Mondo Marcos

Mondo Marcos: mga panulat sa Batas Militar at ng mga Marcos babies edited by Frank Cimatu and Rolando B. Tolentino

Gorramn me but I don't know where to start. I'm hardly a Marcos baby, I was 5 during the People Power Revolution (or maybe I am) and was too busy reading Pinocchio and the Little Red Hen to notice much. I suppose I can be considered a post-Marcos Baby(...a Cory Baby? that doesn't sound right, or relevant right now) I do remember playing in the street and when several truck loads of soldiers went by (they were supposed to be suppressing rebel activities in the katian near our town) and my young sister and me shouting out "People Power, People Power!" and waving the Laban sign at them with our hands before being rather rudely snatched and hidden away from the street by our relatives.

Anyway.

Living during that time is difficult to imagine now and it's not a subject you can just easily broach with the random acquaintance, therefore I am not going to attempt to review this book in that light. I can't. I didn't exactly lived through it.

Divied up between Short Story, Essay, and Poems these are all written about, and by people who lived through, the Marcos Regime. Of all the various bits, I enjoyed all but a few of the poems which I found rather incomprehensible, my fault really as I couldn't relate.

Right at the start, the short story "Kulto ni Santiago" by K.S. Cordero one is jolted out of any preconception of what the book is about. I think that having that as the first offering shows uncommonly good taste (I can not believed I just wrote that...something you'll understand after reading the story) in that people who approach the book loaded with preconceptions are quickly disabused.

The short stories are quite good; poignant, highly visual, charged emotionally, nostalgic but it's really the essays that should really pull one in, these are actual accounts (well, recounts) of what people went through in that most interesting of times. These are individuals, people who fought, or merely strove to survive. If nothing else than for their sake one must read this book.

So, highly recommended? Absolutely. A must read? Extremely so. Will you enjoy it? Depends on which side of the fence you're at, but (I think and surely do hope that) even the most rabid Marcos Loyalist will find it hard not to sympathize with the people in these stories.

Reportage of Crime

Reportage of Crime by Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin) sub-titled Thirteen Horror Happenings That Hit the Headlines (did it really? I don't have the book right now but gorramn those are a lot of capital letters) is my 3rd Anvil-book-from-Anvil. (yeah I'm dubbing these books from Anvil as Anvil-book-from-Anvil)

Generally I find it a bit iffy to review anthologies due to the simple fact that sometimes the parts just don't live up to the whole...or vice-versa. It's no different here...the being-iffy part not the living-up-to-the-whole/parts part.

RoC shows much more than the title expresses, it's more than crime, more than just Horror Happenings, more even than just simple reportage. This book is a slice of us, of contemporary Filipino life and culture in the 60's. It's our flawed mishmash of catholic religion/Traditions and pre/post hispanic superstitions, our eagerness for social climbing and our shun of those who fall. We have our tribal mentality our "provincialness" and our single minded eagerness for the new and the "modern". It's our love for the lore of the past and our disdain for (and failure to) maintaining a sense of our own history. We have the youthful open mindedness and liberalness against our adherence to the male dominated traditional version of "family". It's our habit of clawing people down and yet standing by them no matter what.
...
It's a very good read, hardly putdownable, it's a perfect blend of light-treatment-of-heavy-material and heavy-treatment-of-light-material.
...
What we have are vine-leaf-sized (alright, I know most of them are vastly more than vine-leaf-sized but I hadn't the heart to put down cabbage-leaf-sized instead) stories culled from the sensational headlines of the decade, embellished by the unique and singular skill of the author into something permanently relevant historically and culturally.

Several Quickies

Ahh, the revered art of "reviewcastrinating", easy to do but difficult to master. Here's me doing a fair go at it. In no particular order except chronologically:

World Without End by Ken Follet.
Imminently enjoyable. I enjoyed Pillars of the Earth, and this sequel sustains that enjoyment. There hasn't been a book yet wherein I dearly wanted to get a hold of the characters and just slap them silly for their choices...this makes me want to do just that. Extremely enjoyable but absolutely infuriating.

Doctor Who: (oh and if you're wondering...I reviewed these from the bottom up)

  • Inferno by Terrance Dicks
The Third Doctor and poor old Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, science gone amok, (again, science really should get a better grip of itself) man vs Nature, alternate realities, really ugly mutants and wonky thermodynamics.

  • The Ambassadors of Death by Terrance Dicks
The Third Doctor and poor old Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in a first contact story. Among all the myriad characters in all the books, I like the staid and proper Brigadier most of all...next only to the Fourth Doctor, of course.

  • And The Image of the Fendahl by Terrance Dicks
Hooray, another Fourth Doctor adventure against something uncannily Lovecraftian.

  • And The Crusaders by David Whitaker
or The Crusade. The First Doctor in 12th century Palestine, The Lionheart, Saladin, and courtly intrigues. The Doctor's companion is kidnapped and made a harem girl of a cruel Moor. Good stuff.

