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!
Sufian's photos of the event are amazing!