For the Love of Short Stories

Here’s a cringe-worthy disclosure: I wrote a short story collection way back in high school. It was part of my senior year thesis, a requirement for graduation. Our school had its own publishing arm that prints anthologies and literary titles. To my knowledge, mine was the only one they never released.

The admin at that time held a strictly conservative view on art. They questioned many aspects of my collection. Why write in colloquial Filipino? Why center the theme on something so bleak like poverty and political unrest? My biggest influences then were the prose of Jun Cruz Reyes and Lualhati Bautista, and the poetry of Emman Lacaba.

The school decided that my language was too vulgar and the theme was too mature for my age. They had a point. But I was a typical teenager with a penchant for romanticizing identity and selfhood. Ultimately I felt defeated and, ah, misunderstood.

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Book Tag #1

books

I found the tag here and I thought meh why not:

Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you pick up the book in the first place?

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Was (still am) interested in popular science.

Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?

John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. Was intrigued by the premise.

Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?

James Corbett’s England Expects: A History of the England Football Team. Discovered in a thrift store; bought because I love football.

Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Loved it.

Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

Mia Alvar’s In The Country. Yes.

Find a book on your shelves with a one word title. What drew you to this book?

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Is popular among lit kids; has one of the best opening lines.

What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?

Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale (translated into English by Nathan Collins).

Think of your all-time favorite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

Two of many: Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and Edgar B. Maranan’s Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. Lent to me by older high school roommates; read for the first time during sem-break of first year high school.

10 Books

10books15.png


The Facebook tag goes, “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works; just ones that have touched you.”

I’ve done this before, here, and now here’s 10 more:

  1. The Rolling Stone Interviews
  2. How to Read Literature – Terry Eagleton
  3. Engineering Mechanics: Statics & Dynamics – R.C. Hibbeler
  4. film: A Critical Introduction – Maria T. Pramaggiore and Tom Wallis
  5. Social Media: A Critical Introduction – Christian Fuchs
  6. Mythologies – Roland Barthes
  7. Six Young Filipino Martyrs – Asuncion David Miranda (ed.)
  8. A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
  9. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
  10. Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage – Jose F. Lacaba

I never imagined that I would end up reading (and enjoying) non-fiction without formal guidance from a prof or an editor. Reference materials, especially those that are heavy on -isms, intimidate me. I used to chastise myself for being too dumb to understand them but I’m kinder to myself now. I mean, there’s really no shame in trying, is there?

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Noteworthy: on books, annotations, and other hanashi

anuradha

I was at a coffee shop waiting for Benjie the other day when I started reading Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. After a few pages I found myself digging through my bag and looking for a pencil because a line struck me: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

I often annotate when I read and it takes immense discipline on my part to not decorate borrowed books with three-word summaries, crooked lines, and oblate circles around unfamiliar words. I never thought it was weird until Nina called me out: “Don’t you feel like you’re reading a textbook?”

For Nina, reading is an immersive process that welcomes no interruptions. You soak in the narrative and you don’t disturb the experience by stopping every now and then to scribble comments.

But those frequent pauses have never bothered me. Every day in high school we had to discuss poems, short stories, and even newspaper articles. If I didn’t annotate my readings, I wouldn’t have anything to say during discussions.

And to this day I still read with a pencil in hand (or in bag, apparently). I often go back to my annotations when I want to further analyze a text. When I recommend a book to a friend, I want to be able to give an explanation that goes beyond initial impressions. These annotations are like notes that I could hopefully mold into a more sophisticated critique.

My renewed interest in literary learning has also triggered a newfound pet peeve: it gets annoying when I read a review and the analysis only revolves around the book’s relatability. While there is value in seeing your own experiences reflected in a literary piece, I think readers should also strive to roam outside their bubbles and go beyond, “these poems are so relatable.”

It’s even worse when people shun other pieces of literature because they’re supposedly “not relatable.” I think limiting ourselves to easily accessible stories is detrimental to our intellectual growth. A personal opinion that could be up for debate: people who never read outside their favorite genre are not as prolific as they claim.

The academe could sometimes be intimidatingly elitist but I also see merit in trying to read literary works that are staples in English curriculum. You don’t have to like e.e. cummings but there’s nothing to lose if you try to understand why his poems are critically-acclaimed yet Lang Leav’s are not.

I may be aiming a little too high in attempting to make sense of formalism and of Derrida’s deconstruction but I guess I just want to raise the bar. Literature, after all, is way too rich and too broad to limit oneself to what’s familiar.


The featured image shows Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter, a book that I mistakenly bought because I thought Anuradha was Arundhati. Oh well papel.

Reading list

From rebloggy

My average, so far, is 1.2 books per month — yep, I’ve read 12 books in the last 10 months. Pretty low considering I went to study full time only in the latter half of the year and my previous job gave me loads of free time.

I don’t regret it though because there were other interesting things that happened early in 2014. For instance, I spent around a month focusing my heart and soul to the World Cup in Brazil and started following the Spanish football league while occasionally tuning in to select Prem matches. I also got interested in a couple graphic novels thanks to Jay.

But the next two months will be crucial if I want to raise my current reading average. Finals are approaching, sure, but I’ve been doing way better than expected. As long as I do the homework and do not show up on exam days unprepared, I’m pretty sure I have the ‘A’s in the bag.

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