Redirections #1

Favorite long reads that do not (cannot) make it to my yearly reading goal but sustain my need for good stories that punch you in the gut.

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Sometimes, I start writing only to find out one paragraph in that I have nothing to say. It is weirdly frustrating. I’ve been consuming a lot of very good writing recently yet the greatness barely rubs off. An old adage insists that good writing comes from good reading, so I read and read and read. It would be nice to share a story too, but until I find my voice and a good tale to match it, I might just as well go on reading.

And so I read. Every break I get from work turns into short sprees – from Stephen King’s On Writing, to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Part 1, to the first few pages of Anna Karenina. I’m also supposedly to be in the middle of two short story collections but I can never seem to want to read them, but I want to read something long and engaging but nothing too long and too demanding so I turn to great writing on the web instead.

Roxana Halls
Roxana Halls

One of my recent favorites is Zadie Smith’s Dead Man Laughing – an essay about growing up a comedy nerd, her father’s love for comedy, and the jokes that run through her family.

Zadie Smith is a long-time writer girl crush. She writes so beautifully and her words will cover you with a nice rose-tinted veil of happiness and introspection. There are people who see the world differently, and Zadie’s gift is to write about this distinct worldview so wonderfully.

The humor of its people helped make it [Britain] bearable. You don’t have to be funny to live here, but it helps. Hancock, Fawlty, Partridge, Brent: in my mind, they’re all clinging to the middle rungs of England’s class ladder. That, in large part, is the comedy of their situations.

Another good one is Emily Nussbaum’s The Last Girl in Larchmont – a profile on the fascinating Joan Rivers. I’ve always known Joan Rivers and her brand of comedy but I have never gravitated to her Fashion Police stint. Roast comedy has never appealed to me (it feels cheap and exploitative), but I loved how Nussbaum framed Joan Rivers’s comedy as a product of a sexist era. I’ve come to admire Rivers for standing out in a man’s game during a time when it was harder to be a woman.

.. her flamboyant self-hatred made possible this generation’s flamboyant self-love, set the groundwork for the crazy profusion of female comics on TV these days, on cable and network, cheerleading one another, collaborating and producing and working in teams, as if women weren’t enemies at all.

Roxana Halls_
Roxana Halls

Another favorite is Larry Ypil’s  A Song of Two Cities – a nostalgic narrative about being a Cebuano expat in Singapore. My casual disregard for the quirks of my island city always gets shaken every time I read about Cebu from the perspective of someone who is away from it.

To be a Filipino expat writer in Southeast Asia is to be a witness to ways in which versions of oneself are mirrored in landscapes that are different from and similar to one’s own. To suffer the weather of the same but also of the not quite.

* Featured Image: Augustus John’s The Blue Pool. 1911

Storytellers’ Night #6: On the Road

I’ve been wanting so badly to write about Storytellers’ Night, but work has been persistently nagging and when I get home, all my brain wants to do is shut off and rest.

It’s a pleasure to have had shared a piece of my life in each of the last four Storytellers’ Nights I’ve been to.  It’s been a year since I was first invited to share – I started on Summertime Big-Girl Independence, a very personal piece about growing up with my mother and then growing old without her. It was also the first piece I sat down to write in what felt like years. I’m typically very discreet. I don’t talk about my dreams and I’m even more private about my deep-rooted grief, so getting down and dirty with my personal demons and sharing something so intimate was a revelation to me as it probably was to the people present that night.

Last Saturday was the event’s sixth night and we talked about adventures or misadventures On the Road.

As much as I enjoy the actual story-telling, the stories we share before and after are something I always look forward to. While talking about who/what we’re reading right now, Patskie transitioned to telling me about this video then suggested that I read Stephen King’s On Writing. I am in the middle of that book right now and it’s so much fun. From here onward, anyone who disrespects Stephen King is dead to me, but more on that later.

Dylan also showed me his latest volume of sketches – his work just seems to get better and better every time I see him.

And I only ever get to see him and all these other cool cats on STN. I am so thankful to Mark and Jo of Happy Garaje for getting these people (including me) out of our caves.

Mark said that there is magic in these nights – nights when we are able to share things that we normally couldn’t and for some of us, Storytellers’ Nights are the only places we can ever partake in this magic.  Thanks, Happy Garaje/Folk Fiction, for being the purveyor of that magic. You have truly made something beautiful.

‘Til the next night.

 

 

 

Book Swap Cebu

I dropped by the second Book Swap Cebu event last Friday to have some of my old favorites traded with some of other people’s faves. I missed the first one earlier this year so I’m really glad they organized another one so soon after.

These are my loot:


I haven’t been book shopping much lately, partly because I have no time, but mostly because I really haven’t got the space for more books after I’ve moved in to a smaller apartment. I have tons of books and I’ve given away so many (including my Harry Potter set, nbd) but when I moved out last year, I was very much surprised to find that my books still took up a good four boxes + 1 shelf.

I really didn’t expect to go home with so many books as I’ve restricted myself to only pick up titles that are very compelling so imagine my surprise when I found someone who traded in China Mieville’s Kraken and C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. Grief has been on my death reading list for so long, and I am the biggest China Mieville fan I know lol, so I was ecstatic. I felt like a child again.

I also traded in my copy of Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (A Discworld book), so it was amusing to get another Discworld book back (Witches Abroad) as a sort of funny Discworld barter.

The place (Handuraw Mango) was packed and too bad I couldn’t stay for Short Reads live after the swapping as I had to rush to the other Handuraw for Karla’s book launch. That place was also stuffed to the brim, but I managed to get a copy of her book.

It’s exciting to have two prime hangout places in Cebu crowded with book-loving people on a Friday night. I never thought I’d see the day.