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.
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.
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