marcel barang

Reading matters

In Reading matters on 05/09/2009 at 5:04 pm



Reading matters, indeed.

Since my spare time is mostly spent reading, why not have the occasional note de lecture, mainly in English, but sometimes in French, as my Bang Lamphoo fare dictates?

I might add to the section other reading matters written some time ago, on those days when I don’t feel like or don’t have time to write something right away – the rule of the blog game being in not letting too much time elapse between postings lest you discourage your aficionados.

Too bad I have to start on rubbish, though: the anthology I went through to kill time in the past two days as lack of sleep and gut rot left me too weak to work.

This particular case of shoddy editing and bland tales is a compendium of short stories: Past and present, A Philippine PEN Anthology Vol.1, 50th Anniversary Edition, Edited by Elmer A. Ordonez with Marjorie Evasco, Susie Tan & Lilia Ramos de Leon, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2008, 350 pages.

These four worthies deserve to be mentioned by name all the better to be shamed: there are hundreds of typos and language blunders in the course of the 266 pages dedicated to the short story (besides a few poems and essays I won’t bother to read). Just as bad as any anthology produced by their Thai PEN counterparts, but without the excuse of the language: aren’t Filipinos supposed to be English proficient?

In a way, reading this collection of presumably the best Filipino short stories of the modern age has been an eye opener: Thai fiction is so much better!

Out of the twenty-one short stories printed here, only two or three are passing grade – the best being probably (no surprise here) ‘Olvidon’ by F. Sionil Jose, whom I met in his bookshop in my newshound days two or three decades ago. It has the right distance, wry humour and subtle innuendos from the lupus-afflicted Marcos target it is ridiculing. ‘My brother’s peculiar chicken’ by Alejandro Roces has the right punchy ending, and the well-written if artificial ‘Mishima is dead’ by Jun Terra only makes sense in the Filipino context which it studiously avoids to mention. Most of the rest is straight ‘politically committed’ prose as Thai radical writers used to churn out decades ago before they got wiser and subtler.


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