Books, Book-Buying, Reading, Reading Plans 2017

It is unsurprising to find out that as you grow older and less prone to delusions of youthfulness, the number of books you read gradually decreases. I used to average 35 a year, but when I moved to Bangkok, this number shrank to 19 in 2015 and 23 last year. The reason for this is obvious: it’s because I moved to Bangkok where book-buying is not that fun (anything you could think of having, you can have, which is not a thrilling way to obtain books). Here’s a fun fact: Metro Manila is where you want to be if you want to meet reading goals. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Metro Manila is ruled by forces that make commuting such a hellacious daily experience that you’re often left with no choice but to find solace in reading. Bangkok is not ruled by those forces.

The decreased number of books read could mean any of the following: other forms of entertainment enjoyed and a life well-lived outside of a book. It could mean your museums-visited or movies-seen lists have increased. In my case, though, TV took the place of reading time. After a day’s work, I usually find that the only sensible thing to do at home is watch drag queens outsmart fellow drag queens in a race to win $100,000 and a sickening supply of cosmetics.

Because of this, I’ve decided to start reading anything I lay my hands on, in my room, as long as it’s a reading material; enough with sniffing the pages and on to actually reading them. I’ll stop doing what I do which is pick up any of the David Mitchells off the shelf, softly whisper to myself, ‘I’ll read you next’ and then pick up Ciara, my phone, to check Twitter and not tweet, or tweet and decide 10 minutes later that the tweet is stupid and should be deleted.

In a way, I blame Hanya Yanagihara for last year’s short list. ‘A Little Life’ was a two-month read and it demanded all the attention I could give a novel, which made reading another novel seem impractical. I blame Jude. But if you can find the time to read it, I highly recommend it.

I’ve only read 21 books in 2016 despite having many off periods – periods when big novels could have reasonably been accommodated. During one of these periods, I dived into Anne Rice’s ‘Prince Lestat’ and expected it to be a quickish read, but its character-dumping prevented me from finishing fast. I heard the sequel is even more insane and more infuriating, if the GoodReads reviewers are to be trusted (they are not to be trusted). I can’t wait.

I might read even fewer books this year and that would be alright. Maybe that won’t be alright. To read as much as I can used to be such a powerful goal of mine. It’s not anymore. Life feels shorter and shorter each reading year. For me, in my life, that means no more Guillermo Del Toro vampire novels.

prince-lestat

When Anne Rice announced on Facebook sometime in 2013-14 that Lestat was talking to her again, we the Peoples of the Page went into raptures because we like Lestat, and we like it very much when Lestat takes over her Facebook page. Lestat of course chooses Facebook because in social media, he writes novellas, not status updates. Status updates are for mortals like Anne Rice.

In 2014, Chronicle #11 was released, almost a decade after Anne swore off writing about the Vampire Chronicles vampires again. But here we are, back in the ‘savage garden’, thanks to Lestat’s refusal to not ever be in the spotlight. Anyone who has read at least 1 or 11 Vampire Chronicles knows one undeniable fact: A brat gets what a brat wants.

In Prince Lestat she readies the world for this new era where vampires have inhabited the world in their own terms; that means no more silly Ten Commandments-style rules (see: The Vampire Armand). She offers an explanation for what has happened thus far and a mini-reference guide to vampire jargon. The way to let everyone in to this new vampire, it seems, is to over-explain. This goes well with Lestat’s newfound swagger of being current and his intention to leave the doors to the vampire world wide open.

Despite his preference for fashion that kids today would find daffy, Lestat is nothing but open to new experiences. Such experiences include using an iPhone, emailing, listening to podcasts, becoming a baby daddy, and leading a pack of bloodsuckers whose combined strength, knowledge, and mind and fire gifts could not hold a candle to his magnetism, impulsiveness, and questionable but indispensable leadership. There is not a thing in Prince Lestat that I find hard to believe.

There is also a sense of vampires having become citizens of the world, peacefully coexisting with humans who still believe them to be a figment of their fevered imagination (despite Benji’s very convincing vampire broadcasts). Humans who drop dead in alleys are still believed to be victims of cardiac arrest rather than of vampires’ insatiable appetite. The world is at peace where the undead are alive and well but staying low-key.

