Thursday, March 29

Kuwatro o Kuwarto

In case you pass by a newstand today, grab a copy of the Inquirer and turn to page A17. There on the bottom half of the page you'll find a report featuring Dennis of Team Angas and three of his cohorts as they terrorize young maidens in UPLB.

It's actually about the publication of their book Kuwarto o Kuwatro, a "comic gossip that pertains to a professor giving students two choices, whether to have sex with the teacher or accept a grade of 4.0 or incomplete."

Perfect reading this paper checking and grading season. Hehehe. But anyway, congrats sa libro, Dennis. Daan ka naman Diliman soon.

Writing about the Self

Slate looks at the state of the modern memoir this week. The memoir has become less about coming-of-age and more about other issues aside from the self. And while writers are writing about themselves, it can't be helped that they write about family, friends, lovers who all feel like they've been implicated in the story whether they like it or not.

There's Mary Karr who tells us how she informed her family and friends that they'll be appearing in her book. Alison Bechdel does tell her mother that she's writing about her father, but notes that she didn't really asked her mother permission to write about it. Or you can take Edmund White's tactic: Tell your lover s/he's being written about and then run.

Jess Row also looks at how the Woman Warrior holds up after 30 years. Woman Warrior is in that weird gray area between fiction and nonfiction, a book without a genre. Row writes:
At various times it has been described as a memoir, an autobiography, a novel, a manifesto; yet anyone who spends 10 minutes with it understands that none of these labels really apply. Not because Kingston sets out to exaggerate the "facts" of her own experience, à la James Frey, but because she deliberately acknowledges that to write autobiography is to stand at the borderline between memory and invention. Like the "ghosts" in its subtitle (the word refers to the white Americans around whom Kingston grew up in Sacramento), The Woman Warrior stubbornly refuses to be either entirely fictive or entirely real. Perhaps the second most remarkable thing about the book is that in its wake, the American literary world still seems to regard the tissue-thin boundary between memoir and fiction as absolute and inviolable.
If you follow the links, you can also read about Toni Morrison and "rememory" and how a lot of women writers now owe Tillie Olsen. But all in all, very interesting reads.

Poems and comics

For most people, poems and comics don't seem like possible artistic bedfellows but the Poetry Foundation pointed out that the connection between them isn't too far fetched:
Heightened language—one possible or partial definition of poetry—isn’t the first thing one associates with comics. Yet comic book artists take into account the way words appear on the page to a degree poets will find familiar. How many lines should accompany each image? How high should the dialogue balloon float? The ratio of printed words to blank space plays a role in whether a poem or strip succeeds.
So it seems like a good idea to invite some graphic novelists to work with some of the 4,000+ poems from their archive. It's also a wonderful way to introduce these poems to readers who wouldn't otherwise touch poems even with a ten foot pole.

As a sampler, here's a panel from Gabrielle Bell's interpretation of Emily Dickinson's poem:

Thursday, March 22

Dirty Little Minds

I was reading student journals and accidentally found this one: Extra Dirty Mind. The blogger behind this used to be my classmate in poetry class, where our professor dubbed her as "the repressed Catholic virgin." I like her entry about Biblical bitches. In one of our writing workshops, some other classmate wrote erotica featuring Hagar.

Recently, in another of these workshops, someone came in with a story about another virgin mother. This time, the angel who delivered her the news was the same one who impregnated her. No Holy Spirit in the picture. Plus their spawn was going to be bigger than Jesus. Maybe it was one of the Beatles she gave birth to. Or maybe not. I don't know what it is with summer classes and undergrads who come up with all these dirty dirty things. Feh.

Wednesday, March 21

Carver's Greatest Hits

Where I'm Calling From. Raymond Carver. Php70, Booksale

Book #7 is Where I'm Calling From, the final short fiction collected released before Carver died in 1988. It has 37 stories, arranged chronologically from his earlier efforts to the present. It gives you a very good sense of Carver's evolution as writer. The copy I got from Booksale didn't have the table of contents--after all, I can't complain much since I got it for only 70 pesos. I ended up writing down all the titles and page counts. It turns out I've read around half of the stories already from previous Carver books. Most of the stories here have appeared elsewhere, or with new titles. Very surface comment: A whole lot of his characters have problems with drinking--as though you didn't know that before.

