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Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The KL Lit Fest: Behind The Scenes 
Dan Lim, from SunBlogs, via e-mail
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I didn't attend ANY of the events at the KL Lit Fest (bar a few of the fringe freebie ones), But that won't stop me from reporting on what went on behind the scenes!

Alfian Sa'at [left], who ran a playwriting workshop, said the fest was "alright", and amongst the writers, Paul Bailey impressed him the most, being "quite something". There were only six participants at Alfian's workshop. Later, one of the participants emailed a poem to Alfian, which he described as "sweet" but "psychotic", where she declared her love for Alfian.

I've never read Paul Bailey's works nor attended any of the conferences he spoke at. But I do know, at the very least, he's a brilliant raconteur. He says there's always one or two loony people at these conferences and he met one on Saturday night, who wanted to sing for him. He politely declined the offer. Twice.

Lucy Friedland, one of the participants, found some of the academic jargon spoken at the conferences she attended excluded her from fully appreciating what may have been enlightening ideas and perspectives.

Riding The Nice Bus at Zouk's Velvet Underground was well-attended ("Because it was free!" - just about everybody said to me), and well executed. Most of the stories did not excite me, but they were decent nuggets of theatre, performed very well.

Songlines was entertaining (and free). The best bit was Jerome Kugan's rendition of the Salleh Ben Joned poem, Dari Mana Datangnya Cinta? (written for Usman Awang) into song, in Jerome's own inimitable style. Pang Khee Teik provided comic relief with his salacious tales of adolescent sexual awakening and cruising for boys. "Paul Bailey called me a 'reprobate'!", said Pang, rather proudly. Mia Palencia has a great voice. Pete Teo inevitably ended the night with crowd-pleaser Jesselton.

Amir Muhammad [left] had already told a bunch of us not to go for his From Script to Screen (which was free too) session at the Australian High Commission.

We went anyway and he was right: we shouldn't have gone.

Some students from The One Academy later interviewed Amir (with a DV camera - foooh, canggihlah kids nowadays) for a class project on filmmaking outside the High Commission - under very very bad lighting.

Blogger Karcy wrote that:
Salleh Ben Joned (who wasn't a panelist, but raised an interesting question from the floor) spoke about the destruction of the Malay language through an overt usage of English words
Salleh reiterated this point after The Language of Taboo forum and I believe his point was that we shouldn't unnecessarily menginkorperasikan foreign words when there is a perfectly suitable BM word.

Ken Wiwa [right], another one of the fest's guests and son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, responded to Salleh - in a nice, jocular way, I might add - by saying "You do know that 95% of English is foreign".

Lorna Tee, who managed the PR and sponsorship for the KL Lit Fest, said the fest went "ok" but that there were lots of unnecessary glitches in organisation, and more planning and thought and care for the events and writers needed to happen.

A Malaysian academic from National University of Singapore, Khoo Gaik Cheng [left] attended most of the events and she felt the Lit Fest was uneven. "The papers were not very interesting and unique. I think it was wrong to shape the fest around the issue of identity. It's done to death, and things are much more complex. The focus on identity alone could've been covered in just one or two forums."

She felt that the conferences seemed rather anglophile and still dominated by the Commonwealth. Yet there was also a kind of segregation going on which she didn't like. "Writers writing in Malay had all their events at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. I know DBP imposed this condition on the organisers, but it isolates them. I know DBP imposed that condition on the organisers, but it isolates them. They are unaware of what goes on the other parts of the fest and it doesn't encourage people who are interested in what goes on in Malay literature because the event is removed from the fest's (geographical/networking) centre (around the Renaissance, Concorde Hotel and KLCC area).

Khoo was unimpressed by the academic papers and forums, lamenting that the level of criticism and discourse could have been much higher. As with Alfian, Khoo was most impressed by English writer Paul Bailey: "He was funny, and he made me want to read his books."

When I asked her what was the most memorable bit about the fest, she blurted out an answer then quickly told me not to publish it. I'm a rather irresponsible and untrustworthy sort, so here it is:

"I only remembered the partying! It's the networking that was great."

Network!

graceshu  # 9:45 PM
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