But all is truly not well in the vampire world. A capital M mysterious voice is sowing fear in the non-beating hearts of immortals, and to calm their inactive nerves they summon the one immortal who can save them from themselves. “The Voice” is whispering to vampire ears everywhere – and they are not sweet nothings – with the weak ones falling prey to the seemingly motiveless voice that admonishes mass murder among their kind. Because the book is not called ‘Prince Louis’ or ‘King Armand’, it’s the brat prince himself who takes over vampires-saving duties. Whether he would do so competently is open to discussion.

Anne Rice wasn’t going to return to The Vampire Chronicles half-heartedly. Here, she brings every character that has ever appeared in all 10 books and their ghosts. Quinn Blackwood, Merrick, and the Mayfairs were, sadly, no-shows.

As with any book from TVC, Prince Lestat was not spared some biting criticisms, one of which is the inclusion of characters that don’t serve any purpose but to prolong the vampiric conversations. As a person of the page, ie, long-time reader/Lestat groupie, I expect these supposed failings, but I can’t say that I enjoyed reading about vampires sit around describing each other’s extraordinary beauty. I already know that Louis, Armand, Jesse, David, et al beat the entire vampire and human race in beauty, thanks Ms. Anne.

Another gripe against Prince Lestat is its wordiness – as if a Vampire Chronicle devoted to the magnificence of Lestat would be made in less than 200 pages? The prose is as indulgent as it has ever been, and I myself find this supposed crime indefensible. The thing is, this isn’t Anne Rice’s first, second or 22nd book. If you’ve read the entire Chronicles and everything else in her bibliography, then this is something you could smell from a mile away. If you want taut and quick-paced, re-read The Tale of the Body Thief. No sane reader of TVC, new or old, should pick up an Anne Rice novel and expect littleness, whether in theme, scope, or characterization.

The thrill I got from reading Lestat, though, came mostly from the meta-commentaries on the author’s previous work, specifically the ‘deep current psychological observation that united these works’. Also thrilling is vampires dabbling into science. It’s amazing they haven’t tried going into space to become the greatest astronauts the earth has ever known. One thing that stood out, in the worst possible way was the prince’s sudden change of heart for The Voice. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that the way he embraces it after everything is such silly bullshit. Everyone knows Lestat is a brat and he’ll do and love as he pleases, but that sudden change of heart made the lead-up to the semi-thrilling confrontation seem inconsequential.

Unlike other readers who feel personally betrayed by Lestat’s lunatic decisions (actual responsible person: Lestat’s ghost author Anne Rice) who swear off reading any more future vampire tales, I’ll stay hooked. With this renewed interest in Lestat, there will be no end in sight for vampires and their vivid, hyper-indulgent chronicles. They may be using iPhones now, but they’re still the same old brood of blood-hungry beauties who like to sleep in the dirt. Like the series they belong to, they know their place in the world and they’ll live in it as they please.

Books 2014

Don’t be fooled by the lack of book posts in here. I’ve read really good books this year and at some point in this tumultuous year in this Tumultuous Life I thought I would never read a book I wouldn’t love. This year was marked by ‘best book ever’ feelings and proclamations which usually last for a week. That is until I came to book #8 which was Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game and book #12 which was Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. It wasn’t really their fault. In Patricia’s case, I may have started on the wrong Ripley book which left my insides unstirred (which rarely happens with her!), while for Virgie, it was the fault of the faulty, mis-scanned e-book, and myself, for not having the foresight to switch to a better version of the e-book rather than slogging through a shitty e-copy obtained from a source of disrepute, which, I realize now, I have no right to complain about. But as the great (young) Heather Mooney would say about the cigarettes she never gets to finish, what a waste!

This is How

Not that it matters but, should I die the next day, I would like the world to know that the last book I read and loved was This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. Of course I’m not going to die tomorrow because all my enemies are nowhere near me, and like Yunior, I’m not the killing-self type of guy, maybe.

I can barely remember what Drown was about, all I can remember is that it’s also structured like TIHYLH, with Yunior as the narrator/star. This is why it is very important to write down exactly what you love about a Junot Diaz because someday you might find yourself reading him again, very certain of your enjoyment of his work and not know exactly why and feeling like a true fool and an unreliable professor of love.

