Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Blog That Needed Fixing, a well-meaning nudge to Internet

Dear Internet, my next review this coming weekend will be different and much much nicer.

It would be “different” because I thought of utilizing some control, or call it discipline, over my ideas when I put them on page; only sieved impressions about a certain book would make their way on a post from hereon. It doesn't mean that the previous one was not. Though I suspect that it sounds like one, but really it was one of my gentlest nudges so far about a particular novel. Because, you see, contrary to some opinion, that review betrays a lot about me. It simply shows how much I care for that book. Which is a lot. That explains my anger when I read it and found it lacking something in my point of view. But I was very happy when I saw that book being featured in Time Magazine. I even spent money and time for that book. I was proud of the author, Miguel Syjuco, a truly Filipino writer, making a behemoth attempt to breathe life to our Philippine literary scene.

When I said "nicer", I mean just that. The tone would be. The structure is another. It would be less jackass, more kickass. It would be written with less brandy in my system. In short, it would be "much much nicer".

Will it be meatier as one reader demanded in her comment? Depends how one defines meaty or not meaty review, but we all know what she means by that, and I'm up for the challenge, or at least try to make it one.

But there’s one thing I can assure her though, it will be a boner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Caffeinated Reactions (Part 2)

Part 1 is here. This second part is shorter, and thanks for the dig. To continue our caffeinated gabfest where we left off, here's the rest of the thread.

Bright Young Woman hey comparing Nick Joaquin to Jose Rizal is like comparing Vincent van Gogh to Pablo Picasso... They belong to different eras. You can't tell which one is best than the other because they are not on the same plane. Different sensibilities. Different literary movement.

Wordslinger Get your point. And my apology for sounding like oversimplifying it. Of course, they are from different eras and addressing different need, but what remains are their respective works. I based my opinion on their works. I remember reading El Fili in college and said to myself, hey, self, is Rizal writing Count of Cristo? I'd read Count some days prior. From chapter 1 to 7 I think, Rizal followed the blueprint, in a subtle way yet still recognizable, the movement of his story after the Count. I learned later that one of Rizal's strongest influences was Alexander Dumas, which he acknowledged. The influence id apparent in his two books, El Fili most specially. If we based our judgment of who wins at the top, based on the impact of their works, it's unanimous, Rizal wins for his two colossal books coming out at the right time when people most needed it. (When I said people, I mean those people who could afford to have an education during that time.) But if we based it on who has the greater talent of weaving a beautiful story, I give the spot to Nick Joaquin. But again, it's only an opinion.

VBYW true we have opinions but there is a fine line between literary criticism (which in this sense should have been under the reader response theory), and being too egoistic in making an opinion about a book. I do appreciate your new blogsite but please, make it more meaty next time when you review a book. =)

Another Bright Young Woman interesting exchange. its always good to know that people are reading literature. but...i am curious. may i ask:

1. from what lens was the book viewed?

2. i'm not entirely sure what made you conclude that the book is terrible. because the "fragmented" storytelling and the corny jokes turned your stomach?

3. from the above comment, i'm interested on who you think are the masters in story-telling. and how you knew after reading syjuco that he is not a "master storyteller"?

nindot nga naay ingon ani nga discussions among the younger generation. a refreshing break from the video games and no-brainer movies. thanks!

Wordslinger @BYW I agree. It’s "unmeaty", "egoistic", it’s even crap. When I wrote it, I wasn’t conscious, or care, if I sound egoistic or my review will come out not meaty enough. But I do recall feeling upset when I wrote it, which is a mistake, I should not write when upset.

@ABYW hi there! there's not much really. I just read a book, record my impressions. That's there is to it. If it came out that way, which is bad, it's only me to blame. But I'll try to be better when I do it again next time. That's what writing is all about, right? Just trying to be better next time.

BYW question: were you drunk? if you were, were you drunk enough?...hahaha...always always be like Nick Joaquin and Baudelaire. Just be drunk. ;)

Baltus Maximus (a classmate in college) Prenz you ought to edit your review. for a hasslefree and carefree one, just try to copy and paste the wonderful dialogue between you and byw here. you still get to play the devil on pens struggling to get out the mess in your pursuit for a health drink. and gen pokes you all the time to remind you that brandy is never a healthy drink if wanted in excess or not. though on a personal note, i recommend occasional dosage of its droplets matter in keeping the music playing and our hearts beating...right prenz, screw syjuco. but sorry prenz but i have the urge to ask this to byw. bodyshots? wahahha...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Caffeinated Reactions (Part 1)

I'd neglected this blog for over two weeks. Just a bit busy with my day job.

