Delusions of a Prosetitute

185/ The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

When the twins were small, I had a recurring dream that I was served up on an enormous platter and my children ate me. They had always loved ribs; they snapped mine off with strong, greasy fingers and consumed them voraciously, with barbecue sauce. The strange thing was, I was conscious in the dream, and I was smiling. All I could think of was how much protein the kids were getting.

Love, the unconditional kind, is overrated. Pippa devotes herself to Herb Grace Ben and what does she get? She finds herself floating away from Herb Grace Ben and toward anywhere but where she is right now. She yearns to go away, maybe with Chris, maybe with any one.

Herb’s liaison with Moira is actually a small mercy dropped from the high heavens. It expunges every bit of her doubts about going away. It affirms her need for a new adventure. More importantly, it allows Ben and Grace to understand the changes in her.

Rebecca Miller makes a touching and thoughtful case for a midlifer’s shot at happiness. This is “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”.

184/ A Long Fatal Love Chase

Let me be happy for a little while, then I will be wise.

I have always admired people with strong mind strong will strong ideas. Everything after all is possible to a strong will. But Philip Tempest and Rosamond Vivian take the idea of strong to a whole new surreal level. It’s almost like their will is law.

When Tempest decides to own Rosamond, he decides to own her utterly. He stalks her beyond reason, with insane possessiveness and competitiveness. Interestingly, when Rosamond decides to leave Tempest, she decides to leave him completely. No giving in and no looking back.

They are such a good match I was hoping they would ultimately end up together. Well, in a way, they did. For they pursued their obsession right to the very end.

Louisa May Alcott wrote “A Long Fatal Love Chase” in 1886, but her publisher would not have it for being too long and sensational. So big thanks to editor Kent Bicknell who unearthed Alcott’s manuscript and finally published it in 1995. It took more than a century but “A Long Fatal Love Chase” is worth the long wait.

183/ The Origin of Species

So it is that what we still think of as our unique heritage, the thing that sets us apart, what the gods have given us, the magic moment of “Let there be light,” is perhaps only a passage on a much longer journey, one that is primal beyond reckoning and that goes back to the very beginnings of life itself.

Alex Fratarcangeli has relationships of Galapagan likeness. In each relationship, he is like an island of rare precious raw qualities. Primordial.

He is giving thoughtful diffident with his women (Liz Ingrid Maria Esther, except for Amanda). He is subservient respectful deferential yet critical with his superiors (Shapiro Jiri Klein). He is casual and sometimes exploratory with his friends (Miguel Felix Stephen). He is strangely apathetic but politically submissive with strangers (Desmond Santos). And he is so vulnerable unsure hopeful with his son (Per).

Hopeful is right. Because it is hope that will ultimately extricate Alex from the primordial state of his relationships. It is hope that will allow him to survive and evolve.

It seems though that the only ones who have not evolved yet in Nino Ricci’s world are Filipinos. He peoples his “The Origin of Species” with the likes of Molly the dumb/mysterious caregiver to Esther, the passable English-speaking crewmen of the ship that rescued Alex and Santos from Galapagos, and the small and dark nurse who took care of Esther.

So. It is 1980s in “The Origin of Species” and Filipinos are stuck in these house help seaman nurse stereotypes.

182/ Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me

Wala akong natanggap na abiso, pero mukhang nagtakda si Batman ng araw upang mamudmud ng talino at husay sa pamimilosopo. At, sa dami niyang alam at sa husay niyang mag-analyze ng mga bagay-bagay, mukhang si Intoy lang ang nakapunta sa araw na itinakda ni Batman.

Dahil umaapaw ang talino at husay ni Intoy, nagmistula tuloy na isang mahabang sanaysay-komentaryo na lamang ang “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me”. Walang humpay si Intoy sa pagtuligsa sa katangahan at kasakiman ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, sa katangahan ng kanyang mga guro, sa kaplastikan ng mga relihiyoso, at sa kababawan ng kapwa niya mga mag-aaral. Kahit sumusuka na sa kalasingan, wala pa ring humpay si Intoy sa pagpuna sa kakulangan o kalabisan ng mga pangyayari sa buong mundo. Oo, ganyan kahusay si Intoy—sa murang gulang niya na bente anyos, alam niya ang lahat ng kaganapan sa Pilipinas at sa ibang bansa.

At dahil nga sa dami ng komentaryo at walang humpay na pamimilosopo ni Intoy, hindi ko na tuloy nasundan pa ang tunay na kalagayan ng relasyon nila ni Jen. Sa totoo lang nawalan na ako nang gana na alamin pa. Nawala na kasi sa isip ko na nobela nga pala ang binabasa ko at hindi sermon ng may akda nito na sa Eros S. Atalia.

