Readings from Readings

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of a book called Readings from Readings. Edited by Sharon Bakar and Bernice Chauly, the book is a collection of pieces that have been read at KL’s Readings events, which were started by Bernice and carried on by Sharon. With over 400 people having read out their writing aloud at Readings (and its sister event Ceritaku), there were plenty of great pieces for Sharon and Bernice to choose from. I’m humbled that a piece I read a few years back, an excerpt from my upcoming book about tsunami survivor Rizal Sahputra, has been included in this collection.

After some schmoozing (which included meeting a fellow blogger whose blog I’ve read for years) I entered the small auditorium at MAP in Solaris Dutamas and was treated to music by one of my favourite local bands, Dewangga Sakti. I’ve been a fan of theirs for about two years now but this was my first time hearing them play live. Great stuff, traditional yet fresh.

After some great live music there were short speeches by Sharon and Bernice, followed by several short readings from the book. The screen in the background showed various photos of and from the book, including a shot of me from a Ceritaku event where I told a Duncan MacLeod story. Every time the photo came up I sank in my seat a bit, but I was still vain enough to wait for just the right moment to capture it with my camera.

Now on to the book. I’ve never seen a Malaysian book (published in English anyway) that didn’t have typos and other little errors, and unfortunately this book continues the tradition, despite having gone through a thorough proofreading process. To be fair, though, so far I’ve only noticed grammatical errors in my own piece in the book (damn it!) and my bio (can you tell what parts of the book I looked at first?); also, in a photo caption my last name is shown as McVay. People have been spelling my last name wrong for years, so the latter irks me less than the former. In fact, I’m so used to seeing incorrect spellings of my name that instead of being irked that it’s wrong on one page, I’m just happy they got it right on all the other pages! Anyway, hopefully I won’t spot errors throughout the book. Having worked as both an English teacher and a sub-editor, I’m always watching for them (and, unfortunately, sometimes missing them).

A few small gremlins aside, the book looks great. The cover by Shahril Nizam is fantastic. As for what’s inside the book — what really matters — again, I’m humbled to be included in this collection, which contains an impressive range of prose pieces and poems. This eclectic little book really captures the essence of Readings and the vibrancy of Malaysia’s literary scene. After the short snippets read aloud last night, I’m looking forward to devouring the whole book. Kudos to Sharon and Bernice for bringing it to fruition, and for helping new writers (and even some well-established ones) get their work out there. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity. It was great to see them, especially Sharon, who’s been very supportive of my writing for some time now. Speaking of which, it was nice to see Dina Zaman in person (for only the second or third time ever) as well, especially considering she was the one who gave me my first opportunity to write for money five years ago.

Readings from Readings should be available in all good local bookstores. Those overseas who’d like to get hold of it, fret not, it’s on Amazon. If you do go that route, maybe you can also order Down the Block. I’ve got a piece in there as well!