Friday ∗ 04 Nov 2011

admitting to class differences, the dream of readers at home: Butch Dalisay and Phil writing

<…> if these two talks of Dalisay are any indication <…> what our texts have and what ails our texts by default given colonial history <is that> we are out of the Commonwealth loop <…> and while American colonization gave us the English that we use for our writing, we all seem to have forgotten that, and we’re like the bastard children that appear at the family Christmas dinner. There are no favors to be had from our colonial fathers here, and it can only be difficult to deal with expectations.

Such as what Dalisay sees to be the “mournful wail of oppression” as the one thing expected of work from the Philippines, the main thing a writer must be able to work against. But towards what? Again another bottomline: the problem is that even we don’t know what we’re about, so how do we even begin projecting ourselves to the world?

Maybe we begin with what is inescapable. As far as Dalisay is concerned, there’s no escaping class, not for any writer, not for any kind of writing. There’s no avoiding the divide between rich and poor, and in that sense it could be a trope, the one thing that we cannot ignore in the task of writing, especially in English, especially given that this means having very few readers where we come from. And it is a trope that encompasses even that which Dalisay considers to be the most important story for Filipinos of our time: the diaspora. 

read the rest here!

Posted in: arts and culture, bayan, kultura, panitikan, pulitika

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17 Comments/Pingbacks

    • ina
      November 7, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      hey Stanley! :-) This is precisely why Sir Butch’s assertions were valuable to me, because these are things that, while true, are never said or talked about in this country in this way. The more powerful writers of the literary world are the ones who are generally in denial about the state of reading and writing in this country.

  1. Stanley Ramos
    November 6, 2011 at 10:42 am

    And who reads Kirpal Singh anyway? Sam Sotto will be read. A home-grown bestseller finally, by way of Twilight or Time Traveller’s Wife, or whatever it is that kids read these days. Nothing wrong with that, right?

    • ina
      November 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      Kirpal Singh is actually read in Singapore and much of SEA ha, and there’s the fact that SG’s ties with colonial Britain puts him (along with other Singaporean writers Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo) squarely in discourses of colonization within the academe in the UK.

      Samantha Sotto’s Before Ever After ain’t as homegrown as you think: the Philippines was only used as setting for that novel (in about 30 pages of it only), and there is nothing there that speaks of her as representative of Filipino writing. though that’s subject for another blog post altogether.

      • Stanley Ramos
        November 7, 2011 at 10:41 pm

        I previously lived in Singapore and–IMHO–Kirpal Singh is read in Singapore as much as Butch Dalisay is, in Manila. [Ignore for a moment that Singapore is smaller than Manila, in population size etc.] Which was actually my point above (cf pre-Globalization blah blah)–no one reads you? Or that you have 1,000 readers as opposed to 10,000? Boo hoo.
        And Sam Sotto — she’s Pinay, she wrote the thing in Manila, that’s homegrown enough for me. No less homegrown than academics borrowing their post-colonial eklat from UK and US universities.

        • ina
          November 7, 2011 at 11:11 pm

          i’m not disagreeing about readership being an old issue ha. i’m saying that at least Sir Butch admits to it, which CANNOT be said of many others like him in these shores.

          re: Samantha Sotto. highly arguable this discussion on authorship and being Pinoy. so what of Pinoy writing elsewhere? what of an American who lived in Manial to write a book? what of Americans writing stories based in Manila? of Pinoy writing stories about Americans based in Singapore? complex discussion that cannot, and i will not, simplistically discuss in the manner of “homegrown enough for me.”

  2. Stanley Ramos
    November 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I’m on a roll, apparently.

    “we sacrifice a bigger local audience with the goal of gaining an international one” — Not sure I agree. Sounds like a false dilemma. A Faustian bargain no one really asked anyone to make. How large is Jun Cruz Reyes’s local audience? Those of you reading this and wondering hudahelisJunCruzReyes? — I rest my case. Also cf. comment above re: Sam Sotto.

