The Visit

Boarding the bus from Davao

to Digos, I passed by

San Miguel. I smell the brewed beer,

(probably in various

degrees of foam) rich in flavor –

 

like the same beer he poured, vibrant

like this afternoon’s tryst

but paler than the metallic

sun, half-hidden among greens.

The taste still remains in my mouth.

 

I taste it – mixed saliva and

beer – inside this bus

freezing cold, on my way home.

Your Next Read, According to Me!

Last week, I received a request (via comment box, yes) asking me to list down some of my personal book recommendations  that I think everyone should read.  I haven’t been much into reading lately since I’m still oscillating between the demands of grad school and the large pile of work that needs to be done in time.   Right now, I’m currently reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground – a very difficult novel, something that requires a higher sensibility, of which I cannot fully give this time around.  So my reading pace lately is slow and halting, but only because I want to experience what Dostoyevsky probably wanted me to experience as well – to eclipse into “the underground” and to look into myself, in a very existentialist manner.  A little bit scary, but most of the time enlightening.

Truth to be told, I have so much books to recommend! But I’ll try to limit the list to a three, a list that constitutes some of my personal favorites.  Of course, I threw in some of the reasons why.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

Even William Faulkner said this novel was the best book ever written ever.  If I have to think about my most favorite novel then I wouldn’t have any second thought of choosing this one.  You probably have read hundreds of reviews about this novel but what I like best about it is that it is both an “external and internal narrative”.  A lot of people find this book too difficult to read.  Much of this “inaccessibility” is because the prose requires a lot of thinking while reading it.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Lately, I’m too engrossed with the sixties culture and I was recently introduced to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  I’ve never read a prose anything like this one – it’s erratic and very beat; it’s the rhythm of everyday life pulsating through you.  Which is a good thing by the way.  I found it hard to get through the book on the outset; I wasn’t used to this kind of prose style as I spent much of my time reading the sophisticated and refined prose styles of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Yates, Vladimir Nabokov, etc.  Kerouac’s prose was something new for me but once I got the hang of it, it was liberating.  He was a prolific speed freak in his words but on an everyday basis, aren’t we all?

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

This is not your average romance novel although the subject is very much cliched in both in literature and film:  a marriage gone sour.  But Richard Yates has a different approach to presenting this subject and this is why I consider his Revolutionary Road the quintessential marriage novel.  Yates is very subtle when it comes to dealing with emotions.  This is not an ordinary, murky romance novel – this is life.

Random Excerpts from my 2011 Journal

Some kind of a year-end report, so to speak.

  • Unfortunately, writing has made a fugitive out of itself, and is far long gone for almost a year now. (Feb 12, 2011)
  • I’m starting to think that Digos was made for leaving.  Everyone just passed me by. (Feb 24, 2011)
  • Sometimes I have this urge to pull off a Jay Gatsby and just go away to find myself. (Mar 01, 2011)
  • In two year’s time I should be changing careers.  I don’t want to stay like this in the long run. It’s true, I want to Continue reading

Mythmaking Today?

Mythology has always incited to its readers a sense of wonder and freedom to explore their own imagination.  Myths are widely interpreted as reflections of the ideas and beliefs of a particular culture.  Interesting details about such “indigenous lore” have fueled folklorists, anthropologists and researchers to continuously collect, classify and analyze these materials.  If we were to consider that myths and other folklore materials are included in the rich oral tradition predating the colonization period, then we might as well safely assumed that the subject concerned are likely to be Continue reading

Linguistic Competence and Literary Competence

If we were to consider that literature can only be appreciated only if one understood it, then linguistic competence becomes a prerequisite for literary competence.  The student’s ability to infer is greatly influenced by his or her proficiency in the language.  Language is the premier medium in literature and if one lacked the proficiency in the former, then the latter might appear almost inaccessible to the reader.

There are many reasons as to why linguistic competence becomes significant in gaining literary competence.  The most obvious one is the fact that language is a medium of understanding.  Some works of literature require a certain level of proficiency that limits only a number of audiences.  If you have successfully Continue reading

Thoughts on Revision

The first drafts I wrote were really terrible, pretty rough works that reeked of grammatical errors and loose ends that needed cleaning up, some gaping holes left unexplored, and a couple of flat characters.  The very act of writing the stories was less daunting than revising them; confronting the stories for revision carries a much conscious responsibility – in steering the plot or fine-tuning the characters to create a certain kind of depth.  Yet amidst all these editing woes, revising the stories can be as pleasurable as writing them.  The American short story writer and novelist Bernard Malamud once said in his lecture delivered in Bennington College entitled Reflections of a Writer that “Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.”  True enough, sometimes it gets me excited when I come across symbols and metaphors, and I’d tell myself, “Hmmm, I didn’t notice this before,” and then it makes me enthusiastic to develop a certain angle from which the readers can latch upon based on that guiding light, that consciousness.

To fine-tune a certain character is also an exciting activity – I get to know a lot more of this character as if he/she were a former friend, slowly revealed to me in full recognition through revision.

Sometimes my characters had their own ways of escaping the capricious plans I laid out for them, and so they set out a new story for me.  This is a good thing that can happen to a writer, surprisingly so, when I realized that a story can engender another story.

Leaving Kanchanaburi

You remember me leaving, boarding that train

the third-class clickety-clack train

snaking its way out from the depths

of your fragile province.

 

Raindrops helplessly clinging on the train window

Lotuses frantically moving upon the rain’s

coming, and as the train pulls into

a halt, station after station,

ominous sounds of wheels

brushing past the

railway

 

called me back in a strange language

and I had no voice on my own

no hasty, curt reply

to say goodbye.

 

Kanchanaburi, I watched you with love

as I left you in the gray hours

to meetBangkok’s setting sun

yellow and attenuated.