Monday, February 02, 2009

The Multi-Talented and Environmentally Conscious at Seksan's

Saturday's Readings@Seksan was fun, and featured a lot of very talented people.

Shanthini Venugopal was telling me a very funny story as we cleared up after a previous event, and I told her it was too good to waste - write it down.

She did, and the story about how she lost her car in a shopping mall carpark was so hilarious I had to invite her to read it. She has such a finely tuned sense of the comic, such an ability to laugh at hersewlf, and an absolute love of hyperbole. I hope we will be hearing more from her.

Shanthini is a singer, actor, and director and founder of The Jumping JellyBeans theatre company for children ... among much else.

I encountered met Umapagan Ambikaipakan through his column in the New Straits Times when he opened up debate about The Great Malaysian Novel and we discovered a shared love of books. Uma was covering the American elections for the newspaper and caught the emotion of event very well indeed in the pieces he read for us.

Apparently he has written a novel, though he wasn't ready to share any of it with us yet, but we will be inviting him back soon ...

Now, this fellow is Brian Gomez who went missing in action last Readings. He read from his first, self-published novel. Devils' Place is one of the most exciting works of local fiction I've picked up recently.

It's funny, pacey, unpretentious, keenly observed, totally irreverent (how many more adjectives can I pile on here?) and features a large multiracial cast of characters in a complex and frequently farcical plot all of which he manages confidently.

If further evidence of Brian's talent is needed, please go and watch Lingam : The Musical on his blog. (Non-Malaysians will need some background to the affair.) I was laughing so much I almost choked.

Peter Hassan Brown and Markiza played us out of the first half, beautifully, with a song about a poor old polar bear coming to Malaysia and trying to find refuge from the heat in the air-conditioning.

Then we shared birthday cake and mandarin oranges, and many books were signed and sold. Yvonne Foong, who needs to raise funds once more for her medical treatment, was there selling her book and her latest Heart4Hope tee shirts. (You can read Yvonne's account here.)

Iain Buchanan showed us the original paintings for Fatimah's Kampung and read just one strand of the story - about the tiger. He talked about how dire the situation is for the planet, and how he hopes to spread the message more widely through this book than he managed to do as a university lecturer.

I made the mistake of saying the book was "almost too good for kids" but 84 year-old Gwen Smith leapt up and took me to task there and then. "Children deserve the best," she said. My words were eaten immediately without the benefit of chilli sauce.

(Daphne also picks me up on it here! Oooops.)

Here's Amir grinning away as only one who has already sold the first two print-runs of his latest book to a bookshop chain! (Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things Vol. 2 will have a very sticky lauch on Valentine's Day and you are all invited.)

The book is a second compilation of politicians' quotes - many of them chuckle-worthy, all of them telling, and the excellent illustrations are by Fahmi Reza. (You can pre-order the book here.)

Saiful Nizam bin Shukor is a very hard-working young writer, working in the fantasy genre and hungry to get his work out into the world. He read us the very dramatic ending of one of his (as yet unpublished novels).

The multi-talented Saiful works as a freelance writer, scriptwriter, singer and is also a practicing medium!

After a couple more songs from Peter and Markiza we probably finished a bit later than we should have, but it was a very enjoyable event. I thanks sincerely all those who came and cheered writers on and bought their books, and all those who read or performed for out entertainment.

I thank Seksan for his magical space.

Also those friends who helped clean up. And whoever brought the pineapple tarts and crisps.

I hope to organise the event again on February 28th when among others we will have Marina Mahathir reading. Watch this space anyway for details!

Postscript :

Sufian's photos of the event are amazing!


Anonymous said...

Sharon, I KNOW you don't really feel that way since I've heard you rave about the wonderful children's books you read when you were a child. :-D


- Daphne

Damyanti said...

The tarts and crisps were from me and Aneeta, Sharon :). Thanks go to you for organizing such a successful Anniversary reading!

I'm sorry I've to run off early each time (and can't stay back to help clean up), as the hubby and I usually have to go somewhere or the other all Saturday evenings.

I tried to call you after I got home, because the hubby heard about Yvonne, saw the t-shirt, and wanted to buy some. I managed to track down her site, have paid online, and am now waiting for them to arrive by post.

