Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Third Birthday, Readings!

Saturday marked the third anniversary of our first ever Readings, which has run more or less monthly since then, providing a much needed platform and meeting place for local writers.

Our first readers was Shih-Li Kow (and apologies for spelling her name wrong earlier) who read the title piece from News from Home, a collection of short fiction which showcases the work of three new writers published by Silverfish. It is a very enjoyable story which came over very well.

I've been wanting to get Tunku Halim ("Malaysia's Stephen King") to Readings for a long time, but he isn't in the country very often (he lives in Tasmania!) so I was really happy when he said he was back and could come along. He read a story called Blue Glass from his new collection Gravedigger's Kiss very spookily. (Though members of the audience commented afterwards that he isn't as scary in person as they thought he would be ...).

Bernice Chauly launched her new collection of poetry and prose The Book of Sins. It is so nice to see that pieces we've hear her read on other occasions have now been collected together and a whole work given shape.

Subverting the concept of the seven deadly sins, Bernice comes up with a list of her own (Pride, Greed, Wrath, War, Gluttony, Love, Betrayal and Lust) which becomes the organising principle for this intensely personal book, which ends with her poems about her mother's death and forgiveness.

During the break it was time to get down to the business of celebrating our birthday with a chocolate cake. Bernice and I blew out the candles, made wishes, and cut the chocolate cake.

Is this a party, or what??

Poor Chua Kok Yee got to read with a big red stain on his shirt. No, Tunku Halim hadn't stabbed him. He had been attacked by a wine bottle while bravely struggling with a recalcitrant cork!

He took the presence of the large picture of piggies on the other wall as an omen that he should read his short story about three little pigs from News From Home - a funny and clever piece.

Chuah Guat Eng was once upon a time my writing teacher and I am very grateful to her for her help and encouragment. Guat's first novel, Echoes of Silence was launched in 1994 and her poems, short stories and articles have appeared in many publications. She has also recently finished her PhD.

Today she was launching her new collection of short fiction, The Old House & Other Stories and she read three extracts connected with the theme of how we use of language which gave us an excellent taster of the book.

Last up was journalist Gerald Chuah whom I first met when we were both doing a telephone interview with self-help guru, Jack Canfield. (He came along prepared and I benefited!) Gerald's book In the Eye of the Tiger:Survival Principles from Sylvester Stallone's Life and Films is pretty unique, and I think Rehman Rashid describes it best:

It is the uber-fanzine ... the product of an obsession that might be certifiable were it not channelled and refined into this ageless document ... genre-defying ... he’s penetrated the vacuity of Hollywood to tap the heart within.
Gerald still seems overwhelmed by the fact that he managed to achieve his dream and write the book. (And it is a beautifully produced book too.)

My thanks to Seksan for the beautiful space. To all who read and all who came. To my friends who set things up and cleared up so well.


BP has an excellent write-up here, and Ted has great photos too.


Anonymous said...

i don't doubt Gerald Chuah's sincerity in his admiration of Sylvester Stallone, but the world needs better role models than Stallone. The actor's life may be inspirational to some, but his films?

read this piece by Michael Gallantz
on why Rocky is racist.

Also this excellent review of Rocky Balboa by Joe Queenan of The Guardian, where he points out that real working-class heroes like Joe Frazier are sidelined.

also read Robert Kolker's brilliant analysis in his book A Cinema Of Loneliness, where he discusses how the Rambo films are racist Reaganesque right-wing fantasies and Rambo himself a symbol of fascist aesthetics (Susan Sontag's observation).

The Viz

lil ms d said...

i missed a wonderful party... was hoping to see you at the goenawan reading though!

bibliobibuli said...

ms d - so much to clear up after readings and too tired to move. meant to go sunday but woke up late with a headache. how was it?

lil ms d said...

i went to the one hosted by silverfish! it was nice and cosy... dbp people were there so hopefully this is a sign of good things to come, literary-ly, heh.

Anonymous said...

Hold on.. wasn't Gerald Chuah's book roundly panned when it came out ? what caused the change in reaction ? :)

bibliobibuli said...

anon - it got a bad review in the star yes. it also got a nice article in the star. other places at the time it came out, i'm not sure. rehman says he has been slipping a few reviews in his column because i was always on about how the nst never reviews books.

i give a space to writers of all kinds and applaud their effort and commitment. "readings" is not necessarily a signed sealed statement of critical excellence, y'know. (i always think of buying indian dresses at shops like monsoon in uk, which often have a little label telling you that irregularities are part of the charm of the garment!)although i must say we so have some very interesting folks turn up to share their work.

i think gerald's story is quite remarkable and worth throwing into the general pool of encouragment. i'm not a sylvester stallone fan and can see what guo is talking about up there, but despite his causal approach to proofreading i think the book does stand up

Anonymous said...

Managed to read the Rehman Rashid article. Seems the copy editing was "atrocious" so it can't have been very well produced.

It's still interesting though how ellipses can be used to create an apparent impression. At least on the Internet you can link to the original, so you can read what's left out. As far as ellipses are concerned, I think what's left out is more interesting than what's put in.

"impossible to categorise.. for heaven’s sake... the product of an obsession that might be certifiable ..deserved much better copy-editing.. an example of... atrocious local standards..will get enough attention.. hopefully at a third of the cover price"

It's interesting to see how the entire interpretation of the review can be changed with select words, isn't it ?

Amir said...

Gerald's book is one of the most eccentric Malaysian publications ever. That alone should merit attention and, yes, respect, damnit!

Designer said...

Dear guys,
Thank you for your comments and feedback. I had a great time at Seksan's. It was my first reading and certainly another milestone. I like to thank Sharon Bakar, who went out of her way to organise the event, to blog, invite, and support local writers. She represents the true heart of the champion in supporting the cause. I also like to thank Rehman Rashid for reviewing my book, i told him, he has discovered Planet X and given a name to it. I have admired his work since young, and it was an honour to have him review and acknowledge my book, and put his stamp on it. You know, it takes one to know one. And whether you appreciate something or not, depends on your individual taste and I won't convince you otherwise. I agree with Rehman when he said: "I wouldn't have a fool review my book." I shared from my heart at Readings, as i wanted to highlight the journey which is an important aspect of the book. I may not be perfect, but given a chance, i will do it all over again. Important thing is that "I did it!", all the money in the world could not buy me the moment. Quoting Stallone: "I want to be remembered as a man who fought many battles, lost a few, but won the war."
Please go to www.stallonism.com, to download the first chapter of the book, for FREE. And those who got the first edition copies with some spelling errors on it, don't worry, they will fetch you a good fortune when you sell it on e-bay.
If there is a word of encouragement for young writers is "Do it anyway!" because "Boldness has Power, Genius and Beauty in it." (Goethe)

Gerald Chuah

bibliobibuli said...

good for you, gerald!!!

Kokyee said...

Don't know if anyone noticed, but there were three 'Chua(h)s' reading on that day. :)

bibliobibuli said...

i did yes. the day of the chua(h)s. they are taking over the literary world. you did great kid. please read again sometime in the not too distant future.

xmocha said...

CONGRATS to Readings on your bday, Sharon and Bernice, your baby has really flourished and is now an amazing toddler..

Wish I was there..

Gerald, you took the words right out of my mouth. cheers