160 To Know A Woman

August 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

“To Know A Woman” is an asylum. Amos Oz peoples it with the most peculiar of inmates. From Yoel to Netta to Ivria to the Vermont Siblings to the Agent to Adobe.

Yoel by far is the most curious character I’ve encountered in the world of fiction. Granted he is what he is because of what he does. Still it amuses me that there’s one out there who does this:

It was a tender evening. From a window of one of the other houses he heard a woman saying, “So what; tomorrow is another day.” Yoel checked this sentence in his mind and found no error in it.

Oz also offers eccentric insights: “[T]here was only one thing worse than the use of violence, and that was submission to violence.” And this: “[T]here’s three serious things missing with you: A. desire, B. joy, and C. pity. If you ask me, Captain, those three things come together in a package.”


Postscript: Oz uses a Filipino woman, a graduate of American University in Beirut, as Yoel’s link to a notorious terrorist.

159 Under the Tuscan Sun

August 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Tuscans are of this time; they simply have had the good instinct to bring the past along with them. If our culture says burn your bridges behind you—and it does—theirs says cross and recross.”

Food. Wine. Stories. History. Art. Culture. And, above all these, space; vast green rustic space. What’s not to love about Tuscany?

From the first moment I set foot in Manila I’ve been wanting to get out of it. I’ve been dreaming of buying a farm in the province where I can have peace and quiet. I don’t yet know when it’s going to happen, or where, but I’m determined to make it happen. If the contemplative monks in Bukidnon will have me, I’d be more than happy to join them; then I won’t have to talk to any other human being anymore. I just can’t grow old in Manila; it’s no place for old people.

Like Frances Mayes, I dream of my own geriatric years “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

158 Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

August 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

“When people hate with all that energy, it is something in themselves they are hating.”

Rise of Ryder. Fall of Flyte. What one has to do with the other, I’ve no idea, other than that Charles shagged Julia, and maybe Sebastian too. Or did he use Julia as a mere backdoor to Sebastian?

But of course “Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder” is so much more than Ryder and the Flytes. Evelyn Waugh burrows deep into alcoholism, the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, and the Catholic Faith.

157 Pride and Prejudice

August 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

I wonder what a bitchfight between Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde would be like. Wilde of course is widely known for his outrageous witticisms. I didn’t know Austen can be just as witchy and crafty.

Consider these from her “Pride and Prejudice”:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least.”

“Society has claims on us all; and I profess myself one of those who consider intervals of recreation and amusement as desirable for everybody.”

“Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honorable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want.”

“One may be continually abusive without saying anything just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty.”

“Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

156 My Ántonia

July 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

“Those girls had grown up in the first bitter-hard times, and had got little schooling themselves. But the younger brothers and sisters, for whom they made such sacrifices and who have had ‘advantages,’ never seem to me, when I meet them now, half as interesting or as well educated. The older girls, who helped to break up the wild sod, learned so much from life, from poverty, from their mothers and grandmothers; they had all, like Ántonia, been early awakened and made observant by coming at a tender age from an old country to a new.”

“My Ántonia” is the story of my childhood friends and grade school classmates. It’s uncanny how Willa Cather seems to have witnessed and then chronicled their lives spot on—from the wild years to how far they have come.

Most of them left Pili to become Lena Lingard and Tiny Soderball—moneyed sophisticated independent powerful. There are those too who stayed and became Ántonia Cuzak—judicious important wise. They all seem happy with what they have and who they have become.

I look at them and I see the Good Life in various shapes forms colors.

155 Surfacing

July 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Last summer, we had this intern who drove a Camry. When I learned about this, I fell kerplunk into a deep depression.

The intern was twelve and already driving a two million peso car. I’ve been working for three hundred years and I still squeeze my ass in an overcrowded UV Express van to attend my hearings. Fuck determination patience hardwork.

But what to do but go through the crappy part and get on with life. Just as Margaret Atwood’s the artist, in “Surfacing”, did:

“I stand there shivering, seeing my reflection and my feet down through it, white as fish flesh on the sand, till finally being in the air is more painful than being in the water and I bend and push myself reluctantly into the lake.”

The Camry is not, by any measure, intended to trivialize the artist’s heartrending epiphanies and disturbing breakthroughs.

154 Reading Lolita in Tehran

July 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Things are probably different in Iran now, hopefully better than how they were under the Khomeini Regime. For then, being a woman was akin to what Nabokov would call poshlust. Take this policy championed by the Speaker of the Parliament at the time Tehran was being pelted by Iraq with bombs and missiles quite relentlessly and mercilessly:

“He also recommended that women dress properly when sleeping, so that if their houses were hit, they would not be ‘indecently exposed to strangers’ eyes’.”

For some women, like Azar Nafisi and her girls, fiction gave them the courage and the spirit to dream of their own world, a world where they can freely be what they want to be and happily do what their passion demands of them.

“The novels were an escape from reality in the sense that we could marvel at their beauty and perfection, and leave aside our stories about the deans and the university and the morality squads in the streets.”

Nabokov Fitzgerald Gold Gorky James Bronte Austen pushed our women in “Reading Lolita in Tehran” to question their reality, follow their dreams and, ultimately, break free.

“The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questioned traditions and expectations when they seemed too immutable.”


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