Gayunpaman, sang-ayon ako kay Atalia sa layunin niya na gawing accessible sa bawat mamamayan ang kanyang “nobela,” at ang literatura sa pangkalahatan. Naniniwala ako na dapat hikayatin ang lahat na magbasa—bata matanda mahirap mayaman lalaki babae bakla tomboy pangit maganda guwapo. Naniniwala ako na mahalaga ang pagbabasa sa paghubog ng kamalayan ng bawat tao. Kaya sana, noong isinusulat pa lamang ni Atalia itong “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me,” naglaan siya ng kaunting panahon man lang upang tingnan sa diksiyunaryo kung mayroon ngang mga kataga tulad nang “undestructible,” “invinsible,” “rabbies,” at “leche plan”. At kaunti ring panahon upang saliksikin ang tamang gamit ng “specie/species,” “use/used,” at “breath/breathe”. Sana rin inalam niya kung ano ang mali sa paulit-ulit niyang paggamit ng mga expression na “If symptom persist…” at “10th year anniversary”.

Hindi naman sa nagmamarunong o nag-iinarte ako pero, para sa akin kasi, bilang manunulat na naglalayong imulat ang kamalayan ng ordinaryong mamamayan, may tungkulin si Atalia na ituro sa kanyang mga mambabasa kung ano ang tama. May tungkulin din si Atalia sa mga katulad ko na bumili ng kanyang aklat na magbenta nang maayos at inayos na nobela.

181/ Delusions of Grandma

What is there to say about lawyers and lovers?

They’re probably not the best people to put in one equation, same or opposite sides, but Carrie Fisher certainly has a lot to say about them in her “Delusions of Grandma”. Here’s her most interesting bit for lawyers:

They’re opportunists. They rely on other people’s troubles or talents for their income, and they end up costing more than they’re worth. They’re expert at making themselves invaluable, at creating a need that wasn’t there.

I’m on the fence here. It’s true, lawyers do tend to complicate matters supposedly in the name of advocacy. They do tend to make their suggested measures urgent and necessary. They do tend to be loud and riotous. But, without lawyers, life can also be complicated. Without their strict adherence to rules, one can end up behind cold steel bars. Without their penchant for safety clauses, one can lose one’s precious house in a snap. So, yes, lawyers—love them, hate them, they make the world spin somewhat in order. Well, somewhat.

Now this bit, for the lovers, I believe holds true. I don’t claim to know much about relationships. I suspect though that death, certain as it is to come, is not really the terminal point; it is but a portal to another dimension, perhaps to that great beyond. So here goes Carrie:

That’s what death gives to the living—the love for a fellow soldier in battle, won by a higher order of losing. Of watching life slip away into something less than death because of the company they were able to keep. Survivors of someone else’s storm, they’d been whipped into whirlwinds of love and fear and stillness.

Proof that I know next to nothing when it comes to relationships, the romantic kind especially, is this—which I honestly find a brilliant pick-up line:

Every five minutes, seventy-three women are raped in America, six point five men die of AIDS, and two thousand forty babies are born with birth defects….So why don’t we contribute to a sunnier statistic?

180/ Travels with Herodotus

I felt trapped. Besieged by language. Language struck me at that moment as something material, something with a physical dimension, a wall rising up in the middle of the road and preventing my going further, closing off the world, making it unattainable. It was an unpleasant and humiliating sensation.

Ryszard Kapuscinski has the best job in the world. He gets to travel Asia, Latin America, and Africa nosing for news. He gets to meet interesting people and see striking places gathering information.

To guide him, accompany him, entertain him, teach him the ways of reportage Kapuscinski brings Herodotus with him. Or, to be exact, Herodotus’ The Histories—from which pages he derives comfort wisdom courage inspiration.

Aside from learning how to inquire, to poke, to snoop, to investigate, to become the celebrated correspondent that he eventually became, Kapuscinski also learns myriad lessons from Herodotus, such as this: “Until [a man] is dead, you had better refrain from calling him happy, and just call him unfortunate.”

With such a piece of advice, and a whole lot more, Kapuscinski trudges back to Herodotus’ voyages in Ancient Greece and forward to his journalistic explorations in the New World.

The upshot: “Travels with Herodotus”.

179/ The Human Stain

That’s how it is—in her own dry way, that is all Faunia was telling the girl feeding the snake, we leave a stain, we leave a trail, we leave our imprint. Impurity, cruelty, abuse, error, excrement, semen—there’s no other way to be here. …The stain that is there before its mark. Without the sign it is there. The stain so intrinsic it doesn’t require a mark. The stain that precedes disobedience, that encompasses disobedience and perplexes all explanation and understanding. It is why all the cleansing is a joke. A barbaric joke at that. The fantasy of purity is appalling. It’s insane.

It feels 1968 even though “The Human Stain” takes place in 1998. Coleman is disgraced for calling his black students “spooks”. Faunia, just because she’s a woman, gets away with being illiterate despite having attended high school for two years. Les is haunted by the Vietnam War. Delphine trades her womanhood with professional success.