Also we went out of town this last weekend, on a beach with the people from the office, who are great buddies to be with. We drank vodka, chained-smoked, played Hi Jack!, sang our hearts' out, ate grilled pork and fish, swam on the beach, drank some more brandy and beer, chained-smoked, and slept very late. The outing turned out great, and we planned to do it again sometime soon, which would be much welcome.

To make up for lost time, I am writing a follow-up post about what happened to my first review. You see, I received encouraging (and not so encouraging) response from readers. There’s one such response I found interesting and blogworthy. It reveals something about us young Filipino readers. A good friend had read it and urged me to post it here.

So here it is. Short background first. When I posted the review, I also wanted, of course, to have some readers. That’s when Facebook came in. So I wrote this on my wall.

I said terrible terrible things about this book because I am an evil reader. Read my review of Miguel Syjuco's Illustrado
That was it. I had a published review online, and just let my horde of great friends on Facebook to dig it and read it if they will. Some did. I was satisfied when something unexpected ensued on my Facebook wall.

I’d have loved to see the exchange of ideas in this blog. But I thought it would spoil the discussion if I asked the commenter to continue our chat here, and she was apparently a bright young woman. And I am susceptible to bright young women. So I just let the gabfest went wherever it wanted.

That said, here’s the said exchange below.

(Note: I’ve edited parts of it to make it more friendly to readers, and so that I’ll also appear smarter and less jerky.)

Bright Young Woman Perhaps it was meant to be food for the gods. One of those books meant for the literary critics and not for the laymen readers. It was never meant to be plot-driven. Its writing style overrides its content. period.

Wordslinger Ah, food for the gods. So you had read it? Which kind of food then? If ever Ilustrado was written to please the gods, then said gods had surely wrote a play out of it. Which they didn't because they didn't even bother (referring to respected book critics if ever they exist). Also the author posits that his book is a post-post-modern work. Sounds like excessively too much, right? And if a post-post-modern novel reads like that with a generous dose of cliches and corny jokes, then I better not bother, too.

Bright Young Woman the mere fact that it won a prestigious Asian award puts it in a higher pedestal. Another hint is the author's claim that his novel is one heck of a Post-Modernist work. It's clear that Syjuco, since the conception of this book, meant it for the Literary Critics and not for the literary junkies. Post-Modernism is not for the masses. =)

Wordslinger Yes, yes. It's maybe just me, but if Post-Modernism literature is telling stories in fragments, Ilustrado-style, lots lots lost of fragmented plots in narrating the story to the point of obfuscating it, plus (again) clich├ęs and jokes to make it appear cute, then it's not fun. A bit cute, maybe, but not fun to read. Also, isn't it an insult to the author who first gave us the real Post-Modern Literature which is the real fun?

But this only an opinion. I still can't forgive the author for making me read corny jokes and not even a paragraph on sex or something.

BYW Who says Literature is only for Fun? In the same way the aesthetics of Art is not only for what is Beautiful...... hahahahaha

dearest comrade, the author won one of the highest literary awards in Asia. And no dumb ass can get it without the proper scrutiny of the other literary big shits. At least you could have credited Syjuco for winning the Award in 2008 as he bested all other Asian writers. Literary criticism has an elegant form of "whining". =P

Wordslinger Yeah, yeah, I'm a jerk. A whining one. And thanks for calling me "dearest". Maybe I should keep a dog or a cat. Or I should go out more, talk to people more, read more, educate myself more on Ass-ian Awards. But I digress!

"who says Literature is only for Fun? In the same way the aesthetics of Art is not only for what is Beautiful". Depends on how you define Fun and Beautiful. A little girl chasing after a butterfly can be Fun and Beautiful. It means nothing to others. Rorschach chopping the head of a rapist can be Fun and Beautiful. It abhors others. In literature, as they say, it is either badly written or well written. If putting hackneyed images and lousy jokes in a novel is fun and beautiful, then Ilustrado is the best Asian novel today.

But that's just plain bubbling from a doomedsouled me, and there are still hours before I can take a hearty drink.

