The Great Gilda Cordero-Fernando

(Read all the way to the end; this post has many digressions)

Re-reading a fantastic short story, “Hothouse,” by Gilda Cordero-Fernando, a mimeographed copy of which self just pulled from a closet overflowing with old files.

Thank you, Jennie and Marie Kondo for inspiring self to organize! She had to drop everything and leave for Manila for two weeks, supposedly Dearest Mum Read the rest of this entry »

Work-in-Progress: Camarote de Marinero (Part of Linked Collection)

“Father, here you go. You have your own room.”

There was a narrow platform which he presumed was his bed. Beneath the platform was a small cabinet.

“Your things here,” the boy said.

Later, he overheard the men talking about him: they called him cochino. Even though Matias was not fat, not even close to, he knew the most well-fed men in the villages were usually the friars. It was new to him, the contempt, the disrespect, because usually men of the cloth were treated with deference.

Another time, he heard the captain say, “sin experiencia del mundo” and assumed he was the one being referred to.

 

The Pearl Shop, Philippines

It always surprises her to learn that self’s got a following. Not here, IN THE PHILIPPINES. Which has thrived in her TOTAL ABSENCE. Like, go figure. In fact, she’s on the curriculum in the University of the Philippines.

She remembers giving a reading at a hotel in Cebu during International PEN, and all her books sold. Every last copy. Amazing, right? It sold out, even though the book was expensive by Philippine standards: 500 pesos per, almost $10 US. For a country like the Philippines, to have sold out at that price, for a writer who rarely goes home, is truly something.

She was at a dinner after her reading, and someone tapped her on her shoulder. She turned, and a woman self did not know said, “I just wanted you to know. I really loved The Lost Language.”

At the Cebu Airport the next day, a stranger came up, introduced himself, and said he flew from Cagayan de Oro to Cebu, JUST TO HEAR HER READ. Her hair was a sweaty mess, her clothes were rumpled. If she had known people would recognize her, she would have gone to a parlor.

Dearest Mum is always berating self for her lack of style. She looks, Dearest Mum said, like a slob. Because she has no compunction about wearing any old thing that happens to be clean.

The man who spoke to her at the airport in Cebu turned out to be a writer himself. He gave her a copy of his book. He writes plays. His book was published IN DIALECT which is so totally earth-shattering and amazing. No English translation, and self doesn’t know the dialect. But. Still. Self really believes in regional literature. Because literature from the margins is MORE powerful.

The writer’s name was Carlos A. Aréjola.

Here are the production notes, setting, cast of characters etc. from his play Unang Yugto:

Tagpuan (Setting): Cottage sa isang resort (A cottage in a resort)

Panahon (Time): Kasalukuyan (The Present)

CHARACTERS:

Edwin – matangkad, guapo (tall, handsome)

Toledo – mestisuhin (mestizo), 18 taong gulang (18 years old)

Dagul – 21, moreno (dark-skinned), medyo pandak (somewhat short), may body piercings.

Falcon – mestisuhin (mestizo), ayos na ayos ang buhok (Hair fussed over; sorry, that’s the best she can come up with)

Dalawang Dalaga (2 girls): college girls, magaganda (beautiful), mapuputi (white-skinned)

Mga Pasahero Sa Airport (Passengers in the Airport)

Cagayan de Oro isn’t exactly unknown, it’s a very populous province. But she’s never set foot in Cagayan de Oro, never given a reading there, doesn’t know a single person from Cagayan de Oro. Somehow, over there, in her home country, her book (with no marketing at all), has trickled from the urban centers to the provinces. Which means her work is embraced as a  vital part of Philippine culture. The knowledge is so humbling.

(Here, there’s a 40 Filipino Writers You Must Read List, which is published every December from San Francisco. She’s never on that list)

A few days ago, on Facebook, she met the owner of a shop called The Pearl Shop. Self accepted his friend request and then he told her that they sell her book. She said, Hey, I could send you some autographed copies if you like!

He was happy at the news.

The store is in Manila, and they are a purveyor of PEARLS (not a bookstore, in other words).

Heart Eyes, Pearl Shop.

To the end of time.

 

“The Son of My Father”: Story # 20 in Carlos Bulosan’s THE LAUGHTER OF MY FATHER

Make no mistake, this father of the narrator’s, to whom Bulosan dedicates 25 (memoir-ish) short stories, would be no one’s idea of a good father. He drinks, he gambles, he sleeps with the neighbor’s wife, he gives the family home to a Mexican beauty he has a crush on. But here we are.

Bulosan treats all his father’s foibles with such affection and humor. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, BULOSAN MUST BE A SAINT.

