Monday, 27 July 2009

Readings@Seksan's, July 2009

Despite having a front-row seat at the latest Readings@Seksan's I was unable to take any still photographs. My digicam was doing videocam duty (and boy, does that drain the batteries), and I also did audio recordings - all with Sharon's permission.

Nope, they won't be published here. It's for a project which might be launched in another month's time, and I probably won't have the rights to publish them elsewhere. And to my chest-beating, hair-wrenching rage, my laptop, GIMP and Windows Media Player won't let me grab screenshots of the videos for pictures.

Which is why I haven't retired the desktop.

It was a hot afternoon at Lucky Garden, the kind of weather that the Meteorological Service says will persist until September, maybe. Rob Spence, a lecturer on English Literature from Manchester, UK stopped by the place. I think he was here for the The International Anthony Burgess Symposium. Pity I couldn't think of anything to ask him. I don't think I should blame the weather.

Amir Muhammad was there to sell New Malaysian Essays 2, the latest compilation of essays from Matahari Books. I informed him that his piece in that compilation will be appearing in a local publication in days - and apologised for the cuts that were made to it. All copies he had with him were apparently snapped up.

Jac SM Kee, one of three feminist activists in the line-up read bits from her contribution to Amir Muhammad's New Malaysian Essays 2, a story about tits and female ghosts and monsters. Former stewardess and beauty queen Yvonne Lee read a chapter of the perils of plastic surgery from her book Vanity Drive - proof of the tenacity of Michael Jackson's spectre.

I had to Google for the title of Dipika Mukherjee's book of poems, The Palimpsest of Exile, which she picked for that day. The word - one of many esoteric ones in her work - is a kind of oft-reused parchment (a piece of animal skin used as paper) which she compares herself to, a product of multiple education systems. I think we all need a bit more variety in our education.

Most of the laughs were supplied by Shamini Flint (nee Mahadevan), another feminist who wrote under a Western surname because it had the combination of "the exotic and the hard" (flint is a kind of stone) that she says sell crime novels.

The former lawyer who quit her job to be a mom - who then started writing to "escape her children" - found inspiration for her crime fiction from CNN, and comfort in Malaysian radio, where she learns that every day "traffic on the Penang Bridge is slow-moving - in both directions." And she does a great monologue - not bad for a feminist whose passions are "easily swayed by commercial interest."

Compared to the quirky and witty Ten (a story of a tomboyish football-crazy girl of ten), (deep breath) Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder was a bit staid in places, even though well-written and well-edited... I just know, okay? Trust me.

The laughs continued as she read from Ten. A reference to a granny with "teeth that sprouted from her gums like dirty brown mushrooms" drew hearty "hurhurhurs" from Peter Hassan Brown (the man sings and his voice carries a long way, no acoustics required). Though taken aback, Shamini wisely notes that punchlines may not be where you think they are. Those are the best kind, I say.

Paul Gnanaselvam's story of a man searching for char koay teow had a mellowing effect after the bellylaughs from Mrs Flint, and included a free recipe (big prawns, more fishcake slices, less oil, and line with banana leaf afterwards; cockles are optional).

There was some confusion in his name, which was shortened in the poster advertising the event. Fortunately I had a copy of Write Out Loud 3 - signed by several contributors - for reference; his contribution is a ghost story (see? more ghoulish references) called Doiiiiii! (six "i"s). Unfortunately, his name is even shorter in WOL3. Finally found his name spelled in full from the Body2Body event happening next month at Central Market's Annexe.

Amir Sharipuddin's notes on his national service (NS) stint, which he had to explain for Mr Spence's sake, was not so different from the notes of another notable NS graduate. The latter had to remove her posts on the subject, which was deemed too revealing by the folks.

Amir contributed his NS notes to New Malaysian Essays 2, which is laid out in the ruled pages of a notebook. I found him a bit too soft-spoken. Dude, speak up! The voice of the youth is loud and clear! Play the part!

Readings will be held after Hari Raya at the "new" Seksan's for one or two sessions before returning to the old place. What will it look like? September can't come soon enough... uh-oh.

I think I have a plane to catch on that date.



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