November 8, 2010
A peculiar thing has happened to my reading habits which I have only realized recently. Having grown up as a reader who shifted from Nancy Drew mysteries in her elementary years to the meatier (and longer) Stephen King horrors in high school, I have never been a stranger to the novel form. It is, by far, the easiest way to get lost in a different world, with nothing required for travel expenses except time and imagination. Having been part of a readers club, I have encountered other people who expressed a great love for long, engaging narratives as well. However, there has been a glaring lack in this aspect of my formative years–an exposure to Filipino novels.
Ask a Pinoy on the street about a Filipino novel he has read and the most frequent answer would be Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, a product of the educational system that declares them required reading for every high schooler in the country. If you are lucky, you will hear a few other titles such as Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ‘70 and Amado Hernandez’s Mga Ibong Mandaragit, which has gained light fame (or is it infamy?) recently due a recent online discussion about the Philippine canon. But the titles that have emerged from Filipino writers through the years aren’t reaching the consciousness of the lay man.
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November 4, 2010
Note: I’m going to repost some of my old essays/blog posts for posterity’s sake. It has been years since I’ve done this one but I’m still relatively proud of it, and my affection for both Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe remains the same.
Planetary Pariahs: Bradbury and the Influence of Edgar Allan Poe
I. “Bradbury is the Louis Armstrong of science fiction”
More than sixty years after publishing his first story and creating a career full of contradictions, Ray Bradbury has firmly cemented a reputation as an oddity of the American Letters. As part of the so-called Golden Age of science fiction in the 1940′s and 50′s, he achieved a fanatical following through his mass production of off-beat stories, spitting them up by the dozen for pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, and Imagination! He later gained mainstream celebrity for his brilliant novels, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451. One novel is a pioneer-type tale about humans colonizing the planet Mars, the other a futuristic allegory warning against the dangers of censorship. Both of them are generally accepted as part of the SF canon. Aside from that stories had also appeared, in such highbrow publications as Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, and Collier’s and he has been awarded both the National Medal of Arts and the O. Henry Memorial Award. He also earned lavish praise from more “literary” (as opposed to “pulpy”) writers such as Chistopher Isherwood and British writer Kingsley Amis. Is he then a hack, or a genius, a veritable master of the bizarre or simply a writer of childhood elegies? Not many have ridden this fence like he has, balancing between what Amis calls his “dime-a-dozen sensitivity” and literary respectability.
His reputation among SF circles is shifty as well. Despite being constantly mentioned in the same breath as other SF greats such as Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, many science fiction purists refuse to recognize Bradbury as a legitimate SF writer, and have criticized his stories’ “science,” with good reason. In Bradbury’s fiction, Venus skies are full of rain and not toxic ammonia, and improbable rocket ships scoop out burning pieces of the sun while the crew recites poetry.
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