Gaydar by Danton Remoto: A Book Review

gaydarThe word   GAYDAR  is the blend  of “gay” and “radar”. Radar as  you   learned from your  science book  is a scientific method of finding position of things such as missiles   by sending out radio waves.  In other words, figuratively speaking, GAYDAR as defined in the book  is  the innate ability to spot another gay man no matter how hard he tries to hide his being gay. In this way, a gaydar associating with straight-acting men or paminta in Filipino after  drawing off his radio waves will  break the news under his breath  that  a very Adonis  man women slobber over   turns out to be  part of  the confederation. Yaaayy!

My  university  gay friend   introduced me to Danton Remoto’s Ladlad : An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing.   The book is a collection of  different stories and poems written by different gay writers including his own oeuvres. In fact, some were written  in Filipino. Most of the articles are erotic in language, so  my reaction then since it was my first time to read such genre was some kinda prudish  pursing my lips and arching my brows. I thought that reading such  book is balderdash;  it’s raunchy. So I did not like reading it much, especially I had no any ideas of his literary styles.  But over time, I realized why Remoto , along with his award-winning  co-author J. Neil C. Garcia, published  such LAMBDA-Literary- Award-winning piece . Danton Remoto then was an active LGBT advocate.  Thus, I had a rude awakening as though I had  come out of my made-in-narra  closet.

This  is a compilation  of  Danton Remoto’s  personal essays which were published in  The Philippine Star  from 1997 and 1999. He wrote about his  growing up  as a student abroad , with his family  and friends , and  his advocacy for the LGBT community. In effect,  all of his essays are seethed in the same theme: life of being  a gay in the Philippines.  Also, he  even wrote  about the  dilemmas   such as the political circus and irresponsible journalism with which he had faced  when he was still an advocate of LGBT.

I appreciated Danton Remoto’s writing styles now. As one of his commentators  put before, he writes with substance. Most of his articles cling to reality, which knock the day light  out of an idealistic reader, notably the clerics for an example.  He associates his ideas with the social issues  in metaphorical forms-typical of  Philippine writing. You can relate to what he is trying to drive at such as mentioning some  Philippine culture to justify his   conspicuous advocacy. In addition, I am envious of   his beautiful prose and clarity of writing.  He really knows his stuff which   must have given   him a credible name  in the modern Philippine literature.

Some writers are like crusaders . They  put their  talent for writing  , although  such skill can be learned, to good  use ,  especially to  making a big difference in society. For instance, black writers   in the past just the likes of Harriet Beecher Stowe,  Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, not to mention one of my favorite contemporary writers, Toni Morison  , et al used their writing skills as their  weapons to express their suppressible  and dormant desires to  revolt against the culture of  racial  discrimination.  In terms of  crusade against putrid perception about homosexuality, the only one popped into my mind was Oscar Wilde. Alas, he ended up in jail, for the society at that time was too vast to engulf him.  As the history serves and  since I have not been familiar with  famous Philippine writers yet, Danton Remoto , along with J. Neil C. Garcia , is the only openly gay writer who has the audacity  to do so  using his  flamboyantly decorated  saber of writing.

A salute to you, Professor Danton Remoto! ^^

Rating : 5/ 5 stars

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai: A Book Review

desaiI am very interested in reading books on India since I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. This novel gave me an idea about life of Indians (although I already studied it in our high school History. ) I became more interested when I read A White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from which I learned the real face of social system in India, that people in the lower class get through miserable and sordid life. This fact opened my mind then. Probably, the novel that has had a significant impact upon me so far is Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, a wonderful book I will definitely recommend to someone asking for what book they should read. Thereby, I always look for the other novels which have something to do with India since there are some included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time.

All the  above-mentioned books have complete resemblance – their themes are all about poverty. So when I saw this novel in a book store, I grabbed it because I have now the conception that Indian novels have something to do with India . On the other hand, Kiran Desai’ s has the same hallmark but not as heart-breaking and compelling as Rohinton Mistry’s . The way she wrote it is completely different from the other contemporary writers’ .

This novel won the Man Booker Prize in 2006 and National Circle Award in the same year. As a reader, do not underestimate why this is deserving of the said awards. In fact , the novel is not much of a good read beyond my taste ; however, objectively speaking, I agree with another famous Indian writer, Salman Rusdie, that Keran Desia is a terrific writer.

First: Desai’s writing style reminds me of Black-American writers’ novels; for example, the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. When you read the novel, you can assimilate the story into two interpretive ways either literally or figuratively. In other words, The Inheritance of Loss is steeped in latent implications, some kind of esoteric reading. Every sentence appears to be so deceiving that I don’t think you cannot get at what Desai wants to imply figuratively. As a cliché puts, “ Read between the lines.” So, could you have this knack of writing skill? Dear me! you might beat your head against the wall thinking about the best and most beautiful fragments you could fabricate as long as 7 years as  Desai took time to finish it.

Second: The novel is what the social world must know . Its themes deal with the social issues nowadays even since before, not only applicable to India and Nepal but also to every nation in the world which must have the same conditions specifically such as :

(a ) American dream also exists in India. The western culture influences the psyches of Indians . Consequently, due to the extreme poverty probably brought about by big population, corruption, and ridiculous so-called Caste System, most Indians are so hapless that they dream of venturing out to the USA. In reality, their life turns out to be more miserable than what they expect to be.

