Sunday, 23 March 2008

Bangsar Book Talk Brekkie

While I am contemptuous of some mainland Chinese's eating habits and flaunting of wealth, I wouldn't mind trying some dog - it's supposed to be good for my asthma. Relax, no dogs were harmed in this production.

To be repeated 500 times on a chalkboard: A blog is not a message service.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

This month's MPH LitBloggers' Breakfast Club was one I didn't intend to miss. Chuah Guat Eng (whom I saw at last month's Readings) and Wena Poon were the featured authors.

The first thing I did was home in on the buffet table. My heart sank when I failed to spot any chicken mayo sandwiches. It killed the mood for the coffee. The egg and tuna mayo sandwiches were just as nice, but couldn't they do something to prevent the bread from drying up?

Both authors introduced their works and revealed a bit about the creative process and experiences involved, before getting down to reading from their books.

There were definitely two distinct personalities and storytelling modes at the fore. Wena radiated gregarious enthusiasm as she read and voice-acted Dog Hot Pot, a humourous take on responsibilities, morals and cultural differences revolving around exotic canine delicacies. Every detail is carved out and presented in bold, chiselled features.

Chuah, meanwhile, was the paragon of quiet, regal dignity while reading a passage about two pretty men. The ambiguity in the characters and settings allowed some leeway for the reader's imagination, like the pictures in a colouring book.

Did someone say Chuah was from Rembau?

The Q&A session that followed took an odd turn when Wena asked Chuah a question. Now this is how it should be, I thought with approval. Definitely some yin yang mojo at work.

Both draw upon different sources for their works. Wena's experiences during her travels made Lions a very "global" collection of stories about Singaporeans living abroad (like herself). Chuah's Old House was built on memories and images spun out of the air. A nod at Wena's canine hot pot story came in the form of an anecdote about a stray pup that wandered into Chuah's yard and died mysteriously.

When asked about memoirs that aren't memoirs, Chuah expressed dislike, and reckons books like those should be classified as non-fiction. Wena was of the opinion that too much inclusion of real-life experiences into literary fiction lessens the degree of art involved.

That being said, she also voiced her frustrations in warding off reader assumptions that Lions was partly autobiographical, even though some of the narrators were men. Then Chuah chipped in with another anecdote where readers got the gender and race of the narrator wrong - thanks to the way she writes - but thinks it's cool to let their imagination run wild.

During the schmoozing session that followed, Sharon Bakar told me how she found one of my published articles, and gave me some positive feedback on it. She initially didn't know I wrote the piece; members of her circle know me by my other Internet handle. She also assuaged my doubts on panning a bad book and reservations on reviewing books with objectionable content.

I had to miss out on the Readings later that afternoon because I had other plans. It was a good session, though - a good portent for the rest of the day.


  1. ok. it's hard to know just how anonymous people want to be. shall not mention your name or articles again. and i guess that precludes you doing a reading at seksan's too? (i was about to ask you).

  2. Bibliobibuli: Unfortunately, yes. At least for now. I'll think about it, though.

    My apologies for hurting your feelings. I've amended the post and deleted the other comment. I won't ever repeat that.


Got something to say? Great! Rant away!