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.

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