In This, hogging the spotlight is his brother Rafa who uses cancer to his great advantage. I can’t get through cancer stories without getting really very emotional which is why I decided that after season 1 of Breaking Bad, I’m done, why even though I have some sardonic feelings for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars I still found it in my heart to appreciate its highly self-aware, ultra-witty teens who are all almost unbearably witty and articulate, for acting like Seth Cohen and think no one will notice, and getting back to the sardonic feelings and thinking that the feelings were not incorrect. In here, the becancered Rafa knocks Yunior out and it is a cause for hilarity. Best cancer story ever.

It may sometimes feel as if Yunior spends a lot of time navigating the legs of his girlfriends and side-bitches, but all of that are essential to the stories; all that sexing and side-bitching are sure to put an end to even the most hardcore relationships and Yunior is one horny, passionate motherfucker. This is a book about losing through the inescapable necessities and peculiarities of life. Stories about loses are, or should be, rife with sadness and drama, but Junot Diaz is not that kind of guy.

Even though I generally find his humor sublime despite not really getting all the pop culture, comics references and not understanding the Spanish slang (which he never bothers to translate, and why should he), I can’t help but think that if this were my first time to read him, I’d find characters who say things like ‘Bitch made Iggy Pop look chub’ a very poor attempt at either coolness or funniness. A line like that is in itself not funny, but the funniness here necessitates presence aka you have to be there. And so, Junot Diaz, is still for me a very funny person.

In George Orwell’s lengthy scrutiny of Charles Dickens, he says something about putting/imagining a writer’s face:

‘When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer… What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have… Well in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens’s photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity.’

If I were to give a face to Junot Diaz, it would have to be a sexy, mischievous face. It is a face attached to a desirable head, perched atop a towering, impressively built body with hills for chest and buns for days. Having heard about the author’s bad back, I know this imagining to be inaccurate, but that is the author I choose to have imprinted on my mind forever and I am not willing to entertain retaliations. When you feel like putting a face on an author you love, know that you’re entitled to it, the emblazoning of a face, in the same way that Michiko Kakutani is entitled to calling certain voices in fiction ‘limber, streetwise, CAFFEINATED, and wonderfully eclectic’.

This is How You Lose Her is my year’s second highest point because #1 is George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. Congrats, This is How You Lose Her.

I Have a New Catcher in the Rye

BarrelFever_hires

It is with so much delight that I’m announcing David Sedaris’s Barrel Fever as my new Catcher in the Rye. This is great news for me, for you, and for my very, very few friends. Congratulations, everyone, we no longer have to suffer the Holden Caulfield affectation, a spectacular achievement in execution failure though it may have been. I’ve also just finished David Shields and Shane Salerno’s ‘Salinger’ and read with great interest the Assassination section, specifically Mark David Chapman’s, and I’m symbolically cowering in shame for being guilty of the same crime as him: overlooking the humanity behind Holden’s profanity-laden but sobering view of humankind. My misreading, though, is not as total as MDC’s. My love for Holden stemmed (yes, stemmed) from his unfamiliarity with his own person (yes, person) the loveliness of which I feel strapped itself to my very own unfamiliarity with mine. We didn’t/don’t know the world, our place in it, and that was lovely in a movie, literary setting kind of way, but in your late 20s, not knowing your place in the world is just infuriating. Yes, I’ve already proclaimed freedom from the clutches of JD Salinger’s penetrating worldview, but if Mariah Carey can proclaim emancipation three times, why shouldn’t I?

When JD Salinger died, I rushed to Fully Booked and bought a hardcover Catcher in the Rye because I’m not the kind who idolize properly and sensibly. I might be sick with a disease characterized by uncontrollable urges to spend on things as a sad gesture of undying admiration. I might be suffering from a kind of psychological disorder that does not let me rest until I physically own something of the worship-figure. The easiest, most obvious explanation would be that I am a goddamned fool.

