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.
Oh hai internetz. Some of you kind people may have noticed that, for the past couple of days, I haven’t been posting as rabidly as I used to. Well, it’s primarily because I have rediscovered life now. Screw that chick (methinks it was Annie Dillard, but Google-fu is wonky right now though) who said, “The writer does not need to concern himself with the world.” Because, dude, screw that. The only reason anyone ever writes is because of the world – either it fucked him up good, or it just fucked him hella good (to continue on the same crass vein; apologies to relatives who may be reading this).
I have discovered that in my newly rediscovered life – a resurrection really; long periods of existential dread have a deplorable, albeit predictable, habit of sucking the life out of you – there’s not much internet access to go around. Yeah, I’m stuck in a cave for the better part of the day, but it’s with a person I haven’t seen in a long time and miss so terribly that everything’s got this new feel to it (kind of like how one’s ass feels against upholstery that’s still static-y from the plastic wrapping).
The tenth edition of Short Story Month is served early, because I am a dutiful daughter that way. After all, what child would dare blog on Mother’s Day? Well, I’m sorely tempted – but I think my father will whack me on the side of the head if ever I so much as crack open my laptop tomorrow. Well. So we get around this by jumping the gun, so to speak – I never really know when to use “so to speak” correctly. For that matter, “jumping the gun” too. Hm. Anyway. The short stories we feature today are all about mothers. No, wait, I lie. They’re somewhat about mothers – not even good mothers – and here they are:
#30 – “Sleepwalking” by Amy Bloom. In the aftermath of her husband’s marriage, what does a woman do? Get freaky with her stepson, that’s what! Okay, so I just gave away one of the story’s surprising joys (joyful surprises?). The narrative’s one of those leading-to-nowhere kinds. And then it actually leads somewhere. And that somewhere is a doozy, so matter-of-fact doozy, that you just have to put the book down and say, “Oh wow.”
Allow me to share “Principles of a Short Story,” an essay by poet/fictionist (and apparently essayist) Raymond Carver, one of my more favorite short story writers, because I’m like, stoic that way — and gasp! he’s a man. Carver, bless his soul, begins by saying how every little world within a short story is the writer‘s world. We all knew that, yes, but he says it in such a nice way that I, exciteable Sasha, can’t help but be impressed and googly-eyed:
It’s akin to style, what I’m talking about, but it isn’t style alone. It is the writer’s particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There’s plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.
Why, hello to you to. I apologize for the lateness of this post – there were tears to dab at, suicidal notions to shrug off, cigarettes to manically consume. That said, today’s SSM edition will be an extra special one, mostly because I’m glad to be alive, you betcha, and everything has this happy, shiny glow about it that can only be produced by over-the-counter drugs glugged down in the middle of an episode of existential dread.
But enough about that. Today, I present to you three short stories I stumbled upon in FailBetter.com, and I mega-spectacular one by Rafael San Diego — thank you, Wappy! Ahem. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
Well hello crickets and the occasional tumbleweed. How ya doing? Great, I hope. The weather’s balmy — today I woke up because of the cold. I’ve always been more of a fan of heat than the cold. Although with the cold, I can layer. Layering is cool, you know. Cool. Haha, that was like a pun on cold. Like, you can layer (which is cool) when the weather is cold. There’s no escaping low temperature these days. Haha. Haha. I say, Haha, chap, haha!
Okay. Today, we mix it up a little. Because this whole review thing isn’t really my thing, although I have told you guys — Mr. Cricket and Mr. Tumbleweed — that it’s not a review thing but I think you still think this is a review thing. It’s a, well, it’s a short story thing meant for communal nomnomnom-ness. But then, ya know, it came to me last night: there’s something very lonely about this whole thing. (Thing, thing, thing!) Not lonely as in Little Girl In the Corner Wishing Someone Asks Her to Play Jackstones. It’s more, well, alone. Solitary?