Thankyou for organizing the book on sale, and such talented people for the reading. I couldn't go to sleep for laughing out loud last night, I took The Devil's Place to bed.... Brian Gomez is indeed quite talented!

bibliobibuli said...

grabbing you to read another day Damyanti. many thanks to both of you for coming and the nibbles were much appreciated.

daphne - what i actually MEANT to say was that the adults in the audience shouldn't be put off by the thought that the book was written for children because it is so enjoyable. this is also why i think calling it a graphic novel will widen its appeal!

Myra said...

Hi Sharon, am interested in featuring Fatimah's Kampung in KLue magazine's March issue. Do you know how I can get in touch with Iain Buchanan or the publisher? Thanks very much!

bibliobibuli said...

yes i have his email

email me sharonbakar at yahoo dot com and i will forward your message

Sufian said...

I took some pictures and they're here:

Nice meeting you again Sharon...

bibliobibuli said...

thanks so much for these - they're really special. love the colours ...

Anonymous said...

It was very hot there was it ? :)

Anonymous said...

I take my hat off to Mr Buchanan. Imagine getting your wife to work to support the family while you worked full-time on a book, most of the time it would have been the other way around :)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that it's the other way around "most of the time." At least, I personally know lots of couples where the wife worked to support the family while the husband wrote a novel/got a PhD/struggled to start his own business.

It's probably the stereotype that women get to pursue frivolous dreams while Real Men work hard, but reality, as far as I've seen, doesn't match up.

-- Preeta

bibliobibuli said...

i've done my share of being breadwinner. just one of those things you get on with!

ena said...

Hi Sharon, nice to bump into you at the grocer's the other day. Where can I get Iain's book ya? Thanks, and take care!

bibliobibuli said...

i don't know if it is in the shops yet but i think it should be. you could also contact consumers assoc of penang though i don't see it on their webpage which is strange. there are copies at badan warisan and i think iain might be passing me some more to sell at readings

Amir said...

Can be ordered at MPH Online

Buddhaphish said...

I've seen copies at Times Bookstore, Pavilion.

But not for RM50...

Anonymous said...

Preeta -

I don't know. In my culture once you get married you're expected to settle down, get a stable job in a large company.

Bib -

But you don't like it do you? it seems (to me) as if he's being very unfair to the wife, I'm sure it's just a culture thing - in my culture this would be called "immature", "selfish" and "irresponsible". Once you get married you are expected to settle down and take care of the family, not quit your job for an uncertain future.

I would not hear the last of it if I did, not from her, not from my parents, not even from her parents.

Which is why I really take my hat off to him. If I did that, all the women in my extended family (and all the women in hers) would come down on me like a ton of bricks.

And hell hath no fury... :P

bibliobibuli said...

and which century were you born in, anon?

thanks for the info, guys

Anonymous said...

And do you do everything your culture expects of you, Anon, and do you recommend that everyone does, without ever questioning any of it? If everyone did what their culture expected of them, we'd still be performing human sacrifices.

You ask Sharon if she's liked being the breadwinner -- why don't you also ask all those married people (men OR women) with stable jobs in large companies how happy and fulfilled they really are? I think the answers might surprise you.

-- Preeta

Buddhaphish said...

Anon - you'd be surprised how 'your' 'my'? culture is evolving.. Here in Malaysia, I know many of men who are writers, NGO activists etc.. jobs who don't pay as well than their wives, and the couple is perfectly happy with the arrangements.

Who are we to question them??

Anonymous said...

Ok for wife to be breadwinner as long as hubby helps out at home- someone needs to do the laundry, feed the kids, clean up the works. Not quite the norm is it.

Anonymous said...

Anon (Feb.2nd, 10.47) hides behind his "culture". Well, it would be interesting to know just what "culture" he is so beholden to. I suspect this constant reference to "culture" conceals something rather smaller!
Rather than blight Sharon's website with all this, may I pass on my e-mail address ( so that Anon can get it off his chest face-to-face and see for himself just how "oppressed" I really am.

My parents did not make sacrifices to give me a good education (both here and overseas) so I could end up as some man's chattel.

Maznoor Abdul Hamid w/o Iain Buchanan.

Anonymous said...

Anon (Feb.2nd, 10.47)
You talked so much about culture. Be specific- what culture ? whose culture?

Presuming you're a Malay, what would describe you best would be , 'baling batu sembunyik tangan'. Is that culture enough for you ?