With Barrel Fever, there can never be a misreading, a misinterpretation, not even a silly attempt to embody a persona of an esteemed literary character. Maybe one: Adolph Heck, named after history’s most vicious imposer of viciousness, in the collection’s funniest story, Barrel Fever. A mother naming her son Adolph is guaranteed a slayer of me. I love Adolph and his mother. I love that Adolph’s sisters are named Faith, Hope, Joy and Charity. I love how he mocks his friend who once was his closest ally in mocking the mockable but who now has clung to nice persons.

Barrel Fever has become essential reading, a warder of the blues, a pair of shades in a dessert storm, a pair of truly dependable earbuds for Metro Manila life, a pair of balls in your ballsless days, etc. A Barrel Fever is a best friend.

Each reading of Barrel Fever for me is fresh. Sometimes I want to live in it and lap up the freshness.

If one day you find yourself in the pages of a Barrel Fever-like publication authored by myself, and you feel like pressing charges for character defamation because you Feel like I have cruelly borrowed and repackaged one of your least attractive characteristics and turned it into a bestseller, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. If you decide to press charges, sue me for libel, you will find me in court carrying a tattered copy of Barrel Fever, with the words, ‘This is my statement!’ scribbled beside blurbs that proclaim it as ‘breathtakingly irreverent’. ‘This is my statement!’ — the very words written in Mark David Chapman’s copy of Catcher in the Rye, a piece of woeful evidence that was brought to court for the trial of the crime of gunning down one of the world’s most famous Beatle, 1/4 of Mariah Carey’s Billboard Hot 100 nemesis, John Lennon. I do not ever wish to reach the same level of insanity but there is a need for me to make friends with things whose reason for existing is to supply me with joy.

I may have already confessed an attachment for this Sedaris book, and even though the retelling of this attachment seems to go against what Adolph Heck feels about saying the same thing twice: ‘…nothing gets on my nerves more than someone repeating the same phrase twice. I think it’s something people have picked up from television, this emotional stutter. Rather than say something interesting once, they repeat a cliche twice and hope for the same effect,’ I feel it’s a necessary retelling. This is my statement!

Gays of our lives

exile in guyville

Dave White, author of Exile in Guyville: How a Punk Rock Redneck Faggot Texan Moved to West Hollywood and Refused to be Shiny and Happy, is the kind of gay who thinks he’s a special kind of gay, who thinks that by frequently silently judging gays he despises, which he claims he would hate too had they been straight, he’s exempt from being the kind of gay other gays would also find despicable. Except that the world he lives in (Los Angeles) and the world in general has no shortage of haters and haterades. We each and everyone of us fill the world’s quota of someone’s hate. And this is true even or especially within “The Gay Community” (“Gay Community”, to me, will always and forever evoke an image of a subdivision filled with gays with really excellent gardens and exclusively non-tacky decors, with the exception of only a very few tacky, unaware gays who will of course be treated as anomalies by their super classy gay neighbors).

In DW’s community there are these types of gays:

1. Entitlement queens

2. Disco faggot douchebags (‘I’m not saying that house music is the internationally recognized sound-signifier of the faggot douchebag, but there’s a very specific type of faggot douchebag who only listens to house music, and so as a genre it’s a little guilty by association’)

3. Gays who kick your car

4. Dress-all-stupid queens

5. Gay bears

6. Gays who are like the gays in Will & Grace

7. Crystal meth queens

There are so many, but in other worlds there are these other types of gays:

1. Big word gays – gays that use multisyllabic nonsense because it makes them feel like they are wise gays.

2. Spiteful gays

3. Gays who hate Anne Hathaway

4. Gays who hate the Catholic Church

And there are many more. Feel free to create your own list.

Dave White is a film critic whose boyfriend is MSNBC’s Alonso Duralde who I like because in his review of Precious, he praises Mariah. As he should! Because of an all-consuming, mad love for his lover, Dave tries to overcome all odds and transfers to Los Angeles, leaving his beloved Texas. Among LA’s great barriers to Dave’s achievement of happiness and contentment are the aforementioned entitlement queens, reckless drivers, shouty neighborhood gays, and rude bookstore clerks. Such are his LA life’s difficulties that you can’t help but think, ‘You are so brave, Dave.’ In between battling these great obstacles, he goes from one temp job to another because he will not suffer the oppressiveness of a permanent job.