  • Planet of Fire by Peter Grimwade
The Fifth Doctor picks up a hitchhiker on Lanzarote and, with Turlough and Kamelion, proceed to Sarn where Thurlough faces his past. With 3 companions, you just know that they're going to get rid of someone and at the end Turlough leaves and the Doctor destroys Kamelion out of mercy. Oh, and the Master is up to his usual shenanigans...but dies or at least appears to.

  • The King's Demons by Terence Dudley
The Fifth Doctor and companions in the court of King John of England. The Master against Magna Carta and a new companion: the shape changing android Kamelion.

  • And The Giant Robot by Terrance Dicks
The Fourth doctor (jelly babies, scarf, and all) perhaps my favourite of all the reincarnations in a staple sci-fi...err..staple. Giant robots and science gone amok with a dash of King Kong thrown in for good measure.

  • The Smugglers by Terrance Dicks
The First Doctor on a jaunt in 17th century Cornwall; squires, pirates, smugglers

  • The Twin Dilemma by Eric Saward
I don't like this new Doctor (the Sixth) but I must admit that his moods makes for compelling reading.

The World Swappers by John Brunner
It's a John Brunner, mate, it's good and you should read it. A (hostile) first contact scenario, supermen as only science fiction can make them, a solution to it all with all the hallmarks of science and logic behind it.

Folklore in America edited by T.P. Coffin and H. Cohen
Profit: "As a result, America has been and is now producing a mass of sub-literary, popular material that masquerades as a product of oral tradition, even though the people who can't, don't, or won't read know little of it or care less."

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
Dated and it shows but compelling nonetheless. The subject matter (not to say that the Author's skill has nothing to do about it) lends itself very well to thoughtful, image rich, and just plain beautiful lines. The Author's craft shows in how well, and easy to pick up she presents the material.

The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective by Carl Sagan
A must read, it may be dated but a mystery is still a mystery and nothing can be more mysterious than those in the outer darkness. It is in a word; Fascinating. the final 3 parts of the book: Starfolk is nothing short of good literature. We are Starfolk, the children of stars and although you might have heard it said and explained before, I dare say that you won't find a more eloquent and inspiring treatment of it than Mr. Sagan's.

Reading Experiment

It is now the end of February, for the past month I have been conducting an experiment on meself.

Premise: I am more than capable of existing without reading science fiction
Procedure: Limit my reading to anything not science fiction
...
Conclusion: Failure to thrive.

That's right, objective observation reveals that I get to a right foul mood without my esef. Now that may be fun on occasion (especially directed against certain individuals of my acquaintance) but nastiness like the one I've been generating may just eventually get me tarred and feathered ( good thing said individuals have no clue where to procure a suitable amount of said pyrolytic wood product for derisive decorating purposes)

Result: I'm going back to esef.

It's my niche and I fully intend to entrench myself in it...no matter how many bad science fiction books there are.

That being said, I'm not going to attempt to read only science fiction...that route leads to madness, and I should know.

Street-Bound: Manila on Foot

Another book from ANVIL was Street-Bound: Manila on Foot by Josefina Manahan.

This was a not so random pick. I love to walk. My resume' includes; walking from Monumento to Blumentritt, a sweaty hike from SM North to UP Diliman, several forays from Blumentritt to Recto, leisurely strolls from Blumentritt to Rizal Park(yeah, no prize as to guessing where I live).

The book is well written, and following the author in and around Manila is easy. The narration is pretty straight forward; "turn right at", "now walk straight ahead to", "you should now be at"and the locations are easy to locate in the cute maps included (they look like the maps I scribbled when I began walking in Manila). The recounting of anecdotal reminiscence and the mention of particularly memorable ( to the author) people adds a certain folksy charm to the book.

But sadly...

I had heard that the book was outdated. I did not expect it to be painfully so. In some places the Manila described is so far removed from the Manila now that the author may well be speaking of Manila under the Spanish. In some cases following the author's narration along the major streets of present Manila left me with a distinct sense of "this couldn't be it". Partly, I think the fault lies in the author, at times she was brilliant...she captured a fleeting glimpse...a mood, a sense of places with deep historical significance for people who should have recognized that sense of history. Which just serves to create an expectation that those places may still be there...hidden away.

Sadly, politicians, businessmen, developers (and perhaps to a certain extent...certainly we too) just don't give a damn.

I just know that what little is left of the Manila 10 years ago may be gone 10 years from now. In that case, if you're like me you'd be thinking "I should try and see all of what's left". And so the book accomplishes exactly what the author set out to do...inspire people to walk in and around Manila.

Banana Heart Summer

Banana Heart Summer a novel by Merlinda Bobis is not just good...it's your-lola's-adobo-when-you-don't-expect-it-but-you-kind'a-really-needed-a-pick-me-up good. I'd like to really thank Honey P. for this unexpected 253-page delight and to think, I just randomly picked it up from a pile of free ANVIL books offered during a book meet. Thanks Honey P. and ANVIL.

I don't know if the book is autobiographical but it certainly is a coming-of-age book, but anyway...

