Monday, 25 February 2008

Frittering Away at Silverfish Books

"Im sorry I missed the launch at the Annexe," I said.

"Oh, it's OK," Amir Muhammad assured me, adding that the crowd was so huge that day (about two hundred strong) it spilled out into the surrounding area. That made me sorrier to have missed it. Must've been quite a spectacle.

It didn't seem fair to miss an event I pimped, so I made up for it by attending the reading of New Malaysian Essays 1 at Silverfish Books by Amir and the other contributors. I also thought I would even help out a little by getting more than just one copy.

I'd arrived late and hungry, pausing briefly to take in the eclectic range of materiel on the shelves. Treasures, each and every one. Upon seeing me the lady manning the counter directed me to the tiny reading room at the end of the bookstore. Brian Yap was wrapping up his performance.

Instead of grabbing a seat, I made a beeline for the table where all the snacks were and nicked a banana fritter from a plate. Ah, sweet, sour crunchy succour.

Was it just me, or had I just committed a huge social faux pas? Raman's look certainly said so. There were disapproving glances from a few members of the small audience, who had to make do with a basket of various chips.

Screw politeness. I'm hungry.

I reached for another. These were damn good for bananas that aren't sweet. Aminuddin Mahmud began reading his contribution, a well-researched and entertaining academic paper on the power of branding around the mamak franchise.

Then Amir rose from his place and took a fritter and a cup of tea. That made me feel better. But I was already going for fritter #4. These were damn good. They haven't even gotten soggy yet.

It was Saharil Hasrin Sanin's turn. According to Amir, he is famous for his short stories (each about half a page long) that still manage to speak volumes. He'd asked for something for this book, and ended up with a 52-page contribution titled Teroris Bahasa, a brilliant and funny memoir-slash-monologue-slash-debate against the policing of language. References to "pert English knockers" raised titters among the crowd, which included a couple of Caucasian women.

'Tis a day for faux pas, it seems, I mused, munching on my fifth fritter.

There were also choice words about another contributor, Burhan Baki who is currently at Aberdeen. "But he has a brilliant piece in this book," Amir concluded. "Real genius. And he's at Aberdeen." Something about that last bit made the crowd chuckle.

Did he just make Aberdeen sound naughty?

I got three copies of the book, which coincidentally read EN-EM-EE 1 when abbreviated - which is how the mainstream (read: government-regulated) publishing scene sees Amir nowadays. I can tell you that it is money well-spent - with or without the autographs.

There was no sixth fritter. I had plans to dine at Sri Nirwana Maju after the event. Unfortunately, I was feeling full before I could polish off the last bit of rice. Maybe I should have stopped at three.

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