(b) The effects of Imperialism and colonial-mentality upon the social system raise awareness among chauvinists and jingoists. In fact, in the novel, Sai’s retired judge grandpa shows an air of aristocracy and I-am- better-than-you attitude upon his arrival in India after long studies and services under the British government. Such social situation also exists in the Philippines.

( c) Secessionism. A political situation that loses the real identity of a nation.

The novel also deals with feeling of emptiness, the atmospheric feeling I felt from the beginning to the end.

“Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Romantically she decided that love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfillment, in the lack, not the contentment. Love was the ache, the anticipation, the retreat, everything around it but the emotion itself.”

All the rage in the story is the miscegenation between Sai Mistry and Gyan . I found their mutual understanding ridiculous, but their relationship could be symbolic , for Sai is Indian and Gyan; Nepalese.

On the other hand, the only thing that impedes my interest is the Indian words and dialogues with I am not familiar and beyond my understanding. But I believe this is the essence of writing such book; it only reflects the nationalistic observation of Kiran Desia.

Besides, I cannot brush the idea that this novel was as though each story in each chapter had just been patched together as Desai’s successful breakthrough after seven years of writing it. Still, it is a tour de force. Congratulations Ms. Kiran Desai! I envy your febrile imagination. ^^

Prior to this , Desai was already popular among literary critics for her Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard , which I will read as soon as I buy it. ^^

Rating : 5 / 5 stars

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison : A Book Review

invisible manI  started to read  it in December last year,  but eventually  I found it   too cumbersome and hefty  to absorb since my mind was still saturated with personal concerns at that time, so it wound up  unfinished on my study table , collecting dust  , biding its time to be read  until its leaves are turning crispy. Then , I realized that  it is about time I  cleared out my currently-reading shelf to work up more appetite for  the other to-read books. It is a burden on my part   to put a heap of  unfinished books aside, or it looks like  as though I had a Mahabharata list of currently-reading books.

History has  proven that living in a suppressing  nation where you  have no absolute  freedom , where its  atmosphere restrains  your desires from expressing  your thoughts and feelings, where you are not valued, where you are degraded and debased  as if  you were the  disgusting “invisible”  dregs of humanity, brings about revolution in any manners. Some well-known leaders have stood up  by  means of the iconic Mahatma Gandhi ‘s  principles of civil disobedience or “by any necessary means”  immortalized  by the late  black activist Malcolm X.  In a subliminal or passive way, some   have  channeled  their pent-up  grievances through writing books such as   novels which  could in effect change a particular cause  , and this  is at what Ralph Ellison  must have aimed .

Ralph Ellison is not far different from Richard Wright, the author of the Native Son that astounded me to the bone. Both of them   have in common with   their ulterior  motive  why they wrote a novel about African life: to revolt. The only thing they have big difference is the  instrumental style  they used in  putting  their suppressed feelings into a novel. Richard Wright , on the one hand, wrote a suspense novel which you could feel the psychology of  racism.Consequently, the novel is heart-breaking, appalling, and sympathetic. You could feel the  psychologically  adverse effects of    slavery, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. On the other hand, although  Ralph Ellison used the style of R. Wright,  he  attached more importance to  allegories  or  literary devices; he used some situations and materials   in elaborating his suppressed grievances, as appeals to reasons, appeals to emotion, and  appeals to authority.   Thus, reading it was like as though you get  into two dimensions of semantics , and yet you could get at the real climax of the story: You read  the literal passages ; at the same time, they have figurative meanings. That is why I was impressed by this book- it is steeped in awakening passages; every page is worth reading, indeed.

Since R. Ellison grew out of a culture of bigotry and  availed of   his talent in writing to produce this , which he believed could have changed the  incorruptible stereotypes of white Americans about blacks  as well as awakened his fellow blacks to the reality about  divisive dilemma coming into existence among them. In this book, he simply   attached to the very simple dialogues and passages with what the “ real” problems  he  insisted on are the crucial to the desired equality. Ellison wanted to imply figuratively that there  are two groups of  blacks that prevail: one is that believe in the principle of practicality and gentle and gradual  process of raising awareness whereas the second one is consist of the people who believe in the urgent revolution in a manner of  public demonstration .

While reading it, the character,  Brother Jack reminded me of  Martin Luther King Jr. while in the half persona of  the unnamed protagonist and Ras the Exhorter , of Malcolm X. As far as I remember from the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X, King and Malcolm had  unresolved misunderstanding then, for  they had different opinions of means of  revolution against racism. For  King’s, he could get rid of  the  ulcer of society by means of  religion  using his immortal slogan I HAVE A DREAM; Malcolm X’s “ By Necessary Means.” In the other case, I could interpret that the main protagonist could be the persona of Richard Wright. Why not? Ralph Ellison was then close to him. Besides, I learned that Richard Wright once became a spokesperson of  a Communist party  based on his autobiographical novel Black  . Gee,  having read a great deal  of  books  about blacks is now causing me to  have mental bubbles of  analyses.

It is understood that this book  was written as  a revolutionary book   against freedom and equality just the likes of  what I have read :  UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher , A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E. M. Forrester, THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud, A NATIVE SON by Richard Wright, and our very own NOLI ME TANGERE ( TOUCH ME NOT )  by Jose Rizal.( I hope you give it a try. )

This is  included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well  as on TIME’s BEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME since 1923. I should not give it any sheer shadow of doubt because it is absolutely deserving- deserving of any special literary awards, of   your time to read it, of  being part in American studies, and of your 5 stars. ^^