Some Things About Short Stories

Short stories. I’m a big fan of them. I love reading them, and in the past year and a half, I realized that I love writing them, too. They don’t require a significant time commitment reading-wise, so you don’t forget or miss out on much after long breaks (as I’ve learned back in 2015). Short stories also enable writers to cut the crap and just get on with it — we have fewer pages and words to work with, unlike novels, where there’s plenty of room to set people and things up as needed. But these things don’t mean short stories are easier to write, or that their impact is less compared to other forms of prose. Continue reading “Some Things About Short Stories”

CNF in One Sitting

I’ve never shied away from long novels and essays. But sometimes I get impatient, and want to read something short and blunt, preferably going from cover to cover in just one sitting. And in between the books I had scheduled for the next review, I impulsively went through two creative nonfiction (CNF) books talking about two very different things.

In the spirit of their conciseness, I’ll make this as short as I can. (Yeah, right.)

Continue reading “CNF in One Sitting”

More Future Worlds!

Well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… we’re still living in an alternate reality, and it’s just getting worse. I was hoping things would be back to “normal” by this time, but no dice.

Fiction is becoming more comforting and reliable than real life. And while I’m as angry and astounded as everyone else about global proceedings, I find myself delving more into fiction (specifically, those about future worlds) for solace.

I’ve also been reading more local novels and anthologies. I spent the past year taking fiction techniques and workshop classes for grad school (and writing my own short stories), so I wanted to see how other Filipino writers do science fiction and speculative fiction. Or, put in another way, I wanted to see how different our class lessons are from what’s actually being published and demanded by readers.

Continue reading “More Future Worlds!”

Alternate Realities

One of the things I keep reading/hearing ever since the recent shifts in international power (read up!) is that we’re now living in an alternate reality, or multiple alternate realities. Oh, how I wish that were true. If it were, at the end of the day we’d all just laugh, and go back to a world filled with respect for and adherence to laws and due process and equal human rights for everyone and all the things people living in democracies want or take for granted.

But we’re not living in an alternate reality. This is today’s reality, with actual “arguments” of media bayaran bayas dilawan and alternate facts. As angry as these makes me and most of those I know, frankly it also makes me want to escape even more into reading, where the worlds (and their villains and their ilk) are complex and threatening, but confined to the pages. Two recent reads gave me enough of the escape I wanted — but also kept it real and made me think long after I got through the last page. Continue reading “Alternate Realities”

The Year-Starter!

It’s that time again! We’ll spend the first few days or weeks of January 2017 making all sorts of resolutions, short-term goals and long-term targets; and feeling real optimistic and so into that “New Year, New Me” shit.

And that’s coming right after the long party season known as Christmas, which actually starts in September in the Philippines. I’m not kidding. So all in all, it’s been three or so months of gluttony and greed. Not complaining, though. 😉

The next steps in this year-long routine: a look back at the year that was, and goal-setting for the current year. 2016 was fucking horrible for many reasons, among them the deaths of multiple cultural icons, ongoing and escalating wars and conflicts, the rise of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Duterte, Putin, Xi, and Trump), endless racism/sexism/misogyny/chauvinism online and offline… yeah, I think I’ll stop there. Good times were had as well, although the pessimist in me leans more toward the other side if asked to look at the bigger picture.

2016 wasn’t any better for my reading backlog. Many of the books on my shelf remain untouched and unopened until now. And for multiple reasons that are perfectly logical only to legitimate book hoarders like myself, I keep buying books I don’t have time to read.

Unlike in previous years, there’s some form of acceptance on my part. I’ve already lent out a bunch of books to my friends and MFA classmates because I know I won’t read them anytime soon. I can now enter book stores and leave with nothing, making my wallet breathe easy but my self-control reach its limits. And the 70+ books I donated back in 2015 haven’t been summarily replaced — which means I don’t miss those books as much as I thought I would.

This blog hasn’t seen much activity, either. The last decent review I’ve done dates back to a year ago! And if I did finish something from cover to cover, most likely it’s because it’s required for grad school.

What I did manage to read in 2016 are comic books and graphic novels… a whole lot of them.

That’s better than nothing, right? Since I’m too lazy to go in-depth with it, here’s a quick take on the few books I did go through last year. Here’s to hoping I do better in 2017! 😀 Continue reading “The Year-Starter!”

Old Made New

Still working on the next batch of reviews, and it’s taking me longer than expected. (Duh.) In the meantime… here are two of the book reviews I did late last year for the Philippines GraphicDwellers and Maktan 1521 were fun reads. I say they’re “old made new” because the former is about taking on new lives (and dealing with the repercussions of your old one), while the latter provides a new take on an old story.

I haven’t been keeping track of my bylines for some time now, so I don’t know if/when they were published and/or edited, or in which issue they were included. In any case, I’m looking forward to reading (and actually finishing and writing about) more books from Filipino writers!

Continue reading “Old Made New”

Life Through Graphic Novels

Well, hello December! Didn’t realize that another three months have gone by since the last update. Then again, long gaps between reviews (regardless of whether I’ve read full-length books or graphic novels) have always been the norm for this blog, yes? And as expected, I have the same excuse yet again: life happened.

Not that I’ve neglected my to-be-read pile during the lull. In between deadlines, applying for/getting accepted/deferring entry in an MFA program, health concerns, moving apartments, and other matters, I’ve been reading one book and graphic novel after another, cover to cover. Reading’s easy; writing about them’s the hard part. How ironic for a professional writer.

Life also happened to the three protagonists in the graphic novels I finished reading back in October, only their lives are/were obviously far tougher and complicated than mine. So if/when you say my excuse is a lousy one, I’d actually agree with you. Before you start with your personal “2015 in Review” assessments (or those issued by Facebook, Iconosquare, etc.) and welcome 2016, consider the lives detailed per panel in Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Persepolis, and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Then start assessing yourself, and answering the question of how you’d like to live your own lives. Continue reading “Life Through Graphic Novels”

Second Chances: Books of Short Stories.

I, like almost everyone else, have an enormous to-read list. At last count, I have 200+ print books on standby, and that number doesn’t even include e-books. It’s an ongoing case of tsundoku, and there is no end in sight. (Yet.)

What I don’t talk about as much is my similarly growing “halfway” pile of books — again, we all have one. Those are the books that end up being put aside because I got distracted by new books, returned to my shelves, then forgotten. Through the years, their pages acquire that nice dark yellow color (and that wonderful old-book smell!), but that’s about as much action as they’re ever gonna get. It’s rare for any of these books to get out of the halfway pile, and rarer for me to go back to Page 1 and finish reading them.

These made the rare jump from Halfway-Read to Done.

These three titles — Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman, and Collected Novellas by Gabriel García Márquez — are the first to make it out of there in a long, long time. Talk about second chances. And they’ve paid their dues: they’ve seen me through at least three house moves, had makeshift bookmarks stuck in random pages for a decade or more, and have gotten the color and smell down pat. Continue reading “Second Chances: Books of Short Stories.”

The Story Continues (AKA More Comics!)

Here’s the thing. The novels I intended for the next review deal with super-heavy themes. The first book alone took me three months to finish, and I admit it was a difficult read. Who knows when I’ll finish the other two — they’re all thick, mind-boggling, and time-intensive.

To decompress, I needed easy reading material with familiar characters and fresh stories. The answer: comics and graphic novels. Continue reading “The Story Continues (AKA More Comics!)”