This is kind of embarrassing. I fell off the face of the blogging world without really intending to and I can’t even blame my lack of free time. Most of my writing recently have been for work but I’ve also discovered the wonders of Twitter. I admit to giving in to the temptation of expressing myself exclusively through 140-character spurts. I’m also hopelessly behind in my writeups–eight books’ worth of backlog–but I’m determined to catch up.
Speaking of writing, please read my PGS Crime Issue Review, published by The Philippine Online Chronicles a couple of weeks ago. A short excerpt:
None of the stories in the PGS Crime Issue are whodunits in the true sense of the word. They are, however, why- and how-dunnits, with a couple of stories morphing into revenge tales redressing sins of the past.
Justice takes on a very fluid quality in Philippine crime, where the trick isn’t finding who the culprit is, but making sure he does pay. Even the arrival of the police does not signal the end of a criminal ordeal–they often turn out to be a different, more dangerous complication.
I’ve finished 18 books so far this year which, according to Goodreads, means I’m six books behind if I still wish to read 50 books in 2011. Cry. Still, that’s already six books more than I’ve read the whole of last year so I can’t really complain.
It was one of those literary scandals that would seem trivial to many, but was a matter of earthshaking importance to the World of Letters. Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladmir Nabokov (writer famous for the controversial novel Lolita), had been tasked with the decision whether or not to burn the manuscript of his father’s last unfinished novel, titled The Original of Laura.
As part of his last will and testament, the older Nabokov wanted his notes burned after his death. According to Dmitri, his father couldn’t take the idea that his most cherished work, “the most concentrated distillation of [his] creativity,” to see the light of day in its unfinished form.
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.
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.
For today’s MB column, I went with my old love, writing about crime fiction. It seems quite appropriate to talk about it again. This is more of a primer since the Read or Die column is geared towards students in the high school and college level. More in-depth discussions will be the raison d’etre of Fanarchist, after all.
The Crime Fiction Case File
One of my New Year’s resolution (aside from “read more books”, the mantra of Read or Die) had been to write more. I was not satisfied with my writing output for 2008, not only in terms of fiction but also non-fiction. Aside from my contributions to the RoD column, I wanted to discuss literary issues more deeply than a one-page column could contain. So one of the first major things I have planned for myself is the creation of a crime fiction blog that will contain my offbeat rants and raves on everything that has to do with crime and mystery.
But why crime fiction? It was only a matter of time I guess, for me to have come up with this venture. For one, I have always been fascinated with crime and mystery TV shows. I was already watching cop shows like NYPD Blue, The Profiler and Law and Order with my mom at ten years old. And though my interest with the genre started with television, it wasn’t too long before I gravitated to crime novels. I have hazy memories of reading Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins in my school library. I went on to read the early John Grisham books and, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
What interested me with the genre had always been the element of the unknown. From years of being an avid fan, however, I have come to find nuances to the stories that have kept me interested even after the first thrill of the plot twists have subsided. Sympathetic protagonists who always fight for justice in the face of crime and corruption, a grim portrayal of the reality that exists in the (mostly American, but that is changing) streets. Those are the kind of topics I want to write about, a way to articulate my own jumbled thoughts and provide insight to an audience at the same time.