Another very surface comment: I like the photo of the author on the cover. It makes him look very ferocious. I thought that the style of the photo looked familiar, and true enough, it turns out that Marion Ettlinger is credited for the photo. I've seen a book of author photos I like, called Author Photos, I think.

Tuesday, March 13

Napkin Fiction

Contrary to the first impression, this isn't really short fiction written on, uhm, feminine products. Nyahaha.

Esquire mailed table napkins to 250 writers and asked them to write stories on it. Takes off from that often repeated romantic notion that writers hang out in cafes, daydream, stare into the wide blue yonder, scribble magic words on paper, and voila! (or as a student of mine once said, "Wala!") A story is born.

I haven't read all the entries yet, but there are stories from Rick Moody and A.M. Homes.

Curious things: There's a writer included in the project called "Bud Wiser." Ha-ha. And I wonder if "Ethan Pacquin" is what Ethan Hawke will be called if he--by some strange twist of fate--marry Anna Pacquin. Gah.

Swiped from twisted

Friday, March 9

Elephants and turtles

For scientist Thomas Hildebrandt, getting a black eye from being hit by an elephant's (1.5m long) penis is just part of the job--especially if you're out to save the species.

It reminds me of this story I heard from some writers that in UP Los Banos, there's a female cow whose job is to excite the male cows. They tie this cow to a post and then line up all the guy cows. Then when the doctors get the semen, they send it all over the country. To promote the continuation of the species, baby. I suppose her job description is something like FHM cover girl, only it's for cows.

And then on to weirder animal news: kinky turtle sex. I didn't know turtles make any kind of sound at all.

Short Cuts

I've had this book on my shelf for years but haven't gotten around to actually reading it. But I was working on my revision for fiction class and Carver is one author that short story writing teachers often point to. The crispness of language, spare images and description reminds me of Hemingway.

But I liked Short Cuts first (again) as a film. I saw it first in film class many years ago. Must be the second most viewed Robert Altman film in film classes. What attracted me to the movie was how Altman was able to put together all those narrative threads together and not make it look like each little story is "bitin." When I learned that the material for the script was actually taken from stories by Raymond Carver, I was even more intrigued. There's this discussion that short stories lend themselves more (in)credibly to the screen, and I suppose Carver's work and what Altman did with it was an evidence of that.

As for the Carver stories, I really like the one about the baker and the birthday cake. I think it was called "The Bath" in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love but it's called "A Small, Good Thing" in the new compilation. There's also the one about this guy who decided to get rid of his children's dog. They're all stories of ordinary folks who suffer through this really "quiet desperation." I know I heard that last phrase somewhere else before but just can't pin it down right now.

So that's it for this year's Book # 6. Fabulous book. You should all read it.

Thursday, March 1

The Hours

The Hours. Screenplay by David Hare. Php69, some stall in Glorietta.

I was supposed to be writing something over the weekend, but couldn't focus, couldn't do anything much. So instead of staring into blank space, picked up my uber-inexpensive copy of David Hare's screenplay of The Hours (Book #5) and started reading that.

I've always been interested in inter-related narratives, multiple stories which crisscross each other through time and space, and this is one of the more interesting ones I've come across recently. I couldn't stand/finish Michael Cunningham's novel, but I've seen the film, and reading the screenplay clarified certain things for me.

Meryl Streep's character is friends with Richard, a poet who's dying of AIDS. Richard was getting this award for his poetry, and Clarissa is throwing a party for him. They have shared this long, arduous friendship, and Richard suspects that he's only staying alive for his friend. Sometime back, Richard had written a novel where there's a character that everyone says is actually Clarissa. Clarissa says it's not her, only that there are too many details which say that it is her. She insists that Richard's work is fiction.

Later, Richard's mother surfaces, when all along I thought she's killed herself--since the mother in the novel killed herself. The mother says that since she abandoned her children, her children probably thought that abandonment was worse than suicide.

All in all, what comes out is that there's this really fine line between fact and fiction, and Clarissa is implicated in Richard's life/work.