Sunday, March 23, 2008

Enjoying Dog Hotpot in Bangsar

Yesterday was another of those literary Saturdays in Bangsar.

MPH's Breakfast Club at Bangsar Village 2 brought together the authors of two recently published collections of short stories, Wena Poon (above) and Chuah Guat Eng (below).

I was very excited to meet Wena at last, after reading her work and exchanging emails with her, and I thoroughly enjoyed her reading of Dog Hotpot, which also appears in Silverfish New Writing 7. She really brought out all the nuances and little touches of irony in this story about cultural values. (Wonder if there's scope for an audiobook? Wena clearly enjoys acting out her characters.)

After that, Guat read from her story Two Pretty Men - one of my favourites from The Old House and we had a pretty interesting discussion about the gender of some of the characters, where their short stories come from :
... a special place (said Wena) ...
Guat told us that she had had a lot of pleasure writing her stories, although in many ways writing short stories is harder than writing a novel, and she often works on them over a long period of time. She also talked about the little seeds that had started the story she had been reading to us (the title of a nursery rhyme, a puppy which had come into her garden and died in a pool of blood though there was no mark on his body ...).

Wena added her thoughts about writing from a distance - being overseas, she said, enabled her to look back on Singapore more objectively, and she quoted Peter Carey saying that moving to New York had enabled him to write about Australia.

Both seemed quite amused when recalling the difficulty some local readers have with accepting that a writer isn't always putting their own life on the page in fiction, thinking everything in the stories must also have happened to the readers.

(This has happened to me too when a "friend" of mine blabbed the rumour far and wide that one of my characters was actually an ex-boyfriend who broke my heart!)

We didn't actually have dog hotpot for breakfast, but thanks MPH for the curry puffs and sandwiches!

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