Friday, March 29, 2013

On 'The Summer Without Men'

Even before I had a copy of any book by Siri Hustvedt, I was already keen on liking her prose mainly because Bennard said I would love her. Which, for all I know, is a contrived effort to make Hustvedt my new favorite author--Hustvedt that is wife to Paul Auster, one of Bennard's favorites. Well, planned or not, it appears that he is right. I loved Hustvedt instantly, the love-at-first-few-pages kind.

Aside from being my first novel by new favorite author, The Summer Without Men is also my first contemporary feminist book. And a memorable one at that. The characters are mainly women--Mia the Awesome Protagonist, the Swans in Rolling Meadows, the teen witches of Bonden, Lola the Neighbor-turned-Friend, Bea the Tough Sister, and Daisy the Lively Daughter. Even psychiatrist Dr. S. is a female! They were not portrayed as perfect, all-knowing, and righteous--it wouldn't be realistic if they were, and I would've disliked the book if such was the case--but as strong personalities who accepted life's blows and dealt with them in ways they know best. Men were present in the story too, but they are more of a backdrop, appearing in recollections, letters, and in the periphery. In this book, men were depicted as both the storm and the cooling rain. The storm that some women must weather through in order to be stronger, wiser. The cooling rain that soothes and comforts, the reason for a smile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


This is Hymne a l'Amour, a beautiful song I first heard from the Italian movie, Cinema Paradiso. The song has been playing on loop for a while now and yet, this sentence is the nearest thing to progress I have ever accomplished in trying to put into writing all my feelings for the said film. I cheat by finding motivation through the music. I was expecting an overflow of things to say but I only got a surge of wordless emotions. Listening to instrumental music similar to this takes me back to a particular scene when I was twelve.

The dark had already begun consuming the light outside, the lamppost near our house was already lit. The sky is more parts gray than reddish or blue, the first stars had started to twinkle. I was alone in our house, which was gradually being enveloped by darkness and shadows, waiting for my parents' return from a day's work. I could still remember the school uniform I wore. Instead of turning on the lights, I plugged in our CD player and placed my Josh Groban album inside. You Raise Me Up. To Where You Are. Mi Mancherai. These songs lulled me while I lie on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I could not recall what I was thinking; I most probably had no thoughts in mind that time. I simply stared off in space, imbibing the melody and the lyrics of Groban's heavenly voice. I did not understand how I was feeling, but I knew that I was moved. Have you ever had moments in your life like that? Standing in the presence of something so emotionally affecting, something so beautiful, it sends tremors and spasms to your body? Beholding a thing, grasping it, whether abstract or concrete, and you close your eyes to see it more clearly and absorb every last detail of it? It was fleeting--it is that very thing that makes it magical--and yet is not entirely lost on me. Then, suddenly, the light is switched on, disturbing my reverie. My parents are home and I had to make excuses as to why I have kept myself in the dark.

Friday, March 15, 2013

On 'Fourteen Love Stories'

Whether we are its readers or writers, a love story is invested with many guilty pleasures. We remember our own lives, when we are lovers and had lovers. We imagine having the strength, or the weakness, to yield to the uncharted and the forbidden. We wish for a love to take us away from the reality of the present. We relish the encounter, taking it on with recklessness and youthful abandon. Our pulse rushes and our throats tighten. We feel a dull ache. The story takes us, and we fall in love, literary predilections be damned.

This is an excerpt from the Introduction of Fourteen Love Stories, an anthology of stories written by Filipinos. Its first featured story, Dead Stars by Paz Marquez Benitez, was our book club's "book/story of the month" for February and so when Bennard chanced upon a copy in NBS-Katipunan, he immediately bought it. I have read Dead Stars back in high school but since it's only sixteen pages long, why not refresh my memory, right? Besides, when we read a story a second or third time, we tend to find new details we might have overlooked the first time, or discover a new interpretation based on new experiences we've undergone since our last encounter with the said story. So I read it again and, true enough, I got to relive past emotions and more--feelings that were incomprehensible to my high schooler version who only thought of coming up with a reflection essay for English 2.