Further Questions for Kanlaon

After the meet-and-greet last Saturday, December 18, at Libreria in Cubao X (very cool place.  Like the Haight, only much more exotic), Michelle aka Artseblis had the following questions for Kanlaon blog mistress (By the way, self loved the whole concept of just sitting around a table and chatting with bloggers and book group members.  Esteemed Karina Bolasco and long-lost chat-buddy Danton Remoto were there as well).  Without further ado, Michelle’s message to self:

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Hi, Miss Marianne. Meeting you was a lot of fun. I think you will never run out of stories, so busy is your imagination, which is good for us readers because that means more books by you for us to read. Before you left I mentioned that I had questions and you said you would love to know those questions. So, here they are.

1.  Your brother was shocked reading The Lost Language (or was it another book you authored?). You mentioned he was astounded upon learning stuff about you revealed by your stories. That must mean they never really knew you that well at all or you made some effort to edit yourself with them. Or maybe some other reason. Still, did the possibility of revealing more than you should occur to you when you write your books?

Writing, like blogging or any kind of writing (even reviewing) is ultimately a form of exposure.  Trying to self-censor is the surest way to kill your spirit.  That effort to self-edit will be very evident in your writing.  So, the possibility of revealing more of myself than I “should” —  well, I don’t think of that at all when I write.

People can respond any way they like to your writings.  They don’t have to like what you say.  But for a writer, I feel honesty is very important.  And if you’re honest, it doesn’t matter whether what you write is flattering/unflattering, it’s the truth.

Besides, my writing isn’t so much about my family as it is about myself, my effort to understand myself and my relationships.  I’m not even writing about family at all (well, I don’t think I was) in The Lost Language.

On second thought, I think it really helps that I lives in the States, and that most of my family is in the Philippines!

2.   You mentioned that you don’t socialize too much with other authors. The idea of objectivity or honesty when reviewing came up. So given all the discussions put forth about the complications that might ensue from having close relationships with authors, is organizing intimate conversations between book bloggers/reviewers and authors such a good idea? We met you and liked you. And this could affect how we blog about The Lost Language and your other books (for good or ill).

I strongly believe in E. M. Forster’s “Only connect.”  Yes, organizing conversations between book bloggers/reviewers and authors is a very good idea.  I think knowing more about an author’s background or way of thinking actually makes his/her work more accessible to the reader.  Afterwards, the reader can always say, “I liked the author, but hated his/her book.”  That is the complete and utter privilege of the reader.  “Liking” an author has nothing to do with whether you will like his/her writing, but it may help to deepen your understanding of the author’s work.  Which is a very very good thing, for both author and reader.

3.   The question of which is more influential or trustworthy, reviews/recommendations by professional book reviewers or by book bloggers, is buzzing right now in the blogosphere. In this discussion thread, http://goo.gl/6SVkB, majority of the comments showed a preference for recommendations from book bloggers because readers feel a connection with fellow ordinary readers (who blog) missing with professional book reviewers with very high standards and rigorous review methods. You mentioned you do adhere to a strict review policy. My question is what is your take on the emergence of book bloggers whose reviews are mainly reactions, based on simply whether they liked the book or not? After you left, Gege of http://gegeflipspages.blogspot.com and I got to talking and she said that she’s not sure if her writeups can legitimately be called book reviews, not based on any review framework as they are. I confess that my own blog posts are primarily gutspill and mindburps more than anything else.

“Gutspill” or “mindburp” —  I like those words.  Again, it’s a question of honesty.  I’d take a book blogger’s gut reaction any day over that of a professional author who I know has been reviewed favorably by the author he/she is currently reviewing, and is into “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”

That said, I make a distinction of course between the more personal reactions on the blogs (which I enjoy, and are a separate genre from book reviews, at least in my humble opinion) and the kind of reviews, say, that appear in literary journals.

There IS an art to book reviewing, and like all art, it’s creative.  Not in the sense that you make up stuff that isn’t in the book you’re reviewing, but in the sense that you are creating something unique (in writing the review), something almost as unique as the book itself.  And this unique thing will only come about if you’re honest about the process by which you came to appreciate or not appreciate a book’s particular qualities.

Sorry I wasn’t able to share these questions during the meetup. I confess feeling a little intimidated by the level of intelligence in the room. :P

I’m very excited at reading your book. Have a great day!

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Dear Michelle, I hope we continue this conversation because, frankly, it is so exciting.

BIG SHOUT-OUT to Paolo Chikiamco for organizing the event!

Stay tuned.

Bacolod Mon Amour

Self is back in Bacolod, in a little boarding house, the door to her apartment wide open to the corridor and to a view of buildings, a floor fan blowing air directly towards her back.

It is peaceful here.

Terminal 3 in the Domestic Airport in Manila was absolute chaos last night:  long long lines, just to get into the terminal.  Then another long line to check in her bag.  Then another long line for the security check.  Then a long and very chaotic line to board the Cebu Pacific plane.

But it is such a short flight to Bacolod, not even an hour.  And everyone in her family asks:  “You’re going to Bacolod again?”  Completely aghast.  But why?  In America, people think nothing of flying to Los Angeles from San Francisco for the day.  And nothing of flying to Las Vegas for one night.  The airfare on this last Bacolod trip might have been quadruple what she paid when she first arrived in Manila, but it is comparable to what she would have had to pay if she had flown from San Francisco to Los Angeles or San Diego or any southern California city.

And now she is here, in beloved city, and there is no price you can put on peace of mind, and on the opportunity to breathe clean(er) air, and to hear cocks crowing in the morning, all over the city.  Naturally, self is tired, but the last few days have been good.  Self called Dearest Mum from the terminal, and last night she was served a simple dinner of kalabasa, small salty fish (20 pesos a kilo from the market) and garlic fried rice.  This morning, she ate ubiquitous Vienna sausage, fried egg, Nescafé and rice.  How beautiful life is when one feels loved.  And that she does feel, in Bacolod.

Self loves the fact that she was able to travel so much on this trip (For starters:  Cebu, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Siquijor, Talisay, Hinoba-an, Laguna) and meet so many people (Susan Lara, Danny Reyes, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Francis Aguas, Ian Rosales-Casocot, Paolo Chikamoco, Charles Tan) as well as old friends Lissa, Jenny, Judy and Dearest Cuz Maitoni, and let’s not forget the trusty drivers Danny and Dante (Twins!), and Joel, who made self’s hectic peregrinations not only doable, but fun. (Maya, self missed seeing you —  next time, for sure!)

Self decides she will have to find a little area of peace for herself when she gets back to Redwood City.  Maybe the stacks of Green Library on the Stanford campus, or the Rodin Sculpture Garden.  Maybe the second floor of Draeger’s in Menlo Park, where no one knows her.  Maybe the garden (which she is dreading to see, hubby said he hasn’t had time to water).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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