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Out of the washing machine

By: - Columnist
/ 06:04 AM October 11, 2015

I was so wrung dry by four years of Forever 81’s relentless weekly deadlines that I just had to take a break (or a breakdown). I am too old for marathons. For weeks I couldn’t write, I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t do anything creative (maybe a salad?!).

So I crept into my bed, swallowed by my wigwam-shaped mosquito net and began to read. I didn’t realize how much I had missed time for reading and so pursued it with a passion.

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I began with the “Republic of Wine” by Mo Yan, 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature. It is a comic, as well as horrific, satire on “the lost soul of my country” and especially for the legendary gourmandise of the Chinese. They had eaten everything under the sun—plants, insects, animals—and now it was rumored, babies! And so the Chief Inspector was sent to investigate if it was so. Find out! It is a mad, exquisite read.

A book he said he wept over was suggested to me by Neil Garcia, “A Little Life,” again by an Asian, Hanya Yanagihara, whom one would suppose is an American citizen since she lives in New York.

In spite of what struck me as a really maudlin picture of a weeping man on its dust jacket, it is a really interesting if simplistically plotted story. Four friends—lawyer, actor, artist, architect—are followed through their successes and pitfalls, both heartbreaking and inevitable. I was about to abandon it, but I paid so much for the book and thus continued reading. And in the end I found each of the lives, especially Jude’s, heart-rending and unforgettable.

Saga

How can you not weep over the saga of Jude, who had been found by the garbage can of a monastery, grew up abused in the most cruel ways by the monks and in subsequent shelters. Even as an adult trial lawyer, when depressed, Jude cuts his wrists (not deeply enough to die) but often. Thus he has to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time, also to cover his back, scarred from endless beatings in his childhood. He can never talk about his unspeakable past, even to the friends who love him. But the secrets are revealed to the reader.

I was initially turned off by “A Little Life’s” dust jacket of a pained man’s face but I decided to read it through, and it was excellent! Never judge a book by its cover.

A Philippine Literary Festival was put up in Raffles Hotel in August. There were different rooms for different topics and a table each of authors to answer one’s questions. I think the topics were, from “food” with Felice Sta. Maria (whose writings I had followed through the years) to “editing and publishing,” headed by Myrza Sison (Summit media star).

I bought “From the Crocodile’s Belly”—the ultimate sourcebook on the native shamans (babaylan) who were fed to crocodiles during the Spanish times.

The table for gay literature is always the most fun. I don’t know if the seating was on purpose. From the hirsute, macho-looking Neil Garcia (most of whose books I own) to the pouting charmer Danton Remoto, to the handsome Jack Wigley, a Fil-am, to the pretty transgender lady at the extreme right, fair complexioned, fine featured, curvy, no muscles. I could only afford several more books: “Happy Na, Gay Pa,” a flippant title for a very practical book by Danton Remoto (please vote for him in the 2016 elections), and Jack Wigley’s “Falling Into The Manhole,” an engaging and frank memoir of a Fil-am gay born in Pampanga (Clark).

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Who says Filipinos don’t read?! National Book Store’s cashier’s box was so full it broke down!

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TAGS: 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, Felice Sta. Maria, Forever 81, Gay Literature, Literature, Mo Yan, Myrza Sison, Neil Garcia, Philippine Literary Festival, reading
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