Clearly, he’s a bit of an entitlement queen himself. His real problem is that instead of 14 hours of couch-surfing and snacking, he gets only 12.

Actually, Dave White is a fun person who is not a typical gay. He calls gays faggots, which is a slur, and you get the feeling he gets away with it every time he uses it with/to his boyfriend and friends. He’s ruthless with the gays — you know how when someone who’s also a flaming homosexual refers to his fellow gays in a hissy, spiteful way because he feels like it? He’s like that with gays he dislikes and to chubbies and bimbos, too, because he’s fair. With seemingly little regard for human feelings, he talks about them in his diaries scathingly and hilariously, whether they’re directly harming him as to warrant the hissiness or they’re just existing near him. He doesn’t care for euphemisms. He will call a fat person a fattie and he’ll tell funny anecdotes about them abandonedly. In short, Dave White is a precise, funny and beautiful describer of people.

My favorite chapter is ‘Motherfucker’ because it contains one of the most breathtaking paragraphs I’ve ever read in a memoir:

‘Yes, I watch crotches. I’m a faggot. I was put on this earth to do a whole lot of that and I don’t want to shirk my responsibility to humanity… I have a soft spot for sex workers.’

Dave White is real.

If Queens Burroughs and Sedaris could kindly step aside, please. There’s a new queen in my community.

The Prominent Penis

Jessica Zafra, my very good, true and trusted amiga (!!!), published my book review of The Virgin of Flames in Jessica Rules the Universe and I’m here right now to immortalize the moment because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside:

abani

You may not be familiar with the people in Chris Abani’s The Virgin of Flames, but they are the sort of personalities you would love to gossip about. Instead of figuring what this novel is all about, you may be better off marveling at the oddities of the characters.

The novel follows its protagonist, Black, around Los Angeles as he tries to come to terms with his hauntingly ugly childhood through his art. He is a 30-something muralist on a quest to find himself in the vibrant city. He is introduced to the reader while trying on face paint, doing things with his face and basically being odd because he is An Artiste and a true weirdo. And nothing validates a weirdo more than a set of equally strange friends. He is surrounded by so much weirdness, sometimes you wish this were about them instead.

Black, to some readers, may seem too weird and foreign. He is a multiracial artist who likes a transsexual stripper, likes his Johnny Walker, and in his spare time dresses like the Virgin Mary. Is he gay? Is he a conventional weirdo? Two-hundred odd pages on and you still may not have figured him out. He keeps building the mystery. Towards the end of the novel, he even tries to learn how to tuck his penis in his butt the way a transvestite does—a real treat for guy readers. But if this were about his quest to discover his true sexuality, it may have been over in the first hundred pages. Besides, those who are not in the habit of wearing tanga to make a living would attest that dick-tucking is something you do exclusively for fun. Clearly, Black should make for an interesting read. But maybe you’d rather hang out with his penis or the sidekicks.

Bomboy Dickens is the primary sidekick. He spouts the novel’s most interesting bits of dialogue, but he’s sadly relegated to the role of comic relief. If it crosses your mind that The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is getting a worthy successor, it is due to the snappy retorts of Bomboy and his conversations with Black. Alas, Abani’s aim is not to appeal to your funny bones.

Also there is Iggy, Black’s landlady. She’s bald and she keeps a tattoo parlor and bar called The Ugly Store that has a mural filled with racist, politically-incorrect inscriptions. She keeps a midget servant who loves to quote Raymond Chandler. Iggy, she is also not like you and me.

Black’s penis, on the other hand, does not speak; nor does it have idiosyncrasies like Bomboy and Iggy. Its appearance is infrequent but its presence is major. It’s also sort of a plot-mover. Sometimes it alone drives him forward and mostly towards Sweet Girl, the immigrant Thai transsexual he’s inexplicably drawn to. Inexplicably because Black, who gives off a strong heterosexual vibe, is aware that the person he finds hopelessly alluring is also a man. Yet he persists. He is mightily attracted to Sweet Girl the lap-dancer, and that’s going to be the way it is. The intensity of Black junior’s erections dictates where this attraction is supposed to go. But this is not a love story, and Abani is resolute about not having any resolution.

