Sunday, 1 February 2009

Readings' Fourth

Goodness, is it Readings' fourth anniversary already? Time doesn't just fly, it's got an intergalactic warp drive strapped to its back.

Rainy weather kept the party indoors where space is already at a premium, even without the art installations. A micro-bookfest was set up next to the buffet table where the birthday cake and chips were. Attractions included Sharanya Mannivanan's Witchcraft, Ruhayat X's Aweks KL anthology, and Amir Muhammad's new book. The books turned out to be more popular than the food - few seemed to be in the mood to snack. This was true for those who returned from their Chinese New Year holidays.

Writer Yvonne Foong was also there to sell her books and T-shirts. It was a pity she couldn't enjoy the session because of her impaired hearing; the stories were all well-written and largely entertaining - especially the funnier ones. She came by taxi, but when the session was over there was no cab for her address (or rather, no cab wanted to go to her address), so one of the attendees drove her home.

...and I didn't take any pictures of her or her wares. ...Her wares... gah, I forgot to buy a T-shirt...! I can't believe it - although some who know me can...

Shantini Venugopal of Instant Café Theatre read her Karmic Tale, a hilarious cautionary tale about the subterranean parking lots at The Gardens/Mid Valley she penned on FaceBook. Because her printer and laptop aren't on speaking terms, she read the story out of the laptop while the printer sulked at home.

Some of us have probably braved the perils of the modern Malaysian parking lot design (also found at Pavilion KL) for our unsalted butter, vanilla extract and cream crackers. I've personally gotten lost a few times. Can Karmic Tale be expanded into an ad campaign for better parking lots? Preferably by Yasmin Ahmad?

Umapagan Ampikaipakan - who writes for the NST - was next with excerpts from some of his articles. I've read his comments on Bibliobibuli, but never saw him in person. Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome kicked in after introducing myself to him. "You're the one with the (nearly) unpronounceable name," I said (even Sharon needed practice with it).

"That's a bit racist," Amir Muhammad jabbed. "Just because you come from a land of monosyllabic names..." Unintentional, Amir. Honest.

Umapagan's scribblings about the results of the US Presidential Elections was funny and evocative, but somewhat diluted by his rapid-fire, typewriter-style diction.

Brian Gomez read a few passages from his debut novel Devil's Place. I'd written a blurb on the book for a local publication, but looking at it now, I don't think I did it justice. Maybe I should have stuck with, "Fast-paced, violent, vulgar, and laugh-out-loud entertaining. Buy. Now. For Xmas 2009.", but it was a rather high-brow publication that needed something long-winded.

Copies of Devil's Place brought to Readings went like cash rebates for petrol at post offices nationwide - after Gomez's turn at the mike, of course. There's nothing like hearing the author read his own work.

And because this is my own publication, here's what I think of Devil's Place: Fast-paced, violent, vulgar, and laugh-out-loud entertaining. Buy. Now. For Xmas 2009. Because by then all copies will be at the Home Ministry and your copy (or copies) will be worth heaps on eBay or Lelong.com.

The mood changed during Iain Buchanan's turn. His book, Fatimah's Kampung is the poignant story of a village's disappearance hit all the right notes, particularly for those who have read about Singapore's last rural village on the International Herald Tribune. And because Fatimah's Kampung is an illustrated work, it has more storytelling power. Buchanan could do more for the beautiful, rustic rurals than say, the Old Town (kopitiam) ad campaign. FunnyBunny should meet him. They could talk all day - at least.

I didn't take too many pictures of Amir Muhammad, since he's so recogniseable. He dropped by to "read" something from his latest offering, Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things, Volume 2. It was more like showcasing rather than reading, I thought.

This time, the soundbites in Volume 2 are given more side-splitting power by Fahmi Reza's outrageously hilarious scrapbook style graphics - the reason one distributor (or publisher?) declined to touch it. I bought my copy at a bookstore because Amir didn't issue receipts for tax deductions.

...in retrospect, maybe I should have bought my copy at Readings and have it autographed. It would've made a great keepsake. And Volume 2 is just as irreverent as Devil's, if not more...

By the end more people were buying Yvonne's T-shirts or books, and I couldn't pay attention to the last reader, Saiful Nizam bin Shukor (my apologies). And yes, the humidity and time of day were lowering my eyelids. I keep them open; time travels fast if you don't pay attention - before you know it, it'll be Readings' fifth.

In-house entertainment was provided by Peter and Markiza. Missed them? Click the link for their next gigs.

Same time - and place - next year?

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