Porn Again: Jose Javier Reyes

‘How many times have I seen so-called philosopher-lecturers who use the breadth of their vocabulary to coat the emptiness of what they have to say? You can mesmerize your audience with the sheer triumph of attitude over content. But when you have to meet the same audience regularly, no amount of grandiloquence and posturing can save your day.’

This is exactly how I felt, a few pages into Jose Javier Reyes’ essay collection, the cheekily titled, Porn Again, not so cheekily subtitled Midlife Outtakes and Mistakes. Joey Reyes has so much to say about all sorts of things, by way of snappy retorts, dismay diaries, and general rantage, mostly about Filipino culture, some of which I feel aren’t too different from those who have ever held any opinion about Filipino culture. He’s so wordy you feel like shushing him up sometimes. Where 3 words will suffice, he uses fifty. Wordy, talkative and descriptive as hell. Certain things that he could have said really plainly, he should have just said plainly. But that’s a tall order for a person so in love with description.

Maybe it’s the unquenchable need to be as detailed as he possibly could, being a director of films, because isn’t that the sort of virtue that has to be embodied by filmmakers, in order to be considered great or even competent? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just a Joey Reyes quirk, the habit of cramping each thought with as much details than is perfectly acceptable to those who prefer their witticisms fat-free. And being a maker of films that have characters that make earnest attempts at sounding like they’re culled from real life and not from the flat, boring and fat minds of Big Studio Executives, Joey Reyes, the writer, is just actively verbose and totally uncaring about what you think, and that a being an erudite with learned opinions, he’s not going to exercise brevity, goddamn it.

He talks about the turn of the century (the essays were written from 2001-2002), politics, aging, 70s nostalgia, bored amigas, cocky men, etc, and it’s quite exhausting at times, not because this is the type of book you can and will read in a noisy bus and it’s tiring to be simultaneously shaken and assaulted with left and right snark, but because of the similarity of his feelings towards these things that you could swear you have heard someone said something about before but with way less stuffing. And it’s a bit grating to listen to him speak about the dreadful state of being masang Pinoy, mostly because it’s befuddling to hear/read someone who embodies both colegiala and masa spirits. It’s not that university-educated, intellectual men have no right to share the plight of the real masa, it’s just that when you pepper your speech with Taglish phrases, the results tend to be a little gauche. He feels for the EDSA 3 participants but instead of saying Makibaka! he’s more inclined to say Let’s make baka. And let’s make baka is cute except when said by people who make casual references to Nietschze, Godard and Tita Midz.

And Joey Reyes is loud. Have you ever had a reading experience where you hear an author speak to you in such pitch and intensity you feel like you’re actually talking to a book rather than reading it? That’s how it mostly is with these essays and I can’t say that the experience is 100% amusing. I don’t suppose that humor is the point of these intellectually-inclined essays but it wouldn’t have hurt if all of them were knee-slappingly funny. He is actually sort of funny. I find myself guffawing at Fruit of Love, where he narrates, vividly of course, about his clueless amigas, one  whose son is a future jock and the other one whose son is Chris Colfer in Glee, and I may have slapped my knee at that one. But I guess you can say Joey Reyes’ humor is just not for everyone.

Then he gets to talking about ‘life’ in Ah! Life, and clearly, Joey Reyes’ life centers and revolves around film and showbiz because when he talks about them, he exhibits an unmistakable authority. It’s like a peepshow and a guide, a snarky, snarky guide, to the Showbiz Industry. And who better to talk about that than someone who’s done the whole gamut: TV, film and the in-betweens. On the subject of showbiz, it’s the same talky Joey Reyes but one whose talkiness you wouldn’t mind hearing. One particularly nice essay is the celebrity death media fiasco. His take on Rico Yan is insightful and nice but not pandering. In general, he doesn’t seem that much charitable in his estimation of his peers in showbiz so his combination of objectivity, insider savvy, and well-placed nastiness is sort of amusing. His take on artistas and the seemingly rotten and slowly dying film industry is sharp, biting and scoldy, which is how I prefer my director-writers-showbiz personalities to talk about that which they’re supposed to have genuine insights on.

Hid Midlife Outtakes aren’t all that titillating since you’ve probably heard them before, maybe even in his movies, not that he hasn’t any authority to talk about midlife, not that it’s even particularly wrong for someone who really seem to have grappled with an actual crisis, one that doesn’t simply invoke the need to call it with the proverbial and overused phase/state of being, a Midlife Crisis, but between his lengthy essays on showbiz and celebrity culture versus his longish discourses on people who look down on his Porky/Petunia/sacred elephant from India/ballooning figure/sofalikeness, etc; the hoity-toity balikbayan friends, the Grinchy attitude (and what self-respecting artiste professes adoration for the Christmas season), and just about anything that causes him to really bitch, the showbiz talk wins.

Even the title is apt. It’s somehow convincing that it’s not just a stroke of whim to bundle these essays under the name Porn Again. Wearing his national pornographer title like a badge, JR somehow lives up to the pornographer endowment, if only to go by the dictionary definition of pornography as that which depicts things in a sensational manner as to cause intense emotional reaction. If you think about it, he kind of deserves the title.

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4 thoughts on “Porn Again: Jose Javier Reyes

  1. Let me share a Mark Twain quote:

    “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

    That being said… well, that’s just about it. There’s just no way I’m following through The Great Humorist. Jose Javier Reyes will do well to pay attention.

    Cheers Pat!

    Like

  2. And this quote, too:

    To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.

    You can tell I have no problems kissing the very ground he walks on.

    Like

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