And the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal? As outrageous and salacious as it may have been fifteen years ago, it really is no more than a mere footnote to the ancient disorders of human affairs.

Philip Roth broods over these familiar issues that have long festered human affairs with nostalgic discernment:

At a certain age, a man’s outlook is best tempered by moderation, if not resignation, if not outright capitulation.

Freedom is very dangerous. And nothing is on your own terms for long.

Self-knowledge but concealed. What is as powerful as that?

Learn, he told himself, before you die, to live beyond the jurisdiction of their enraging, loathsome, stupid blame.

The secret to living in the rush of the world with a minimum of pain is to get as many people as possible to string along with your delusions; the trick to living alone up here…is to organize the silence, to think of its mountaintop plenitude as capital, silence as wealth exponentially increasing.

Postscript: During Faunia’s funeral, her father is accompanied by a youngish Filipino woman, Sylvia, a nurse who stood directly behind him and whose face remained expressionless throughout the service. Apparently, this Filipino woman with a small implacable, pale brown face, is more than a nurse to Faunia’s father. Sylvia protects the father from intrusions coming from unwanted family members.

178/ The True History of the Elephant Man: The Definitive Account of the Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Joseph Carey Merrick

As a specimen of humanity, Merrick was ignoble and repulsive; but the spirit of Merrick, if it could be seen in the form of the living, would assume the figure of an upstanding and heroic man, smooth browed and clean of limb, and with eyes that flashed undaunted courage.

Just how many of us can claim that we share a surgeon with the King of England? That we are close friends with the Prince and Princess of Wales, top actress Madge Kendall, and all the other power players of the English society? That we have a private box reserved in the Drury Lane Theatre? That we have spent one glorious summer in a cottage by the countryside? That we are in treatment in a special private room at the historic London Hospital?

Or that we have writers Michael Howell and Peter Ford to memorialize our existence in “The True History of the Elephant Man: The Definitive Account of the Tragic and Extraordinary Life of Joseph Carey Merrick” as if we are the greatest mortal to have ever walked this planet? This, in addition to countless other books plays films.

Not many, I would guess. But Joseph Carey Merrick, the Elephant Man, can–at least during the two or three years before he died. True, he had the misfortune of being born with arguably the most anomalous and atrocious deformity fit only for a circus spectacle. But society more than made up for the brutalities with which he had to deal all his growing-up years.

In a way, his curse was his luck.

177/ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Poor Oscar. Without even realizing it he’d fallen into one of those Let’s-Be-Friends Vortexes, the bane of nerdboys everywhere. These relationships were love’s version of a stay in the stocks, in you go, plenty of misery guaranteed and what you got out of it besides bitterness and heartbreak nobody knows. Perhaps some knowledge of self and of women.

Fuku. Zafa. Call me naïve even simpleton but I do believe in luck, the good and bad kind both. I do believe that there are people out there who were born to live the Good Life. They don’t have to do any thing much to get what they want. They sit by, their dreams happen. Everything just works out for them, like magic.

And then there are those who sweat blood, break bones, lose limbs—still they get nothing. It is their curse to live the Doomed Life and meet a most bitter end. For them, happiness is nothing more than a glimmer, meant to simply tease mock torment them.

Oscar Wao, fat awkward nerd, personifies fuku. The likes of him derives zafa from only this: “Nothing more exhilarating (he wrote) than saving yourself by the simple act of waking.”

But just to be clear, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is not a mere binary opposition between fuku and zafa. Junot Diaz so cleverly skillfully spellbindingly weaves his narrative with historical accounts, political commentary, pop culture references, and volumes of nerd talk.

In the Philippines, we had Marcos. In the Dominican Republic, they had Trujillo. Now we know Satan spawned a number of diablitos. And they’re everywhere.

176/ Salt Dancers

When I turned four, my father taught me the salt dance: he sprinkled a line of salt on the living room floor, positioned my bare feet on top of his shoes, and told me leave everything behind that line. His gold-flecked eyes high above me, he walked me across that salt border into my brand-new year—he backward, I forward—my chin tilted against the buttons of his silk vest.

I get Julia for keeping a grudge against her father who, under the influence of alcohol, beat her when she was a child. But I don’t get how easily she forgives her mother who abandoned her and her brother when they were still children and never bothered (of course she claims she did) to see them again even when they were already grown-ups and the reason (she left because their father was abusive and violent) for abandoning them long gone. She cheated on their father, became pregnant with her lover, and left them. What it all comes down to is this: she murdered them, buried them, and got on with her life.

Ursula Hegi’s “Salt Dancers” is overly dramatic as to be almost formulaic in its discernible attempt to be a heartbreaker but it somehow provides a platform for debate on betrayal and forgiveness between father/daughter on the one hand and between mother/daughter on the other. Yes, the son is not part of the equation because he does not at all seem affected. Why so, I honestly am clueless.

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