The host of the Water, Water Everywhere Challenge is Jez.
Pismo Beach was the emptiest she’d ever seen it, one day in mid-August.
Pismo Beach is important to self’s emotional life, not just because son attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was here a lot: because Carlos Bulosan wrote a harrowing story about being a migrant worker here (in the 1940s) and feeling cold and isolated and weary.
Horacio de la Costa was dying of liver cancer before self arrived at Ateneo de Manila, and so she never took a class from one of the greatest Filipino writers.
Last month, she called Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino (Her go-to place for science fiction — she ordered the first six books of The Expanse from them — as well as hard-to-find books like The Laughter of My Father, by Filipino migrant worker Carlos Bulosan) and they were able to get her a copy of de la Costa’s The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768. The book arrived a few days ago, wowowowowow
From the Preface:
A grant from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus enabled me to spend several months in Europe in 1951, which I employed in gathering additional material in Roman and Spanish archives . . . In 1955 the Ateneo de Manila, of whose teaching staff I am a member, granted me leave of absence to undertake the actual writing of the history. A grant from the Philippine Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus permitted my doing this at Georgetown University, close to the great repository of the Library of Congress.
From Chapter One: The First Mission
In 1540, Pope Paul III granted the approval of the Holy See to a new religious order organized by a Basque gentleman . . .
Only 12 years later, the Jesuits were at “the gates of China.” They had founded “mission centers along the far-flung line of Portuguese trading posts from Goa to the Moluccas and obtained a foothold in Japan.” There were Jesuit missionaries in Abyssinia, the Congo, and Brazil. “The mission of Florida was opened in 1566, that of Peru in 1568, and that of Mexico in 1572.” In January 1581, a “little band” of Jesuit missionaries took “the road that dipped down from Mexico City to the little seaport of Acapulco where the galleon San Martin, 400 tons,” captained by Luis de Sahagosa, “waited to take them across the Pacific.”
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.
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.
One of our foremost Filipino writers was a migrant worker who died at 40 of tuberculosis, in a Seattle boarding house.
His name was Carlos Bulosan, and The Laughter of My Father was one of Dear Departed Dad’s favorite books (Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino found this copy for me, previously used naturally!)
Reading it now, self can understand why. She’s reading the Bantam edition, published August 1946.
Laughter was our only wealth. Father was a laughing man. He would go into the living room and stand in front of the tall mirror, stretching his mouth into grotesque shapes with his fingers and making faces at himself; then he would rush into the kitchen, roaring with laughter.
Since self is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Mendocino Art Center, this week she’s been writing up a storm (also sending out her work) and adding to her reading list with regular drop-ins to one of the best bookstores in the world: Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino. Yelp gives them five stars!
She also asked two fabulous writers if they could share their list of Recommended Books with her, and she was so happy when they agreed. (Even if your local indie doesn’t carry the titles, they can always order them. In most cases, they’ll take an average of three or four days to get to the bookstore)
First up, Luisa Igloria
Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. Her latest works include the collection The Buddha Wonders If She Is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), the chapbooks Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015). Her collection Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser was selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize and published by Utah State University Press. Her other collections are: Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press). She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. Her website is www.luisaigloria.com
Luisa’s Poetry Recommendations:
Afterland, Mai Der Vang
Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar
Carpathia, Cecilia Woloch
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
Chord, Rick Barot
Eye Level, Jenny Xie
Glasshouses, Lighthouses, Tung-hui Hu
Khaty Xiong, Poor Anima, Khaty Xiong
Living Quarters, Adrienne Su
Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
Some Say the Lark, Jennifer Chang
Stereo. Island. Mosaic., Vincent Toro
Registers of Illuminated Villages, Tarfia Faizullah
The Second O of Sorrow, Sean Thomas Dougherty
When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen
Whereas, Layli Long Soldier
Luisa’s Fiction Recommendations:
A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
America is Not the Heart, Elaine Castillo
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
But For the Lovers, Wilfrido Nolledo
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Mayor of the Roses, Marianne Villanueva
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
Smaller and Smaller Circles, F.H. Batacan
The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal, Brian Roley
The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Vagrants, Yiyun Li
Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Valiant Gentlemen, Sabina Murray
Luisa’s Nonfiction/Hybrid Recommendations:
100 Demons, Lynda Barry
America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan
Blind Spot, Teju Cole
Echolalia in Script, Sam Roxas-Chua 姚
Kilometer Zero, Wilfredo Pascual, Jr.
On Imagination, Mary Ruefle
Silver Road, Kazim Ali
The Dark Interval, Rainer Maria Rilke
The Kepel Fruit, Tung-hui Hu
Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose
Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Self doesn’t know about you, but she’s itchy to get at more than a few of these books!
I went to bed resolved to change the whole course of my life forever. Where was I to begin? Where did rootless men begin their lives? Who were the men that contributed something positive to society? Show me the books about them! I would read them all! I would educate myself to be like them!
In the morning, rising to the clouds with my dream, I walked out of the hotel a new man.
— Chapter XXIV, America Is In the Heart, by Carlos Bulosan