Forgive a short detour to nostalgia.
We began of course at Darling Muse gallery, and later in 2005 moved to Seksan's and have had a home here ever since. Bernice was the mummy of Readings, and I took over as adoptive mum when her mum became terminally ill, and then she fully handed over the event to me and started a new one, Ceritaku!, at No Black Tie.
Over the years we've given more than 160 writers space to read their work and given them a meeting place where friendships have been forged and collaborations born.
And as straits-mongrel (who also gave me permission to use his beautiful pictures) points out beautifully in his post Reading in Colours, this event has brought together a huge diversity of folks in the kind of Muhibbah spirit that this 1 Malaysia thing is supposed to be about. Frankly, that's never been on the conscious agenda, but has definitely been one of the best things that has naturally emerged from the event.
And now we've launched a book project which hopefully will put event and writers on the map.
So a party to celebrate this was in order, and party we did.
We welcomed back some of our earliest readers and introduced some new ones.
I've been trying to get hold of The Loud girl aka Elaine Foster ever since I first heard her read at one of The British Council's Wayang Kata events. She could also be crowned slam queen of KL, and is organising spoken word events now in collaboration with Word Forward in Singapore. I especially loved the first piece she read, which she had written in collaboration with George Wielgus and Tsiung Han See about the coming revolution and what it would not be like!
Jo Kukathas, actor, playwright, director, and driving force behind Instant Cafe Theatre had been one of the participants in the British Council's creative writing workshops earlier this month. I loved the pieces she brought to share with the group, and she read from one of them - she isn't prepared yet to say whether it is fiction or autobiography ("It's a something.") which tells the story of larger than life family members. I really am looking forward to more.
how hard it was for him to self-publish his first collection of short fiction and get the copies sold. How far he's come since then, with a very well-received second book, Never Been Better, published by MPH. (And the bookshop sent along copies for sale.)
And then it was time for cake! We actually had three cakes. Two of them were red velvet cakes with butter-cream icing ordered from That Last Slice, and they tasted every bit as good as they looked. (Thanks, Aishah, for driving over from Shah Alam to deliver!)
The third was an absolutely delicious chocolate cake which Saras had had a friend bake for us, and very much appreciated.
We blew out candles and made a wish - for the next 5 - no, 50 years of Readings to be as successful.
After the break, Bernice Chauly read from the book she is finishing Growing Up with Ghosts which she describes as:
... a literary autobiography, a memoir of sorts in five voices ... about her Chinese and Punjabi family and diasporas which span hundreds of years.It will also form part of her MA in English Literature and Creative Writing at University Malaya. Bernice has also been chosen as one of four writers worldwide to participate in Winternachten's (International Writers' Festival of The Hague) tour of the Dutch Caribbean and Suriname in April on the theme A Sense of Belonging.
What I've heard of the new work so far (in the workshops and here in Readings) shows that Bernice is working with fascinating material, and as she says, writing of this kind has been very much neglected in Malaysia. I think it also takes a lot of courage to put your own story out there in the public arena.
Do read this interview Bernice did with The Nutgraph last year, in which she shares some of her personal history with us.
Kam Raslan is the writer who has read more frequently at Readings than any other and we have followed his Datuk Hamid from his first tentative fumblings with a Swiss milkmaid, appearing in his own column in Off The Edge, and finally getting a whole book - which the Malaysian public took to their hearts - dedicated to his adventures. Now it seems that there is a sequel in the pipeline, and the extract that Kam read was as endearing and as funny as ever. It had the Datuk in a department store attempting to choose a perfume for The Wife's birthday, when a whiff of a fragrance called Betrayal sets off a train of Proustian memory ...
I had to put Rahmat Harun last, because he is just such an impossible act to follow. And of course the famous Keranamu Malaysia had to be the centrepiece of his performance .... This guy is a force of nature!
Thanks very much to Seksan for the wonderful space (though I was a bit sad that for the first time there was no art on the walls), to all who read and all who supported, to Aishah and Saras for cakes, and to all those who helped set up and clear away. Nothing happens without you all.