    • ina
      November 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Actually, Sir Butch was talking about writing in English, which means it’s clear to him how the sacrifice of readership here, given that there are readers in Filipino and the other local languages, means getting into these global enterprises of writers’ fests and conferences.

      Jun Cruz Reyes’ audience versus Butch Dalisay’s? seems like a valid discussion to get into with regards literary production in this country. i think Sir Jun’s audience would prove larger by virtue of language alone.

      • Stanley Ramos
        November 7, 2011 at 10:57 pm

        I got my copy of Utos ng Hari from a National Book Store — over a decade after it was first published. I looked inside and my copy was from the first run. In contrast, A Reason to Live A Reason to Die was on its jillionth reprint.

        No one reads you? Welcome to the club. I absolve you.

        • ina
          November 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

          again, Sir Butch wasn’t complaining. he was stating a fact rarely admitted to by writers like him, in these shores.

          it might be said that the division / difference / disparity between utos ng hari and a reason to live is precisely why Sir Butch’s assertions at the SWF were valuable.

  3. Stanley Ramos
    November 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    And why do local writers–like Krip Y–not have a larger local audience? Because these writers suck, that’s why.

    • ina
      November 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Oh, Stanley. That’s too much of a generalization. There are brilliant local writers, across every generation, across the different languages, i can give you a list off the top of my head.

      and even Krip has got The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe tucked under his belt, his best work as far as i’m concerned.

      • Stanley Ramos
        November 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm

        Of course everyone’s got a “best work” tucked away somewhere. Mine is “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Haha. But that’s neither here nor there.

        I exaggerate, of course! But I would pick any Private Iris book over TGPJEC anytime. (Go to any Private Iris launch — I guarantee that has a bigger audience than all the audiences of the Hawthornden mafia put together. Private Iris is Pinay by the way — rides jeeps, speaks Tagalog, etc. [insert ‘You know you’re Pinoy if…’ here]) But maybe that’s just me.

        • ina
          November 7, 2011 at 11:20 pm

          oh come on. you threw a generalization against Philippine literature by saying all of it sucks. which is unfair.

          and while i’m sure how you spent your summer vacation was your best work, it cannot will not stand beside Krip’s Jungle Cafe.

          re Private Iris, as with Foldabots, as with many other popular local literary productions, yes that audience is bigger, and it is also different from the audience that would pick up Soledad’s Sister, or State of War, or even Woman With Two Navels, or The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata. it is also different from the audience of High Chair books, and the indie book fair, and many other LOCAL literary productions that are worth talking about. these are things you do not do generalizations on or against, you discuss them on the level of modes of production, and writing, and the discourses that come into play in the creation of audiences.

          • Stanley Ramos
            November 8, 2011 at 12:20 am

            re: my summer vacation essay “cannot will not stand beside Krip’s Jungle Cafe.” now you’re hurting my feelings. :-( walang ganiyanan.

            as for the rest of it — dami namang bawal. can’t generalize, can’t simplify, can’t do this or that, except as “modes of production” , “creation of audiences” at tsubachines. and what’s up with the “cannot will not” — will you dicuss it with a fox? in a box? in a house? with a mouse? (o! joke! put that gun away!)

            heniwei. thanks for your time.

  4. GabbyD
    November 6, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    can we get a transcript of dalisay’s speech from anywhere? i dont understand alot of what the he was quoted to have said.

  5. ina
    November 8, 2011 at 2:47 am

    @Stanley! Haha, sige in fairness to your summer vacation piece, hindi ko pa siya nababasa. But you’ve got to admit Jungle Cafe is difficult to put down. Might be the only work of Krip’s that’s difficult to brush off.

    and it’s not that you can’t, it’s that i won’t. do all those things in relation to Philippine literature, i mean. things are more complex, and i think this is why i find Sir Butch’s assertions are important.


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