Its so easy for you to belittle others with your grand 'culture' when you dont even know her. You are just the typical 'well-cultured, self-rightous,cowardly pompous idoiot ' who hasn't the guts to say something and put your name to it.

Mustapha b Abd. Hamid-brother of Maznoor.

bibliobibuli said...

love you Maznoor!! you are my heroine as i told you saturday ...

but i warn you this anonymous grouch is impervious to reasoned argument ...

Chet said...

And he wouldn't want to do it in private, via email.

Damyanti said...

Assuming this is the same "Anonymous" who has professed on this very blog before to be "amusing" himself at other people's expense, I'd like to know what his answer to Maznoor is.

Frankly, I'm tired of these anonymous rants. I love this blog, and wish people would be positive while commenting on the posts.

You rock, Maznoor, thanks for calling out this Anon!!

bibliobibuli said...

he never will Damyanti and i can't ban him from this blog as things stand. i could moderate comments again but that spoils the fun for everyone else by making things less spontaneous. (i got complaints about it last time) he is a similar scourge to any number of egroups and seems to just make a profession of winding people up.

my problem is that i am constantly having to apologise to blog readers.

best is actually to ignore him because he just feeds off people commenting on his idiocy.

i may later move to another blogging platform where banning is easier.

Anonymous said...

Mustapha has got it right - Anon is one cowardly, gutless, pompous el-sicko. Maznoor - met you that Saturday - and I think you are one lovely, confident and comfortable person. As for Anon - tell him - pigida!


Anonymous said...

Well you guys want the answer, so here it is - I'm impressed. I wish I knew someone who would go to work so I can write a book :)

Bib -- you could put a password on it, and give it out only to people you want to read the blog. That's going to dent your ad revenue some though.

Anonymous said...

And as for "my culture", I couldn't explain it better than Amy Tan. Is Tan Twan Eng married? or Tash Aw? I may be wrong, but I suspect they're both single :)

bibliobibuli said...

anon - i wouldn't give the password to you if i did LOL

anyway, just please take note of what an annoying bugger you are and the anger you make other people expend simply because you have a think-first chip missing in your brain. i wish i could deliver you an electric shock through your keyboard every time you are rude, tactless or just plain stupid. you would be frazzled to pieces.

not surprised you haven't found a woman to support you while you expend your formidable writing talents.

but you are waterproof - none of this will touch you! grrrr

Anonymous said...

February 05, 2009 6:32 AM

I understand you now. And I do sympathise . You have tried very hard to be faceless, listless and useless. But , really, you shouldn't despair because I must say you're doing a very good job of it.

You must have reasons for it and without saying them, I understand why you want to keep it a secret -- with that kind of reasons -- anyone would !

My condolence to you .

mustapha b abd hamid.

Anonymous said...

This isn't directed just to Anonymous, but it does apply to him in this case -- the problem with people who spout wisdom about "My Culture" and who think they have the authority to represent everyone else from their "Culture" is that they're issuing prescriptions, not descriptions, without knowing it. They're talking about what *they* and they alone think their culture should be, and they're conveniently leaving out all the other people who have different definitions/impressions of that Culture. That's why I shudder whenever someone begins a sentence with "We Indians" or "We Malaysians" or "We Brits," etc. etc. etc. insert example of choice. Just who do they think they ARE to speak for millions?!? It's hubris at its worst, and by revealing how little they know of their own culture's diversity (because there are inevitably oh-so-many Indians Malaysians Brits etc. who do not fit their pattern) they only highlight their own frog-under-coconut-shell status.

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

P.S. If you're suggesting, Anonymous, that *Chinese* men would never fritter away their lives on writing fiction while their wives work: Ha Jin is married (and was married before he became so successful). Ma Jian has a long-term relationship with his translator. Li-Young Lee (a poet, no less!) is married with two children. I could go on but perhaps this will suffice to suggest to you that the writer you cite may not be the authority on Authentic Chinese Culture that you seem to think she is, and that in real life lots of people deviate from your idea of your Culture. It's troubling to me when people unquestioningly swallow stereotypes about their own "Culture." What would you think if I said, "in my culture, twin brothers are often separated at birth and raised in families of different social stations, only to be reunited tearfully late in life"? I've seen it in more than one Tamil movie, after all, so it must be true!

-- Preeta