My essay on being a young reader in the Philippines, “A Life Inside,” is part of Entropy’s literacy narratives series. It’s also about books, sibling rivalry, libraries, parenthood, being an introvert, and (spoiler alert) literary sexual perversion.
The April 20 issue of The New Yorker was a bumper crop of gripping, if depressing, reading:
- Sarah Stillman’s previous New Yorker article on the police’s reliance on drug confiscations to fund their departments — and we know now that it was standard operating procedure in Ferguson as well — is followed up by an equally exhaustively researched article on child kidnappings for ransom by the U.S.-Mexico border — and the DHS nightmare they’re plunged in after rescue. “Where Are The Children?” (The New Yorker)
- Oliver Sacks, on the late Spalding Gray: “The Catastrophe” (The New Yorker)
- Luke Mogelson has a really funny piece of fiction, “Peacetime;” how is it possible that he can put on a reporter’s hat and write in-depth articles about ebola in Liberia and executions in Aleppo as well? (The New Yorker)
- Ah, those were the days. Not really: I do look back at those early days after I ditched dial-up — and I gave full rein to my acquisitive, obsessive impulses with an almost-total disregard for creative labor — I hang my head in shame, and am disgusted at the time I wasted. And money: we’re talking spindles and spindles of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs. Stephen Witt, “The Man Who Broke the Music Business” (The New Yorker)
- More malfeasance, this time from my people. Doug Bock Clark, “The Bot Bubble: How Click Farms Have Inflated Social Media Currency” (The New Republic)
- More on the Kult of Karl Ove, in three parts. William Pierce, “Reality Hunger: The Six Books of Karl Ove Knausgaard, Part I” (Los Angeles Review of Books)
- “…There is a constant hum in the pit of my stomach that reminds me I can be evicted from this country at the drop of a hat, or at least banished to the margins with a reminder that, no, I don’t belong. …The reminder is in the form of my name, my first name…” Madhurima Chakraborty, “By Any Other Name” (The Hairpin)
- Just don’t drop what you’re doing to read this. Derek Thompson, “The Procrastination Doom Loop—and How to Break It” (The Atlantic)
- Kelly Sundberg’s essay will be in The Best American Essays 2015 anthology; this is an absolutely devastating piece. “It Will Look Like A Sunset” (Guernica)
- I’m guilty and I want to be forgiven. Reeves Wiedeman, “Every Day Should Be E-mail Debt Forgiveness Day” (The New Yorker)
- “When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.” One more essential read from Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Nonviolence as Compliance in Baltimore” (The Atlantic).
- This is just lovely. Maria Popova, “The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art” (Brain Pickings)
I’m absolutely thrilled to be reading with some fantastic writers this weekend as part of the Filipino American International Book Festival in San Francisco.
First off, I’ll be reading at Eastwind Books in Berkeley on September 29 (that’s tomorrow, Thursday) for an event entitled The Places We Call Home, with a killer cast of folks (in alphabetical order): Oscar Bermeo, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Veronica Montes, and Barbara Jane Reyes. I’ll be reading an excerpt from a non-fiction piece about growing up in my Philippine hometown of Los Banos, Laguna, which will be a first for me. (Another first: reading with all these fine people.)
The Places We Call Home
Sept. 29, 2011
Eastwind Books of Berkeley
Next, I’ll be reading at Koret Auditorium at the lower level of the San Francisco Public Library on October 1, Saturday, for a FilBookFest event entitled Hot off the Press, where I get to read an eight-minute excerpt from my novel in progress. I expect this to be rapid-fire, flash-fictiony, haul-you-off-the-stage-if-you-go-over-the-time-limit stuff. I don’t think I’ll be able to kick the very tall Rafe Bartholomew off the stage (he’s reading right before me) so I leave that up to Veronica, who’s moderating the event.
Hot off the Press
Oct. 1, 2011
San Francisco Public Library
And I’ll also be signing books! I’ll be at the Philippine Expressions Bookshop booth on Saturday at 1:45 (right after the reading above), and at the Philippine American Writers and Artists booth on Sunday, Oct. 2nd. All the booths will be out on Fulton Street, at the Civic Center.
My latest book, Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City will be for sale at both the Philippine Expressions and Eastwind booths, and if you have a hard-to-find copy of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines, I’ll sign it too. (Or just come by and say “hello!”)
Not so long ago I was talking with some academics (or some writers, I can’t remember), and the conversation turned to another writer (or academic, I can’t remember) who was — make your choice:
- Getting invited everywhere
- Getting all the editing/teaching gigs
- Getting published everywhere
- Et cetera
And then someone said:
Well — that’s because she’s one of those.
There’s a pile of paper propped up next to my desk. They’re multiple copies of a chapter entitled “Arnold Schwarzenegger,” and it’s about a philandering businessman stuck in traffic as his long-suffering driver tries to navigate their SUV out of Manila and into the provinces. These copies are from my classmates, from a writing class that ended about a couple of months ago. Some of the feedback, like the ones from my teacher, are line-by-line edits, complete with single-spaced, typewritten advice, and those are invaluable. Some comments from my classmates are mere scribbles in the margins, checkmarks and instances of “not clear” and “nice!” but those are okay too.
I still haven’t incorporated any of the revisions into the draft in my desktop, and that’s not okay at all. I’ve read the comments, of course, but they lie there untransmuted, unconverted into kinetic energy. I have many excuses, ready to be fished out in case I have to answer to authority: work, the need to write a more workable ending first, work, tiredness in the evenings, work, my doubts whether the manuscript is any good, work, the nagging sense that I have to exercise which I don’t do anyway, work, and so on. But the only authority figure here is me.
And none of these are legitimate excuses, according to Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work. The book — until recently a free download from Amazon.com — is a great kick in the butt, with passages I simply had to highlight and read aloud to my girlfriend. But in certain ways the book also assumes a fairly level playing field, a sentiment I don’t always agree with, and its tough motivational advice won’t be new to folks who’ve read, say, Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! Pressfield’s main argument is all in the title — one has to do the work — and anything that prevents you from doing that act of creation (the book is also both New Age-y and Chaos Magick-y), anything that holds you back is the enemy. (Pressfield, who refers to the enemy in blatantly martial terms, argues it’s almost always inside you.) It’s the dark side, the Jungian shadow, the dragon that you must slay. Do the Work also argues that the only real and right reason to do this work is not because of riches or fame or that one has to prove anything to friends and family; it’s because one has no choice.