A Reader in the Philippines – ReaderCon Week 3

The First Filipino Reader Conference is closer than ever. Thanks to the Manila International Book Fair and other sponsors for their valuable support. This is the 3rd week of the special Filipino Fridays meme. Which I of course screw up and turn into Filipino Sundays!

Week 3 Question:
How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader? And what are the positive aspects of being a reader in the Philippines?

The short answer is: I can’t complain. For Pinoys who love books, there are more venues now than ever before in terms of buying, discovering, and discussing books. I’ve always have friends who are avid readers but lately I’ve also been exploring the more social aspects of being a reader in the Philippines, such as participating in the Filipino Goodreads Group and Filipino Book Bloggers. Even in that short time, I’ve had my horizons broadened. Having the opportunity to talk passionately–and even bitchily–about books is priceless.

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Your Reader’s Story – ReaderCon Week 2

Very late in answering this meme, but what the hey.

How did you become a reader? What factors influenced you to take it up as a hobby? For instance, was it your mom who read to you every night? Or was it a high school friend who started lending you books? Or maybe it was a really inspiring teacher whom you wanted to emulate. Whatever it was, we hope you tell us all the story of how you became a leisure reader and what it is about reading that you enjoy so much.

I seriously think that the existence of our school libraries in Colegio de Sta. Rosa, Makati was the one catalyst for my love of books. Not simply the opportunity to borrow books, but the place itself. For one, the Elementary library at my school was air-conditioned back when the classrooms weren’t, so I had extra incentive to stay there. There was also the idea that you can hide yourself in a small nook during recess and lunch time, where silence is highly enforced and you only have the company of characters in books with you.

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ReaderCon Filipino Fridays – Week 1

Mark the date, everyone!

I’m going to write more about the 1st Filipino ReaderCon at this year’s Manila International Book Fair in the upcoming days but today is the kick-off of the Filipino Fridays Meme running up to the event. If you can attend the event, PLEASE DO SO. It’ll be good thing to show the publishing and bookselling industry how much of a formidable force Pinoy readers have become.

August 12 – Introduction. Tell us everything that we need to know about you as a Filipino reader. You can talk about the genres that you read, your favorite authors, your comfort reads and your best books of 2011. You can also include links of where other readers can find you online: blog, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc.

I’ve only set up this specific blog late last year but I’ve been around, so to speak. Writing about books is something I’ve done for more than half of my life–sometimes professionally, but for the most part, it’s simply a passion. When I’m not working of playing Go, I obsess about my reading progress at Goodreads, where a delightful group of Filipino readers have become a new and exciting aspect of my reading life.

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Want Books: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Something for Chachic’s Want Books? meme:

I wanted to read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad even before she won the National Book Critic’s Award (and was subsequently upstaged by Jonathan Franzen). The thing that intrigued me about it is the unusual structure. I haven’t read many novels-as-linked-stories and the reviews are glowing from what I’ve read. I haven’t seen any copies of it around bookstores however, but I haven’t been looking that hard. I’m also holding out on buying it because I have Egan’s earlier book, Look At Me, which so far remains unread.

So yes, I want but can’t have Goon Squad because I’m too slow a reader.

In other news, literary March Madness has also reached children’s books. Aside from the The Morning News’ Tournament of Books, I am now also following School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. Again, I haven’t read any of the books mentioned here except Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, a charming graphic novel that was originally published online. I do love me some well-intentioned competition though, especially ones that lead to fascinating discussions of books.

Day 17 – The virtue of the 2nd person POV

Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

Why yes, we’re still doing this meme. I first encountered Lorrie Moore’s story “How to Become a Writer” in college while reading through a book about writing. I can’t remember the kind of advice that book actually gave me but using this example makes me eternally grateful for it. The second person POV is largely considered a deadly choice for many fiction writers but the conceit used by Moore to carry the story simply blew me away.

Self-Help focuses on largely female protagonists who are floundering about in their relationships. A couple of stories deal with familial strain, while one standout story talks about an extramarital affair through the lens of the other woman. There’s a lot of humor in Moore’s narrative voice, but almost all of them are tinged with a kind of inescapable tragedy, like it’s simply a requisite for someone living a life. I haven’t encountered any of her other books yet, but this one has become almost iconic for me.

Honorable mentions: The Kite of Stars by Dean Francis Alfar and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

Day 16 – Favorite poetry

Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry

Forgive my overzealous quoting, but I simply couldn’t limit myself to naming just one poem. Truth be told, reading an entire poetry collection is something I should do much more these days. But I do consume individual poems quite a lot and here are just five of the many that have resonated with me through the years. I don’t actually own Richard Siken’s Crush, but that is something I intend to rectify very soon.

It calls the heart, this music, to a place
more intimate than home, than self, that face
aging in the hall mirror. This is not
music to age by — no sprightly gavotte
or orderly pavane, counting each beat,
confining motion to the pointed feet

Rachmaninoff on the Mass Pike,
Rhina P. Espaillat

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.

The Gift,
Li-Young Lee

Now you know: this is the place
where water insists on being ice,
where wind insists on breathlessness,
where the will of the cold is so strong
that even the stone’s desire for heat
is driven into the eye of night.

The Last Poem About the Snow Queen,
Sandra M. Gilbert

Tila ako si Bidasari —
Patay sa araw, buhay sa gabi:
Naghihintay kay Sultan Mogindra
Na sa buhay ko’y ikaw;
Naghihintay ng maalat na halik
Na isisiil mo sa dagat na dibdib
Upang ibangon ako
Sa masasamyong panaginip.

Tila Ako si Bidasari,
Ruth Elynia Mabanglo

Here is a map with your name for a capital,
here is an arrow to prove a point: we laugh
and it pits the world against us, we laugh,
and we’ve got nothing left to lose, and our hearts
turn red, and the river rises like a barn on fire.

Saying Your Names,
Richard Siken

Day 15 – Your comfort book

Day 15 – Your “comfort” book

Maria Isabel Garcia’s Science Solitaire: Essays on Science, Nature, and Becoming Human

This is a collection of columns Maria Isabel Garcia has written for The Philippine Star over the years. Here’s a more recent example. Despite my declaration that I never reread books, this one is perfect for a reader looking to dip into short bursts of reflection about the wonders and possibilities of science. I’ve come to appreciate science writing more after reading this book a couple of years ago. In fact, part of my reading list right now is Mary Roach’s Stiff and Oliver Sacks’sThe Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat.

Maria Isabel Garcia is also a wonderful and fascinating woman, something I found out for myself after meeting her for a Read or Die event. For a writer who is a scientist by profession, her prose has a lightness to it that renders the discussion of intellectual pursuits (she routinely talks about quantum physics and–dun dun dun–MATH) more engaging. I can trace a straight line from my current fascination with Radiolab to the little sparks of curiosity lit up in my head by this book.

An aside: Holy crap, why is this book priced at 30 dollars on Amazon? D: