Saturday, March 22, 2008


If I use the word "moron" and the phrase "It killed me." more often these days, I only have J.D. Salinger to blame for it. Last Tuesday, while hunting for on-sale work shirts (Robinson's Galleria seems to be the best place for this rather mundane exercise), I espied a bookstore named BESTSELLERS which turned out to be owned by National Bookstore. I know I am on a tight budget during this visit as I already have set aside 40% of my most recent salary for savings, but I just couldn't resist their tagline which read, "A readers dream come true" or something that sounded like that. So like chicken to grain, I was drawn rather against my will (ows?) to this most impressive store - it was wide, modern-looking, well lit, and had up to 40% discount on most titles. Oh dear. It sounds evil already.

It then hit me that I haven't read a decent book lately (the use of the word "decent" is rather debatable). One thing about BESTSELLERS: the classification of books is rather confusing or repetitive. One title can be found in at least two classifications (ergo two separate shelves) at one time. They can't seem to make up their mind as to how to classify things. I found myself in the Filipino section (I saw Zafra's Twisted 8 and got a copy; my own little contribution in helping her write that Great Filipino Novel that's been so long overdue). I was looking for SOPAS MUNA (the reference to Chicken Soup is uncanny, I know) half expecting it to be placed under cook books (which it was in National Bookstore), but I couldn't find a copy anywhere. I guess I will just have to ask some of the authors themselves to mail me a copy. These days, I have been picking up Filipino titles to immerse myself more in local literature. God knows how much sales, no matter how minimal, can do to advance the cause of writers in the Philippines. I have already purchased all of Bob Ong's books last year (despite the fact the almost nobody knows who he really is). Methinks his most recent work, MacArthur, was really good. A film material to say the least. I am happy he has stopped writing about himself and delving more and more into fiction.

Last year, in my former office, I have been introduced to several up and coming young writers. Unfortunately, most of them have been devoting their time writing ghost stories and mystery thrillers because this is what sells. To prove a point, Haunted Philippines (how apt!) is already on its 8th edition despite the axing of the show of the same title on GMA7. In public transport and in markets, I see tinderas reading those uber-thin paperback booklets that can be rented for Php 5 each. JC is right: no writer can make a decent living in this country. You have to pander to mass tastes and give up your dream novel.

Anyway, I did enjoy The Catcher on the Rye very much. It's like reading (name of writer here), but I think Salinger did have a Svengali effect on (name of writer here). I also just finished No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and I can't wait to see the film. The violence seems delish. In Twisted 8, I enjoyed the story of Zafra's visit to Bienvenido Santos (along with the indefatigable Danton Remoto; Rear Entry Only! What a laugh trip), although I've read this before in the (now notorious) The Philippine Star.

I also just finished Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories by Ben Fountain - a rather sad, reflective, haunting collection of eight (8) short stories from somebody who lived and experienced life in post-Duvalier Haiti. It also talks about the corruption in Myanmar (shades of ZTE; Philippines - hindi ka talaga nai-iisa!) and some interesting stories set in Sierra Leone and Colombia (the story I was most troubled about as it sets a rather bad example). I hope Ms. Jessica Hagedorn gets hold of a copy so she can snap out of her post-Marcos angst. It can be annoying when the theme recurs every so often. I have all her books if you must know, so there!

My next conquest would be a monolith of a book entitled The Peacock Throne by Sujit Saraf. Wish me luck.

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