There was no tree chopping, no pneumatic drills, no detours to mess up readings on Saturday ... just enough torrential rain to delay the start until folks could arrive. (We're jinxed, we really are. What will it be next month?) But in the end though, we got a fair sized crowd with a lot of people here for the first time. (Welcome!)
Animah shared the MC-ing with me, partly because she knows two of the readers as work colleagues and partly because - yes - I am tired of hearing myself and it's nice to relax, and Animah adds a touch of glamour, don't you think?
The first reader was Suflan Shamsuddin (above) whose book Reset has just been published by ZI publications. He read one chapter which was written in the form of an exchange of letters debating Malay privilege and the destiny of the NEP.
It was beautifully lucid and accessible piece, a difficult subject intelligently handled, and Suflan read very well.
Reset is actually being launched today (Tuesday) at 5.30 at Borders The Curve. (Go read the author's website for more about the book.)
Next was a reader I've been chasing to read for a long time - Uthaya Sankar SB. Best known for his controversial short stories, he read us a very surreal piece from his latest collection Rudra Avatara which featured (was struggling with the language barrier here) a cat in it which got burnt to death and then came back from the dead (because of course, it had 9 lives) and became some kind of a leader. (Someone please fill in gaps here.)
Paul Leslie Smith (also introduced by Animah and one of her colleagues) chose two contrasting episodes from his large historical novel Rainforest Tears set in Sarawak- the first lushly romantic, the second describing a harrowing scene of absolute violence as a mob takes revenge on a collaborators after WWII. The writing is very vivid indeed. (Sadly, there are no online links to send you to online. Hope the publisher - Marshall Cavendish works to fix this as authors deserve better!)
After the break Bernice read for us - this time a fiction piece but no less raw and moving than her poetry. She is collaborating on a collection of stories with with three other women writers, and of course will be appearing at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival in October.
Ioannis Gatsiounis read in one of the first Readings (back in 2005!). He was torn whether to read fiction of non-fiction but in the end chose to read a piece from his first book with Beyond the Veneer - his review of Christopher Hitchen's book God is Not Great.
(Sensitive issues? What sensitive issues? We explored plenty of 'em this afternoon!)
The final reader was Rumaizah Abu Bakar one of the three contributors to News From Home and now some of her fiction and poetry has also been published in the latest edition of Elarti (copies of which Sufian was selling at the event.) Rumaizah read her intriguing short story Peppery affair about the romance of a pepper pot and kitchen knife.
So it was an afternoon in which controversy was courted and the surreal invited ... sounds just about the right mix for Merdeka!
Thanks to everyone who read and everyone who came. Thanks to Sek San for the beautiful venue. Thanks to Shahril Nizam for the poster. Thanks to those who helped set up and those who cleared away. Thanks to Animah for letting me nick her photos which are much better than mine. (The only one of mine above is the one of Uthaya.)
Readings will take a rest during Ramadan and be back 25th October with Preeta Samarasan and Sharmini Flint.
Please take a look at Sufian Abas' gobsmakingly gorgeous photos on Facebook.