Biodiversity in Readings

In an era when local bookworms are known to swarm bookshops (peculiar worms these, can swarm) for well-publicised foreign titles, a modest Malaysian movement encapsulating a variety of writing has hit the scene.

“Reading from Readings: New Malaysian Writings” was launched by Word Works Sdn Bhd at Solaris Dutamas last Friday. It is the first book that Word Works has published.

Edited by Sharon Bakar and Bernice Chauly, the book is the compilation of writings in both English and Bahasa Malaysia, excerpts from which were read at the now well-known event, Readings at Seksan, at Seksan Gallery in Bangsar. Readings at Seksan was an initiave of Bakar and Chauly.

“This is a mark that Malaysian writing is now available. Not only to Malaysians, but even for those outside of Malaysia,” said Bakar.

A number of writers took to the stage subsequently to read an excerpt of their stories to the audience, further evidence that Malaysian writing has plenty to offer.

Their stories covered the gamut, from one about an ageing Datuk who wants to buy perfume for his wife, to that of an Indian girl who befriends rats to beat her boredom.

But the one that seemed to charm the audience most was ‘Cat’, written in Bahasa Malaysia by Uthaya Shankar, which left the listeners in stitches.

“When we wanted to make a book out of these readings, I approached Amir Muhammad and asked him if he could help us to get it published,” said Bakar, referring to the Malaysian writer and filmmaker.

“But he instead encouraged us to publish the book ourselves,” she said. Amir would be right in that the increasing biodiversity of the book scene can be a good thing.

Apart from the books, there were also pianos that were up for silent auction.

All the proceeds of the sales were contributed to Yayasan Orang Kurang Upaya Kelantan.

The night concluded with performances by the bands Dewangga Sakti, Panda Head Curry and also the charming Buntut Pulau Moonshiners.

“Readings from Readings” is available from Popular, MPH, Borders and other good bookstores at RM 29.90 per copy.