Quotecard: Cloud 9, Siargao
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August 8, 2012
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My July According to Words

“I love reading books,” a certain Japanese answered the trivial getting-to-know-each-other question, “what are your hobbies?” though we both know to know was misplaced.

I expected another bout of suspense thrillers since most Japanese find Haruki Murakami too baffling.

“Do you know Kobo Abe?” The science of coincidence! My eyes widened because Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes was on my desk—to reacquaint myself to the ambiguousness of his sand for a travel essay.

Rewriting is a painful process; it is an emotional and intellectual bloodshed. While rereading doubles the pleasure. Every read, another layer of meaning, understanding peels off. And I can’t help but ask myself “why did I overlook this part?”

“Of course, I know him! I’m rereading his The Woman in the Dunes,” I beamed.

“Have you read any Western writers?” I asked.

“J.M. Coetzee?”

“Really!? Wow! What book?”


“Oh, the professor who fell in love with his student and had a daughter who got raped and impregnated by the Afrikaans!” And I wanted to add “And the language! My copy is full of highlights! And the professor reminded me of Januar Yap!”

“It was really great talking with you. See you soon,” he said before we ended our twenty-five-minute conversation.

No, he didn’t book my class again. He was looking for a grammar teacher, not a bubbly reader.


Her elbow hit the plastic glass of Coke Float, which hit another Coke Float. She tried to save the first glass, and in the process, the table tilted, and the second glass full of ice hit the floor with a swash. A domino effect kind of misfortunes. Bella, a new teacher at iTalk, reminded me of Carleyville, Ann Beattie’s character in “Hurricane Carleyville”—the first story in Perfect Recall.

 In extracting his wallet, half of the inside of his pant pocket came with it. Adventure Kitty [his cat] brushed against his leg from behind, and he kicked reflexively. The cat scrambled backwards, mewing loudly. He felt awful, actually apologized to the cat, but in moving toward her, the phone toppled to the floor.

 The collection has ten stories; and so far, I only finished this one.

What made Ann Beattie Ann Beattie is her wit, language, and the rare employment of metaphors, which other writers sometimes overuse. Her main characters never asked for sympathy from a reader, but I ended up sympathizing for Carleyville—a war survivor, an animal lover, had a “truck pulling trailer pulling horse carrier,” had his luck run out after the war, recently moved in his fellow war survivor’s Jimmy and his wife, Fiona.

What made Ann Beattie’s stories breathing are the dialogues, Alice Munro’s the monologues.

 “You know,” he said, “after lunch I think I’ll go over and pitch in on that roof.”
“Oh, I think you have to have insurance. Be insured, I mean. I don’t think—”
“Well, maybe my good intentions will get rained out,” he said.
“Fiona,” he said, “don’t you know that old ploy? If you’re really self-loathing, no one will listen to you. So you tell them little things, you point out the road markers, rather than talking about the big wreck on the highway.”
“I tell things for laughs. I want people like you to fall into the trap. It’s a skill of mine, very self-serving.”
“He could use with a little ability to back off from the unimportant things, and see life as a comedy. . .  As a mixture of comedy and tragedy.”
“The war is over, Nelson, and you’ve moved on.”
“To your field.”

Bella blushed since her boyfriend was in front of her. Beattie ended the story “Carleyville,” “C as in Calm?”


“This is LIT IN TRANSIT meant to be read on a bus, in a train, or an easy chair.” the pamphlet warned. So perhaps it was my mistake because I read it in bed naked. Because as a reader I expected more—really anticipating that the editor’s promise of wrenching prose was half-true.

Stories are always recurring, so the reader foregoes the whatwhenwhere, and why and painstakingly dwell on how: how is the story being told?

Daryll Delgado’s prose was breathless but ambiguous. Or perhaps it should be taken that way like the ambiguousness of the many selves dwelling in us. “How many more of our Selves are we really capable of losing . . .  the eventual disappearances and the losses of Selves, will always be as violent as the forced creation of new ones.”

Nikki Alfar’s “Rampion” was engaging. The melody appealed to me. “This, she finally understands, is love . . . . to give to, to give up, to give in, even to give away.”

Metro Serye’s idea of poetry, story, art on the go might be a good start to make literature available to vampire-books reading people. And hopefully, Cebu can come up with something like this.

I have two pamphlets, the other one still unread. I will read it while sitting on the bed facing the window, looking at the trees being raped by the wind.


Part 1: My July According to Books

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Ellen says:

    very good July!

  2. Anina Abola says:

    Hi, Jona! I work with Metro Serye. Thank you very much for reading and writing about the mag. I do hope that you enjoy the other issue that you have. I’ll pass on what you said about Daryll’s work, her collection of short fiction is also now available!!

    And we definitely encourage all kinds of reading, like these badass gals in NY— http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/co-ed-topless-pulp-fiction-reading-memorial-day-central-park-_n_1552472.html

    Thanks again! If you want to know more about us, do visit http://www.facebook.com/metroserye.

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