall, Shi-Li Kow was reading a funny story from the anthology News From Home, about a deceased pet cat who became the biggest thing since that papaya they said had Lord Ganesh's face.
"...all the aunties, passers-by made offerings to the cat for the next big number ...someone even built one the little red huts (like the ones for the datuks) over Patches' grave... even the DBKL lorry drivers were getting into the act... Don't you miss Malaysia?"
Shi-Li Kow, describing the only "vision, 2020"
Malaysians are really interested in
Bernice Chauly, one of the Readings' founding mothers, read some pieces from her published collection of poems, The Book of Sins. I swear I've heard some of them before at a previous session last year.
Our own Prince of Darkness, Tunku Halim gave us a peek of his collection of horror stories, Gravedigger's Kiss. And he was, like, sitting next to me during the second half of the Readings. I was beside myself, wondering, "Hey, maybe they aren't all that elitist after all!" - in spite of his feelings about a review of 44 Cemetary Road in The Star a while back.
The other contributor to News From Home, Chua Kok Yee had the audience in stitches with a modern and hilarious yarn about that monster called Progress - and its reluctant sidekick, Intolerance - who spare no one and nothing, not even fairy tales like the Three Little Pigs.
"...you see, we had to make some changes. We had to make the switch to kittens to avoid offending countries where their religion does not allow pigs ...China's OK. They love pigs - I mean, they love to eat pigs, but..."
Chua Kok Yee, taking a subtle swipe
at censorship and fanaticism
Writer and creative writing guru Chuah Guat Eng (who tutored Sharon once) illustrated the use of language as a weapon with excerpts from her new book The Old House and Other Stories: Penang Hokkien to set up a kill, and Manglish to disarm, or making light conversation. Her rationales for that were quite convincing. I think I should start paying attention to what my parents say from now on.
Gerald Chuah, journalist and Sly Stallone/Rocky Balboa uber-fan came up to the mic to read and ended up giving a dissertation-slash-pep talk on the never-say-die attitude of the underdog, which inspired his book, In the Eye of the Tiger. Although it was a somewhat refreshing and inspiring deviation from the open-your-book-and-read performance expected of in Readings, he was nervous and repeating himself a few times, talking about - instead of reading from the book, and it was nearly six.
"This is Readings, dammit," I mentally fumed, "not a book talk at the Booker Room! Quit quoting Rocky and freaking read something, or I'm kicking you off the podium!"
I was surprised to hear what Rehman Rashid had to say about his book. The excerpt of the review was so inspiring, uplifting and positive. It didn't sound like Rehman Rashid at all.
Did I mention that there a cake-cutting ceremony? Up till now I've never wished a non-person a happy birthday before. First time for everything, I suppose. Books by some of the readers were also on sale. Didn't feel like buying anything, though.
I will be sure to catch Readings' fourth anniversary.