Vernon Adrian Emuang (above) was the first reader of the day, and this was his very first time standing up in public reading his own words though as an actor, he's had plenty of experience in reading the words of others. (I've seen Vernon in a couple of plays recently - Pinter's Betrayal and the rehearsed of Ann Lee's Tarap Man in which he was shudderingly creepy!) Vernon has also worked in advertising and produced several independent films: the word which he coined for himself (and which deserves a place in the OED!) is multimediator.
The first piece he read I thought particularly powerful: Wilting Without Grace was written for Tell magazine:
I am wilting. Even though my great-grandparents were born here (all eight should be enough), and probably their parents, too, the mitochondrial legacy within me struggles to acclimatize. Should I wonder why it would take this long? Will my children's children feel as alien? When is the time when my progeny will fully feel at ease, fully integrate and disappear into the kerawang? Until then, do we deserve to be treated like … well, termites?He also read some poetry including The Flirt (which is one to stick up on your writing desk) and Afterglow. Now you're outed as a writer, Vernon, there's no turning back!
I'm so very happy Preeta Samarasan (above) agreed to take part, and bring along her mum, Saras. Preeta's first novel Evening is the Whole Day is due to be published next May in the US by Houghton Mifflin. The extract from the first chapter has made me impatient to get my hands on a copy. Love the fact that the action in the piece she read took place in Ipoh and Gopeng! (I'm from Perak - sort of.) The writing was beautiful - richly detailed and gently humourous.
With a total of eight books published Lee Su Kim should need no introduction. She's one of those people who can combine an academic interest with the power to write for (and entertain) all of us. Malaysian Flavours which explores the local psyche is one of the must-buy books for anyone wanting to understand the country, and her Manglish: Malaysian English at it's Wackiest, is a glossary of English as it is spoken here.
Su Kim (I have to add that she looked an absolute vision in white!) read from her latest book A Nyonya in Texas, a very funny account of cross cultural encounters based on her experiences in the US while she was doing her PhD. She says that she encountered a lot of ignorance there about what Malaysia is like, and was (honestly) asked that most stupid of questions, "Do Malaysians live in trees?" to which she says she answered "Yes, but now they have escalators to get up there.")
This is Ti Chin Han, winner of the Utusan Group Literary Prize for his novel Trumation Nation, a humourous thriller. It was fun hearing a piece of sci-fi with a very Malaysian setting. Han guestblogged about his experiences of getting published here, and I really wish him all the best with his book.
Nizam Zakaria can now justifiably call himself a novelist (in addition to poet, lyricist, scriptwriter and photographer). His first novel was Susuk, the novelisation of Amir Muhammad's fim (which we are still yet to see!) and his second, now out, is Seri Tertangguh, which he describes, intriguingly, as "Malaysian chick lit". I'm sure his legions of fans will be overjoyed. The extract he read was very much enjoyed and I loved the way he mixed Malay and English, reflecting the way people do speak here. (The kind of "bahasa rojak" that would have cultural commentators at Utusan screaming blue murder, no doubt.)
Bless you, Saras Manickam, for being brave enough and sporting enough to step in at quite literally the eleventh hour when another reader couldn't make it.
Saras read parts of her poignant short story Invisible, told in the voice of an Indonesian maid. The ending packs quite a punch, though I won't say more because I hope you read it for yourselves when Silverfish New Writing 7 comes out.
The story struck a chord with me, because I always wonder about maids ... if they can be happy working in someone else's household overseas and so far from their family. (I was going to wander off into my own stories here ... but maybe another time.)
This is the wonderful birthday cake Chet gave me. It's all my favourite things put together - chocolate cupcakes, gummy bears, the name of my blog ...
... and teensy little bookworms popping their heads out of the turquoise butter-cream. The lady behind this stunning piece of edible biblioart is Chan Hui Min aka Mama Min, who is Patrick Teoh's other half. (Please go check out her blog entry about the cake and look at much nicer photos!)
All the usual thanks. To Sek San for the beautiful space. To those who read. To those who came and supported, because nothing can happen without an audience. To those who helped put the word out. To Shahnim for taking the time and trouble to do the poster. Once again to Chet for the wonderful cake. To me for the wine this time, 'cos La Bodega says it is not longer able to sponsor us. (Bernice and I will try lobbying some wine suppliers - "Readings" without wine is just unthinkable.) To all those who helped set up and clear up, especially the patient Buddhi.
If Sek San will have us back again, our next Readings should be on November 24th.