The book is a slice in (of?...from?) the life of a Bicolana girl, Nenita and the peculiar goings-on of a (not-so?) typical backwoods barrio during the, I guess mid or late 1960s. Page after delectable page we see life unfold for Nenita and her family, their friends, and neighbors. In every chapter Nenita sees the people around her, their lives, hopes, and dreams. She equates them or draws parallels to them with the wholesome and earthy food of the Filipino countryside, in most she even gives the recipe and instructions on how to prepare them. The truly great thing is that all this fits, the talk about food does not detract or distract from the commonplace quirkiness that is typical (I assure you) of a quiet small town in the probinsya. In and around this is a solid, provoking story of this probinsyana and how she did good and took care of her family.

For me, this book has everything, kumpletos recados 'ika nga, there's just enough tragedy, comedy, wry introspection, cultural observation, intrigue, folksy wisdom, etc. to provoke that sweet sense of nostalgia for something tip-of-the-tongue familiar and very much Filipino.

The Return of the Time Machine

A small, innocuous looking book with high aspirations that, sadly, doesn't even come close to meeting them.

The blurb at the back claims that the book was only recently discovered: moldering away in relative obscurity as a limited edition in Germany since 1946 until it was "discovered" by DAW Books and reprinted in 1972.

The editorial introduction reveals a couple of things: that Wells' himself may have read the book, and that the correspondence between Friedell and Wells that serves as the opening for the book may have actually took place. All of which just serves to whet the appetite and sadly makes the book that much greater a disappointment. We are left with the tantalizing possibility that Wells himself may have read and indirectly collaborated with the author in this "sequel".

Wow...it's...it's... canon !

And that is why the books is such a disappointment, it could have been so great...it would have been like finding a long forgotten scroll titled Odyssey II: Polyphemus Strikes Back in a cave somewhere...it had that chance.

1st thing...when you're undertaking to write a sequel to such a great (even then) story, one doesn't begin by undermining the character of the author of the original. The "correspondence" which opens the story consists of Friedell writing like any fanboy to the object of his obsession.

To paraphrase: OMG your such a great author, I'm an author too can I get your autograph and do you mind reading and providing input on this story idea I have. Oh and I have several question about TTM; is it a true story cause you were trying hard to hide the identities of the people and if not then the technique was so great and can I use that? You totally rock and I rock cause I wrote something like what you earlier wrote and OMG we ROCK.
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...or something to that effect. Then the requisite devastating letter back.

To paraphrase once again: Mr. Wells is not available and is much to busy to answer crude letters from provincial nobodies (genius author that he is) like yourself. This is his secretary, and may I just say that to imply that Mr. Wells-Almighty would fabricate such a story without any shred of truth is just utter and complete blasphemy. Mr H.G.-He-Who-Dispenses-Rainbows-Wells is much too rational to use drivel like dramatic license and suspense to capture the readers' attention, he uses logic and scientific facts.

And lest you all think that all that was an exaggeration, here are actual quotes from that part of the book: "Mr. Wells lets you know that all poets can go to the Devil! Poetry is something for children and primates"... and ..."it is complete arrogance in your part to write to Mr. Wells telling him what he should and what he shouldn't do"

...now either that was meant as a joke; the author lampooning himself in the (unlikely) case that this was a real correspondence, or Friedell had some serious, Jupiter-sized, cojones.

And that's a mere 8 to 9 pages of the book itself. Friedell ends up trying to ferret out the people behind the characters in the original book and finally manages to track down Transic, the only named character in the original story, and it is his correspondent with Transic which reveals the story behind the subsequent trips of James Morton, the Time Traveler.

2nd thing...Friedell made a mess of the characters, I remember in TTM, the Time Traveler was curious to see what man had become in the millenia of time which he traversed, the character was enigmatic, curious, driven to know, a humanist, etc.: he was a perfect foil for an adventure into the unknown. In this "sequel" you won't ever guess what lofty goals of human advancement he puts the Machine to use for after his successful return from the Elois and Morlocks.

Quote from the book: After having disparaged all the ages of antiquity and futurity, Transic finally asks Morton why he constructed the Machine in the 1st place for. The lofty, earth shattering, humanity advancing answer was....
"Because I want to get to the year Eighteen Forty"...."In that year Carlyle delivered his six speeches about heroes, hero admiration, and the heroic element in history. How often I've wished to actually hear the warm and sure prophetic sound of that voice, the rich Scottish accent almost like music, that very special fiery flood of words..."


I almost tore the book in half after reading that, the Time Traveler reduced to a time tourist and the Time Machine boiled down to a work-around because the gramophone wasn't as yet invented. Also the way that the Time Traveler lambasted the follies of the past; the primitiveness of thought, the uncouthness of society, etc. he came of as a snobbish jerk... blegh!.

And we're just at page 46 in this 127 page disaster. Include: meandering, turn-of-the-century, groping about the nature of time, underdeveloped plot elements, an unsatisfying end, and a self-serving Epilogue which is nothing more than a comparison and advertisement of the author's own Culture History against Well's World History and this book adds up to my Worst Book of 2010 (and arguably ever).