Our hero obviously has Big Issues That Need Addressing rooted in his childhood traumas. If he hasn’t tired you out yet, maybe the flashbacks to his childhood will spring you back to life. His AIDS-afflicted mother is vicious—she makes the young Black perform self-flagellation in front of an altar, while his father is a confounding, ghostly presence—there, not quite there and finally, not there at all. Suddenly you think you know what this freak’s real issue is. You think you can finally feel satisfied with Black’s coming to terms with his misfortunes because he’s dealing with his feelings at last and working toward straightening out his life! But no.

If you’re exactly the kind of person who enjoys sneering at artist types, being unable to relate to them, this book may serve as an eye-opener or an entertainment featuring a gallery of freaks. You may not find anything to relate to, but its strangeness is a thing to behold. I don’t think I could trust anyone else to describe for me the rituals of strip-dancing and the art of tucking balls and shaft in one’s butt other than the seemingly demented Chris Abani.

The Virgin of Flames is a different kind of tale of self-discovery, one that doesn’t care much about reaching any discernible discovery. If you’re tired of tales of ditzy young girls and boys trying to find their luck in Hollywood, New York, or some other glamorous city, try this and have a balls-clutching experience. If you’re exasperated with small-town persons finding their way in the big, mean city, you may find a trip to Black’s lap-dance and alcohol-addled junction wildly entertaining. If anything, you’ll learn how to tuck your balls in your butt should the need for that ever arise in your boring life.

Don't be fooled by the nice cover for this is a horror.
Don’t be fooled by the nice cover for this is a horror.

Never Let Me Go makes you wonder why Kathy H, Tommy D and Ruth didn’t just escape and live a life that’s rightfully theirs, keeping kidneys they rightfully own. Is it because they have integrity and pride (of the fact that they’re excellent keepers of organs)? Surely, obedience is not the moral lesson being peddled here because if surrendering to the system is this horrific dystopia’s virtue, then shucks. Is it a golden metaphor for How Life Is, the life that you, me and we have is actually like Kathy, Tommy and Ruth’s? The kind where we are all of us in a system and there are ways to get out of it because as most of us are aware the world is large with hideouts and escapes, but that there are rules to be followed, words to be kept and most importantly, cares to be given, but we stay and wait ’til we ‘complete’. I have a feeling, and it’s quite strong, Kazuo Ishiguro doesn’t want to share his and our world’s specifics which is how it remains mysterious, shitty, pretty, worth living, blah blah blah.

Augusten Burroughs kind of Christmas

You Better

Freak is what Augusten Burroughs will make you feel like in his Chistmas book, You Better Not Cry. Freak for not having memories of childhood filled with Christmas craziness anticipation. Freak. Especially if you happen to be a gay adult who can’t remember a childhood marked by tinsel fascination or any of the other Christmas fascinators. My Christmas childhood was spent fearing the day when Christmas ceases to mean dicking around the extended family compound in Pasay for gifts and cash, but mostly cash, because, if you must know, I’m ‘economically-challenged as hell’, allegedly, and at an early age I must have been made aware of the greatness of the sensation brought about by having so much cash. Mostly I remember just really wanting to have as much Archies and Jugheads. You would understand if you remember that in the 90s, a Double Digest has 256 pages and Filbars sells 3 for only PhP 200.

It’s easy to see why Augusten Burroughs’s brother accuses him of retardation. In fact it would be retarded not to accuse him of that; it would have been charitable of his brother not to see little Augusten as anything but a retard. Augusten is a freak. So freakish it often seems like he’s making stuff up, but who cares? We always need a laugh and it’s generous to produce hilarity at one’s own expense for the greater good of those in need. This act of generosity surely must make baby Jesus proud.

It’s become an Augusten Burroughs tradition to make mountains out of molehills, to milk every single life event of its story-telling worth as something worth telling and killing millions of trees for. Getting into his Christmas reminiscences, I expected to read about  minor accidents that happened to happen during Christmastime. Maybe in his childhood his mom got drunk and his dad sort of got upset on one of his Christmases is what I thought I should set myself up for. A Wolf at the Table really scarred me, if you must know. It scarred me deeply. But no. Augusten shocked me with genuine sadness, Christmas-style.

