Five for Today

  1. Ermita is a district of the city of Manila where I live. It has long had a reputation as a red-light district, so I was surprised to learn that the word itself “always refers to an uninhabited or isolated place, a location for spiritual retreat”: the sacred and the profane?
  2. I like jazz a lot, but if there was a musical genre I’m trying to integrate in my work, it would be (punk) rock. Still, Lauren Camp’s “What’s In The Notes: The Sound Of Jazz In Poetry” made for interesting reading.
  3. I’m not really too cozy with the work of Richard Wilbur, but “A Birthday Card For Richard Wilbur” is a nice piece that spends time talking about simile, which is not one of my strong points, and it reminds me that Wilbur has a poem called “Lying.”
  4. “The Sweetest Sounds I Ever Heard” is a short piece about what it means for a piece of prose to be poetic. I’d prefer a longer discussion, but it’s not always that you read an article for general readers that focuses on the sonic quality of language in prose. As someone specializing in poetry for my MA but also struggling through taking a fiction class this semester, I enjoyed reading this.
  5. Actually, I used to aspire to be a fiction writer, and one of my early influences was Patrick McGrath, which means I very badly imitated him. These days, I don’t read him that often anymore, much less imitate him, but I still enjoyed his short stories a great deal when I re-read a couple last year. I like reading his interviews, too. Here’s another.

Another Five Books for 2011

Partially due to a conscious application of of grout, I was able to finish reading Jennifer Egan’s The Keep in five days, despite all the work that had still has to be done. Five days might seem too long to read a novel of only 250 pages, but as embarrassing as it may be to do so, I can deservedly call this a minor but undeniable achievement.

The other four books I listed are still there, as I expected, but I’ve also made progress with almost all of them, except The H.D. Book. That’s not bad, and I’m beginning to wonder if I should test myself by always keeping (at least) five books at hand. This may or may not work.

So since The Keep is now a title I can happily mark as read, it’s time for another list of five, one of which will take the place of the Egan novel:

  1. Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong: From “embarrassing” to “downright shameful” characterizes my lousy record in reading contemporary Philippine literature. This novel entices me for being a detective story set in a contemporary Filipino-Chinese milieu by a writer whose way with words I find delicious.
  2. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry: I used to read a lot of fantastic fiction, and this one might be a good way to return to the genre, as it seems to me best described as “slipstream metafictional noir.” That said, I’m not sure I want to read this now instead of saving it for some other time.
  3. Making Love to the Minor Poets of Chicago by James Conrad: This is a novel I picked up for its title and for being about “love, ambition, poetry, and nuclear waste.” I don’t know why I haven’t read it, but it seems a matter of bad timing or fatal causality: whenever I pick up the book, work goes crazy.
  4. Five Stories by Peter Straub: This might be a good choice: it’s a slim collection of stories I’m sure to learn a lot from on the technical level (here’s a sample). I miss the old days when I’d do a marathon reading of Peter Straub’s novels. I don’t even have his latest novel, but at least I have 5 Stories.
  5. I’ll cheat and cite two collections under one number, only because I don’t plan to read these cover to cover. While Patrick McGrath‘s Blood and Water and Other Tales and Graham Greene‘s Complete Short Stories are collections by writers who often view life from a somewhat bleak and grim perspective, I’m looking for stories by them that show a (darkly) humorous side to their writing.