BYW we are talking about "how bad it is written or how well written" a work of literature is. that is a different dynamic, my dear. WHAT is written is way different from HOW it is written... read more about Nick Joaquin so you can differentiate both. And like Joaquin, writing is best coupled with drinking. TAGAY!

Wordslinger now that's interesting, (and thanks for calling me "dear").. But if we applied that to Ilustrado, here's what I get from it: the plot seems interesting as you may have read in my poor review, but I am used to reading the masters in story-telling, so when i read Syjuco, cripes I immediately know after the second or third paragraph that I am not in the hands of a good story-teller. Partly because the known masters in the craft seemed to have the gift what to include or what not to include when telling a long story (a novel) and the result is a memorable story that moves the heart and engages the intellect. I didn't find that in Ilustrado and I think I should stop from thinking more about it. Thanks for the nice chat. This heightened my thirst. Also, perhaps Nick Joaquin is our best Filipino writer, even greater than Rizal. Im looking forward to read all his books.

Read Part 2 here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Screwing Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado

"... with literature, at least we can create, revise. Try better next time. If we fail, we only screw ourselves." Miguel Syjuco, Illustrado

So I bought this book after I'd read about it in Time.

Prior to that, I made a search in the Internet trying to find what readers said about Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado, if it's any good, if I'll not be wasting money and time reading it.

I found almost nothing except that it won an award or something, which was already mentioned in Time (Thus this blog for anyone who seek for information about a novel written by a Filipino author). I bought the book anyway.

After work in the office, I went straight to Powerbooks in SM. The book cost me P282. The back cover says it's P385 for Philippine edition. I don't know what that means. I'm just thankful they sell it P103 less.

The Time article says something about the expatriate author, Miguel Syjuco, trying to portray a life of a modern-day Ilustrado, and his first novel of the same title is all about that, showing us, pinoy readers most especially, what it is like to be one.

I fixed a cup of 2-peso coffee without sugar, settled in my little nook, and read the prologue (pshit I hate prologues, why don't authors just go straight to the fricking story?), hit the first, second and a bit of the third chapter. Apparently, this is not my type of book and started not to like the author, yes, I now hate you Miguel Syjuco for making me read your hateful prologue.

Hemingway said something about books that are great to read after work. Ilustrado is not one of those books.

The novel opens with the death of Crispin Salvador, an imaginary Filipino literary heavyweight, whose anticipated book The Bridges Ablaze is supposedly somewhere. But where? That's the question that serves as a catalyst of the story.

The main character, Miguel Syjuco, yes, same name with the author, can’t reconcile to the idea that his friend and mentor committed suicide by jumping off the Hudson River. And he can't find the manuscript, too.

He investigates the past of his mentor leading to his tragic death, which brings him back to the Philippines, “my first country, my Third World”, and to a labyrinth of literary and personal complexities that is the life of Crispin Salvador.

I was several times tempted to just put down the book, filed it with the other books that I’d put down halfway in my reading. But I promise to deliver a review of some sort about a latest published novel written by a Filipino. And the author had been featured in Time Magazine, and I’ve great respect for Time Magazine. And now I hate Time too.

But I did find it taxing to finish the book. And Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and American Idol were not too helpful to make me pick up Ilustrado again.

The book contains cliches and corny jokes that got on my nerves. I thought I'll puke if I continue and read another one of those cliches and corny jokes. So I pick a book by Henry Miller to calm down my upset stomach.

I said terrible terrible things about this book because I am an evil reader. Imagine me not happy in my little nook thinking of those hours (and money) wasted. Also I need a good drink.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pinoy Book Review says Hello to Internet!

The world rejoices when another poor writer creates a blog about books. This time, the blog will be about Filipino novels and collections of short-stories from Jose Rizal to present.

The blogger (okay, that’s me, dude) discovered that the Internet lacks one blog that can tell us immediately about a Pinoy novel, if it’s any good or not, or at least gives us any idea what the book’s all about, if there’s any naked women or sex in it at all, or just some drunk rambling randomly about a book written by a Filipino writer.

I’ve been toying with the idea of making this blog after I found out that there’s no one doing this stuff for us in the Internet. There may be some but I can’t find them in Google search results in 1st and 2nd pages. And I’m too lazy to find out the 3rd or the next pages. So I just assume I am the only one doing this for myself, and, for you, too, Internet.

I’ll update this blog as often as possible, which means you can surely find a pinoy book review if I have enough money to buy for a new book, so check in every once in a while.

That said, Pinoy Book Review is now activated!