Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013: The Year That Was In Words

I'm not generally big on year-end reflections but, given what happened to me last year, I can't help but think back on how ... eventful 2013 has been.

Apart from my steps into the kitchen, I managed to attend a couple of great events.

I didn't expect a whole lot from the inaugural Cooler Lumpur Festival, where I'd hoped to learn more about, among other things, Malay publishing. I probably have enough material from that event for three short pieces or a really long one - if I can get over the information indigestion. Yes, still.

Sadly, pigeonholing seems to still be the order of the day where Malay writers were concerned. The parents of Gina Yap, one of the writers of the Fixi imprint, even refused to attend the launch of her first Malay novel.



Discussing the 'changing face' of the Malay writer (from left): Uthaya
Shankar SB, moderator Umapagan Ampikaipakan, Singaporean playwright
Alfian Sa'at, and Fixi author Gina Yap


But in the overflowing rows of seats in all the events I attended at Cooler Lumpur 2013, I saw a lot of energy and hope and the occasional Kodak moment. If you could just see how close Alfian Sa'at came to tears as Pak Samad recited Balada Hilang Peta (Ballad of the Lost Map) on stage....

Indeed, the future lies with the young. Would it be fine to say that I expect great things from them?

I'm probably not alone in this. Chuah Guat Eng said something about "street Malay" being the language of the young and how they are using that to do their own thing, as well as Fixi's role in that.



Chuah Guat Eng (foreground) in the discussion on "A National
Literature" (with UK writer Suzanne Joinson, Alfian Sa'at, and
National Laureate A Samad Said), live-streamed for the Edinburgh
World Writers Conference


And I'm also looking forward to the next Cooler Lumpur Festival, which is scheduled to take place within the fasting month.



When I wrote this response to some "fed-up Penangite's" grouses over the 2012 George Town Literary Festival, adding that I might parachute into it at some point in the future, I never imagined that I'd do it so soon, i.e. one year later.

Things just fell into place that year. I felt compelled to balik kampung then and, hey, might as well be a tourist in my hometown while I'm at it.

So much has changed.

Western-style cafés that look more at home in Publika or Damansara Uptown are now jostling with decades-old kopitiams for customers. Old pre-war shophouses now house cafés, restaurants, art galleries and backpackers' inns. In the city, the skyline has grown higher.

My priorities then meant that I couldn't attend every single event duing GTLF2013, but I managed to catch the Q&A with Datuk Lat as his session drew to a close. I think he was talking about paper.



Datuk Lat (right) fielding questions as his session wraps up; the
session was moderated by the other guy, Huzir Sulaiman


"You'd think that, oh, there's some good quality drawing paper, I think I'll buy some and then you go home with your good paper and you'll start drawing ... that will never happen."

So it's not just writers who draw a blank when confronted with white space.

Whatever can be said about the George Town Literary Festival, I'm glad that there is one. But I'd reconsider getting Huzir Sulaiman and Shamini Flint back for GTLF2014 - those funny, witty, chatty people kept stealing the show.



"...well, I thought it was pretty funny."


There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.



"Too much of a good thing" pretty much sums up the Big Bad Wolf book sale as well. I managed to find a route that took me to the venue, but it was all too much for me. I didn't feel like picking up anything from the mountains of fiction titles.

Still, I ended up with several non-fiction titles, including a cookbook on curry, which I've yet to (and may never satisfactorily) master.

But I'm not sure if I want to go to next year's.

Then again, since production of new books picked up at work towards the end of 2013 I couldn't look at another printed page when I'm home.

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