I know I set you up for AB’s Christmas memories but I feel like talking about myself instead because I know me better than I could ever know Augusten. You must know, though, that You Better Not Cry involves Santa Sex.

Persons not of the naturally sunny, happy kind are or should be aware of the lameness of expressing unpleasant thoughts about Christmas because if they are not, there’s forever the risk of being perceived as eternally trying to be unique and contrarian which is just so the wrong way to be. When expressing dissatisfaction over Christmas and its hassles, family hang-up horseshits-reminding tendencies, it is best to be firm and clear about exactly why and just how is Christmas and it’s  Mariah Carey ambience is making you not delirious with joy. Persons of this type, maybe they can try to aim for Christmas Fever okayness and be out of sunshine persons’s sight. Grinchies, to save themselves from judgments, could immerse themselves in the true spirits of Christmas, preferrably those that are 40% proof. Just like our guy Augusten.

Brightest Shining Moment of 2012

Jessica Zafra published a book review I wrote and it’s one of my year’s brightest moments.

Since I’m predictable and constantly shifting between shallow and paranoid, a condition that saddles the bearer with the thought of having to consider the ick factor of talking about things such as this, I will tell all about it because as I’ve said it’s one of my year’s brightest moments and sometimes I just can not be stopped.

It was just like the time Mariah found my joke funny. What happened with Mariah was she was asking the fans to guess the name of her newborn twin to which the entire Twitter universe went into a frenzy coming up with names. I offered ‘Regina’ and ‘George’ after Rachel McAdams’ iconic character in one of the greatest movies of our time, Mean Girls, a movie really close to Mariah’s heart and mine. After tweeting that, she said to me: ‘LOL! C’mon guys!’ I was so delirious I almost ditched work to distribute printed copies of Mariah’s direct tweet to me along Ayala Avenue Regina George in the hallway distributing photocopies of the burnbook-style. That was one of 2011’s brightest shining moments.

It was a euphoria unmatched until the morning of September 5.

In an uneventful Sunday afternoon, September 4, I convulsed with joy upon reading her email which basically intimated that she was pleased with my review. I jumped and victory danced when I read her two-sentence glowing (my impression) assessment. I was jumping high because Jessica mother*****g Zafra gave the distinct impression of having found my book review acceptable and worthy of a Jessica Rules the Universe publication.

I could not ask for more in this life. Or this year only. Except for maybe more book review assignments from her, eternal friendship, more chances of associations, of get-togethers with the person responsible for putting The Catcher in the Rye in to my life. And of course, more. And of having any of your ‘major work’ edited by her, what a feeling!

We Need to Talk About ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’

In the Philippines shootings in high schools don’t happen. What we have in our schools are mass hysteria masquerading as satanic possessions, if the guest psychologist in an episode of Jessica Soho’s show is to be believed. This phenomenon is only right because we’re super catholic and because we’d rather resort to vanilla means of fabricating school horrors. Plus, guns are not easily accessible to our kids because we are a third world,  which means that only those attending affluent schools can probably afford a gun-carrying kind of hysteria, and that might be too much to expect from the pansies that attend those schools.

We may read about such things happening but we have a way of watering down western inanities, and what a great advantage that sometimes proves to be. Should our society decide to adopt yet another western trend, and it’s only a matter of time before trick-or-treating gets a successor, school shooting might not be that far behind.

If Halloween is one of your favorite holidays, news of school possessions must be a real thrill to you and your appetite for such horror might be sated by the kind of horror that deranged, scheming, evil little shits like Kevin Khatchadourian offers. This child is so evil, Damien of ‘Omen’ will cower in fear. Damien will hold hands with Holden Caulfield while their knees shake in chorus.

