Monday, June 22, 2009
I know you're probably dying for an entry by Lizzie. I'm partially following Nana Peterson's emailed advice not to pressure Lizzie into posting, nor to require it. Once it becomes a chore, I suppose the reasoning goes, there will be no incentive to do it.
Honestly, Lizzie's found manga online, so when we come down here to upload or write our posts, she loses herself in that strangely stylized world. That's after she checks her gmail for messages from Meghan and Jaimee, and hunches over her responses to them, smiling enigmatically to herself and flicking me semi-angry glances to the side. "You know it's illegal to read other peoples' emails," she says.
If you're needing a Lizzie fix and there's nothing forthcoming here, I suggest you check out her new Facebook page, under Lizzie Peterson. Since we created it together, she's been taking a plethora of those silly quizzes, including the one that asks you what sort of stereotype you inhabit (I'm the art freak; she turns out to be the loner. "What's up with that?" she fretted. Or maybe it was me fretting. I don't want my daughter to inhabit an evil stereotype before she even reaches high school...) If you're on the up and up, I'll let her friend you. (Perhaps it's naive of me, but I can't imagine anyone that we haven't vetted, at least by proxy, reading this blog right now.)
I asked my Fiction Writing students for advice: what Filipino writers, writing in English, would they recommend for me?
I jotted down their suggestions in my notebook, Cha looking over my shoulder through a beautiful scrim of dark hair to correct my spelling: Christina Pantoja Hidalgo, I wrote, June Cruz Reyes, Eddie Angbarros, Alfred Yuson, Cesar Luis Aquino, Nick Joaquin, Christopher Pike, Jessica Zafra (starred, because mentioned more than once), V. H. M. Gonzalez, Joel Stein, R. J. Ledesma, Diqueros of the Inquirer column. And of course Jose Dalisay, aka Butch.
In Butch's office, I found an old, browning copy of Nick Juaquin's The Woman With Two Navels, and I've been stretched out on the couch here, under the fan, for a few hours now, lost in the semi-surreal world of these post-war Filipinos as they move back and forth in their minds and bodies between the dreamy world of Manila's denial and the prosaic world of Hong Kong's exiles. The novel's style reminds me of the noir flourishes of Raymond Chandler and his Big Sleep, the dark, dripping streets and the twisted, feline femme fatales that haunt the protagonist's waking, midnight hours.
It's been a hot day, in the upper 80s with matching humidity--an "underground weather" website says the heat index is 102--and as I languish on my couch with my feet up on pillows and the fan breathing on me its small mouthfuls of warm breeze I'm touring a Manila that hasn't existed since the 50s, wondering about all the nooks and crannies of the current city that I'll probably never see. Because I'm a frightened American woman. Because I don't have a car or a tour guide. Because, like the Manilan citizens Juaquin describes, I too want to forget or deny the filth in the gutters, the rotting rats and black dust, the little girl squatting to relieve herself on the busy corner, the higgeldy piggeldy tin roofs, held down by old black tires, crammed into the nooks behind this apartment--to forget about my complicity, either through undigested nationality or economic privilege or middle class guilt or plain willful ignorance, in the inequality, in the Hollywood snap-snap glamor dream over the country's contested ground, its body.
The sad truth is that I can hold these sharp self recriminations in my mind along with a nagging sense that my current hair style is square and dowdy, that the dress I'm wearing doesn't flatter my figure. How shallow am I really? Sometimes I wonder why it is that I find it so hard to actually inhabit my life. Instead, I feel I'm playing, badly, a part in a boring drawing room play of manners, the kind of play that Henry James might write, miffed that his audience pelts him with rotten tomatoes at the finish.
Meanwhile, two lone ants dance a kind of Arabesque into and out of the patches of sunlight between shadows cast by the dining table and chairs. Human angst, the petty strivings of human against human, human dreams--none of these enters their insect realm.