Random thoughts, because when there are things to do, and you’re feeling to guilty to play poker for procrastination’s sake, you philosophize. Ya think. However randomly.
1 – Are novels in the Philippines — those written in English, in particular — allowed to be insular? More inward? Although I’m not saying that I’ve noticed that everything has to be social realist in bent, I am saying that there’s just the pervading feel that, well, if you’re going realist, and you’re writing in a language that could reach beyond the shores (not to mention beyond the circle of friends who happen to be mandatory readers of whatever one publishes), you have to make it count. And to make it count, one must at least have the smallest commentary on the current Philippine (economic, social, cultural) condition. Parang may false (?) sense of responsibility that, well, since you’re writing anyway, gawin mo nang makabuluhan. Makabuluhan, Jaysus. Talk about OFWs, talk about orchards and talking Taglish in cafes, talk about C5 and Hayden Kho. Again, I know you’re not required to go all propaganda on their asses, but, well, how many novels have hazarded to talk about a family, and just a family, never leaving the walls of their home? Or maybe a venture here and there to the small town surrounding it, but never never giving more than a passing glance to the (campaign) billboards dotting the roads, the grimy children asking for coins, the, I dunno, dynamics of sustaining peace and amicability in a, uh, interracial household. Pretty closed-in on itself naman, you may think — but people out there can make it work. Is this too lazy for the Filipino novelist?
Also, there’s the matter of our history. Damn but we’re overflowing with the potential for grand epics, not to mention period pieces and historical fiction. You want blondes clogs in your novel? Go back Pre-Spanish era, when we made besos with the Dutch during trade. Want another hack at Noli and El Fili? By all means, go ahead. Go Yank, as well — have a GI fall madly in love with your usual camisa-clad labandera. And then there’s the Japanese Occupation, which I’m partial to. Or put them all together and have your own saga.
Is it because we have too much compelling material around us na at the height of self-absorption if we lock ourselves in a house for the entire duration of the novel?
And even though I believe that whatever commentary you have, it’ll inevitably seep out from scenes and characters — say, a thirty-something plain-looking woman in a government-issue clerk uniform, coming home from work, removing her patent leather stilettos as she goes; say, a happy little boy waiting in front of his house for his dad, watching the grunts and roars of tricycles passing by — there’s no need for force, dude. Madadaan naman sa usapan. Natural na mangyayari yun — if it has to do with your character, then it’s going to be skimmed upon, however teasingly.
2 – Why do Happily Ever Afters have such a bad rep? Is it, “If you’re going realist, make it hurt.” Hay. At the risk of sounding emo (and therefore confirming all the suspicions), I’ve been making everything hurt for too long, and (oh god, yuck) getting hurt in the process. Dude, it’s draining to write about the fucking human condition — mostly why I hate writing in the First Person POV in my fiction, since, man, I can get pretty schizophrenic and start mirroring the moods of betrayed wives and grieving adolescents. Hell.
Nothing beats the feeling when you sit back from the laptop/PC/notebook and you know you’ve done something so good, so hurting, it terrifies you. But then again, I’d also like the feeling of weaving a tale of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl have raunchy Happy Times, boy and girl have Big Misunderstanding, boy and girl inevitably and irrevocably get back together after pages of grovelling. I don’t think it’s making readers feel good, as much as it’s making me feel good. Yes, writing is self-serving that way. But, you know.
3 – The death of such small things. The dynamics of grief, and grief by association, and being needed, and stepping back because so few people want to admit that they need someone, and being pissed as hell because you can’t grieve properly, you’re not allowed to be needed.
That’s it for now. Brainfart.