Eva, the unfortunate bearer of the abominable child, narrates Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. It is her long love letter to her estranged husband, Franklin, telling him the goings-on of her life, exquisitely describing the wasteland that has become of her existence, after their kid expertly orchestrated a homicidal spree. She writes loving letters to Franklin, documenting their glorious love story up to the abomination that is Kevin’s birth and his eventual well executed plan. As she describes how she deals with the aftermath of her son’s murdering rampage, you can’t help but feel relieved that she’s writing to her husband, and in such lovely sardonic tones, alive, sober, not insane, and getting on just fine. She is opening up to her husband completely uncaring if her dignity tears at the telling of how she really feels about motherhood.

And if you really want to know here’s Eva’s list of why motherhood isn’t all that great:

1.       Hassle
2.       Less time just the two of us (Try no time just the two of us)
3.       Other people (PTA Meetings. Ballet teachers. The kid’s insufferable friends and their insufferable parents)
4.       Turning into a cow (I was slight and preferred to stay that way. My sister-in-law had developed bulging varicose veins in her legs during pregnancy that never retreated, and the prospect of calves branched in blue tree roots mortified me more than I could say. So I didn’t say. I am vain, or once was, and one of my vanities was to feign that I was not.)
5.       Unnatural altruism: being forced to make decisions in accordance with what was best for someone else (I’m a pig.)
6.       Curtailment of my travelling. (Note curtailment. Not conclusion.)
7.       Dementing boredom. (I found small children brutally dull. I did, even at the outset, admit this to myself.)
8.       Worthless social life. (I had never had a decent conversation with a friend’s five-year-old in the room.)
9.       Social demotion. (I was a respected entrepreneur. Once I had a toddler in tow, every man I knew – every woman, too, which is depressing – would take me less seriously.)
10.   Paying the piper. (Parenthood repays a debt. But who wants to pay a debt she can escape? Apparently, the childless get away with something sneaky. Besides, what good is repaying a debt to the wrong party? Only the most warped mother could feel rewarded for her trouble by the fact that at least her daughter’s life is hideous, too.)

It’s tempting to brand Eva as an anti-hero (or a pig), the mother who just wasn’t that into motherhood. But maybe she really IS a hero. To wilfully defy what is expected of you as a woman is to demonstrate a certain kind of heroism. She’s a hero for not wanting to have a cute little family with precocious kids who will become future doctors and lawyers because look what happens when certain women give birth to kids like Kevin. Had she prevented this giving birth nonsense, 11 people would have been spared their lives. Some cervixes are just not meant to labor.

For those of the steely persuasion that every child is a gift from baby Jesus, meet Kevin, killer of people. But guard your feelings of hate on Kevin for he is a special kind of bastard. He is, as his English teacher perfectly described him, a ‘savage social satirist’. When pressed for the inevitable question of ‘why’, his answer is predictably bullshit-averse:

‘…I’m not looking for an excuse here. I don’t blame some satanic cult or pissy girlfriend or big bad bully who called me a fag. One of the things I can’t stand about this country is lack of accountability. Everything Americans do that doesn’t work out too great has to be somebody else’s fault. Me, I stand by what I done. It wasn’t anybody’s idea but mine.’

Eva’s saving grace in having Kevin is her sense of humor and self-deprecating reflex. She knows what she is the mother of but she doesn’t equate self-awareness with virtue.

In their otherwise tumultuous relationship, there is something touching about how Eva and Kevin manage to kind of agree on something. Mother and son complements each other’s take of the tragedy just wrought — Kevin wasn’t bullied, molested (well, almost), or psychologically damaged in any way; his life is actually pretty fine. And Eva is wont to dispel accusations that Kevin is just a misunderstood boy in a society so lacking in accountability, all blames are shifted to influences other than one’s own constitution. Contrary to what the media wants to conveniently believe, Kevin is not among the Misunderstood Youth, but rather among the best understood because doesn’t action speak louder than words, and after brutally and senselessly killing a number of people isn’t your worldview the most obvious, the most understood ever? Kevin’s is a classic case of It’s not them, it’s me, and I have a big, fat, fucking problem with them so maybe I’ll massacre them.

In the end you’re left feeling so sorry for Eva. What has she done to deserve this. Before motherhood set in, she lived a full life; she has a moderately successful travel guide business and is hence well-traveled and rich, and the life she shares with Franklin is as total as that of a woman saddled with four darling kids. But Kevin happens. And if Kevin is some proof, creating life is also destroying several.