From The Son of My Father:

“You are a tragedy, Simeon!” they said.

It was true. Father was a tragedy. My brother Osong was not his spitting image at all. Osong was tall and fair of complexion. His bones were sharp and the hair on his legs was thick and long. He spoke several languages and dialects. He did not drink anything that had alcohol. He smoked American cigars and cigarettes.

Father was small and dark. His bones were soft and the only hair he had was on his head. And it was nothing to brag about, either. He could not read or write.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Capitalism of My Father: Story # 7 in Bulosan’s THE LAUGHTER OF MY FATHER

There is such a streak of fatalism that runs through the Filipino character. Was that a legacy of the Spanish? Or was that always present, even before?

Carlos Bulosan was from Pangasinan. So presumably this was how life was in that province, pre-World War II.

  • The farmers sold their bales and went to the market. They bought the things that were most needed in their homes and walked around in the plaza counting their money. Some of them were lured by the gamblers at the cockpit, and they went home without their money.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Book Greed”: James P. Blaylock in POETS & WRITERS July/August 2019

  • A writer’s library is more than just a collection of books. It is also a piecemeal biography of that writer’s life, and measurably so, as most have writers have spent countless hours reading the books that they now own or have borrowed, hours that add up to years, perhaps decades, given a long enough life.

— James P. Blaylock, My Life in Books

Love this essay, which echoes so many of self’s feelings about her own library. Just recently, self decided to start reading some of her collection. Books she’s picked up from author’s readings, and then stashed away on a shelf, in the fond hope she’d get to them “someday.”

Someday is here!

Two of the books she’s owned for years but never got around to reading:

  • Carlos Bulosan’s story collection, The Laughter of My Father
  • Kelly Link’s short story collection, Get In Trouble (She read a couple of stories, not the whole collection)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Reading on the Fourth of July, 2019

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HOME: 4 July 2019

Today self finished Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart and began a re-read of the Rosario Ferré collection The Youngest Doll (University of Nebraska Press, 1991). Some pieces are memoir, some are nonfiction, some are magical realist.

  • Being a writer . . . one has to learn to live by letting go, by renouncing the reaching of this or that shore, to let oneself become the meeting place of both . . . In a way, all writing is a translation, a struggle to interpret the meaning of life, and in this sense the translator can be said to be a shaman, a person said to be deciphering conflicting human texts, searching for the final unity of meaning in speech.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“A Good Wife and Mother”: Rosario Ferré

The day of my debut as a writer, I sat at my typewriter for a long time, mulling over these thoughts. Inevitably, writing my first story meant taking my first step toward Heaven or Hell, and that made me vacillate between a state of euphoria and depression. It was as if I were about to be born, peering timidly through the doors of Limbo. If my voice rings false or my will fails me, I said to myself, all my sacrifices will have been in vain. I will foolishly have given up the protection which, despite its disadvantages, at least allowed me to be a good wife and mother, and I will justly have fallen from the frying pan into the fire.

Recommended Reading: Rosario Ferré’s short story, The Youngest Doll, from the collection of the same name

CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD, Vol. 1

For the workshop this weekend, re-reading some old stories to show different ways of writing memoir. In particular, thinking of a story called Lenox Hill, December 1991, which Jessica Hagedorn included in the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead.

When Jessica contacted self to solicit a piece, self had nothing, nothing, nothing.

Her sister had died just the month before. She did keep a diary, though.

The diary became the story. The first story in what later become a cycle of grief stories: Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)

For a while, a course called Ethics in Medicine, taught at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, included the story in their syllabus.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Some of Self’s Publications, For Students Who Ask

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Ohm Sweet Ohm

Adventures in life from the Sunshine State to the Golden Gate

nancy merrill photography

capturing memories one moment at a time

Asian Cultural Experience

Preserving the history and legacy of Salinas Chinatown

Rantings Of A Third Kind

The Blog about everything and nothing and it's all done in the best possible taste!

Sauce Box

Never get lost in the Sauce

GK Dutta

Be One... Make One...

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Fashion Not Fear

Fueling fearlessness through style and inspiration.

Wanderlust and Wonderment

My writing and photo journey of inspiration and discovery

transcribingmemory

Decades of her words.

John Oliver Mason

Observations about my life and the world around me.

Insanity at its best!

Yousuf Bawany's Blog

litadoolan

Any old world uncovered by new writing

unbolt me

the literary asylum

the contemporary small press

A site for small presses, writers, poets & readers

The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

A journey from one end of the bookshelf to the other

Random Storyteller

A crazy quilt of poems, stories, and humor