David Byck kicked things off. David, the author of the successful It's a Long Way to the Floor, is also writing fiction. He read a section from the first novel he attempted, based very much on his own life and featuring his grandmother. It sounded pretty damn good! Maybe it's time to dust the cobwebs off it, David and let it see light of day.
Ted Mahsun relaxes during the break. He read a short piece in Malay which he said was written by a friend of his who had passed away. Pretty naughty and had the audience laughing.
Gary Ooi Yinn Hee only began writing seriously a year ago when he penned a play of The Oral Stage's 59 minutes called Fruitcake, and another called M for Magenta for their 2007 production, Screwed. Gary also attended Malika Booker's poetry workshop a few months ago. he read several poems, some of them very short. I particularly liked one about his great-aunty. He read Fruitcake, a very edgy little play, with Sharanya.
I'd wanted to get Liyana Yusof to read at Seksan's since hearing her at the Food Foundry performance of work for Jacob Sam-La Rose's workshop. She read my favourite poem Grand Parents (a lot of elderly relatives appearing in work today!) and other short poems including one I really liked called billy jeans. I really liked a longer prose piece, no questions asked (a portrait of loneliness) addressing an absent lover. Liyana has put together a collection of her writings in a chapbook called Paper Trails for Strangers.
I met Andre Vltchek through Amir Muhammad and he is really is a fascinating guy, and I was thrilled when he agreed to do a reading for us. (He is also reading at the event Bernice is organising tonight at No Black Tie, so you have a chance to catch him there.)
Andre is a novelist, journalist and filmmaker and the co-founder of Mainstay Press which publishes. He has written a book of political essays Western Terror: From Potosi to Baghdad, and wrote Exile with Rossie Indira based on his interviews with the great Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
Today though he read a chapter set in East Timor from his novel Point of No Return. The blurb on the back of the novel* says that the book is written from the point of view of a war correspondent:
... visiting places that are rarely covered by the mainstream media, offering provocative points of view about the pitiful state of today's world, its disparities and scandalous post-colonial arrangement - including global market fundamentalism and neo-conservative culture that are overthrowing democratic principals that humanity has fought for over the centuries. The narrator of Point of No Return struggles to document many of these crises and scandals, all the while trying to sort out his complicated life - including his love for a possibly unreachable woman, and the level of his personal involvement in the stories he covers. By the end of the novel, he has gone all the way, in his personal, professional, and political life as well. This global novel vividly describes reality, the state of the world, and the grievances and hopes of people the world over.The prose was hard hitting and Andre was a tough act to follow.
Because CEan couldn't make it today, as her mum is seriously sick, I had decided to fill that last-minute gap on the programme myself. ('Cos how can you call yourself a writer if you don't put your work out?)
The piece I feel pleased with is a short-short story called Homunculus written in just two sentences (an Oulipo-type constrained writing technique - try it!). I also read a piece about the Walter Mitty type character I live with (don't tell him, folks!), and a couple of slightly older pieces.
Very many thanks to Seksan for the beautiful space, to La Bodega for the wine, to all who came, to all who read, to all who helped set things up and clear up afterwards.
I am planning for the next "Readings" to happen on July 28th and already have a good list of readers lined up, including acclaimed Malaysian-American author Tinling Choong.
Sufian captured the event so well in his photos. The one below really shows the artwork (and the audience!) off to advantage. Lots more here.
*Andre's novel is published locally by Strategic Information and Research development centre, Malaysia.