Sunday, July 01, 2007

Grandparents and Political Prose ... an Afternoon at Seksan's

And some time later that same afternoon, in another beautiful gallery ... and this time among the paintings of Aswad Ameir.

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.


Anonymous said...

Some of my photos from yesterday:

Where can we get Andre's essays?

p.s. enjoyed your Walter Mitty thing.


bibliobibuli said...

many thanks! andres essays are linked from here:

was just reading them, some very good stuff

bibliobibuli said...

ahhhhhh you've done it again with the phots. bloody brilliant!

David Byck said...

Dear Sharon,

Thanks again for inviting me to the reading in Bangsar. It’s always a good experience for me see the affect of my writing on the faces of the audience. I learn a lot from peoples expressions and body language and then I use this feedback to hopefully better my writing. We’ll see.

Also, I hate to sound like a young boy talking to the teacher but I really enjoyed your piece on your mother. In one of my writing courses I was told something that I didn’t quite understand. In an attempt to make our writing more interesting he asked us to choose a character in our manuscripts and write down what is the opposite “thing” this person would ever do or say. And then have this character do or say this exact thing. I understood his words but couldn’t imagine how exactly to incorporate this into my work.

In your writing about your mother you made it sound like she had some envious love affair with cancer. Some kind of admiration that most of us can’t understand. A perfect example of an opposite thing most of us would ever believe. This prose of yours was the perfect example of what the instructor was trying to say.

Thanks Sharon.


From the man who had leukaemia for a day

bibliobibuli said...

thanks david. "some envious love affair with cancer" strange way of looking at it ... but i think that in a way you're right ...

i'd agree it is great to see how stuff goes down when you read it - you really do get an idea if something is working (or not!)

do come back and read another time

and i'm glad you didn't turn out to have leukaemia after all. (but you do have a great title for a story)

Sharanya Manivannan said...

Sharon, your first poem really hits the gut. It was sad and unexpected and very powerful. I actually gasped when you read the part about finding the fossilized (wrong word, am sure?) foetus on your mother's ovary. It was amazing. Really amazing. Reminded me of how how more than being an organiser and blogger, deep down, it is the writer in you that brings those things together.

bibliobibuli said...

many thanks sharanya

i shouldn't be such a lazy scribbler of my own stuff ... maybe this will get me going again

lil ms d said...

ooo very nice!

Leon Wing said...

Sharon, absolutely enjoyed your 4 short shorts - you should write more!

BTW, I just couldn't remember the books I was reading when you asked as I was leaving:
Atwood's Moral Disorder, The Trestament of Gideon Mack, Hornby's vey funny The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Le Carre's The Mission Son. Also dipping into Divisadero, and a few more just bought. So many books to remember!!

bibliobibuli said...

reading so much leon!! wow!

Madcap Machinist said...

sharon, you're too modest. where's your picture? :)

i really enjoyed your portrait of the mister.

i like how sufian's photo makes the space look larger than it really is. nice one.

bibliobibuli said...

haha wondered if anyone would notice about the lack of photo

actually i don't like photos of me usually. and people keep wanting to take my photo (i'm even going to be photographed for marie claire next week - bloody hell!) until someone invents a camera that makes me look like angelina jolie or something!

and yes, that is a clever magic trick of sufian's!