Friday, May 10, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
It was a rare pleasure to have Sean read to me while I was sick. He would have refused but I said, "When you were a baby, you used to stop me and wrestle with me every time I read a book. So, now, it's your turn to please me. Just one page, please." I closed my eyes and listened to the first paragraphs of Milan Kundera's "The Great Return," published by old Granta. First his voice sounded diffident, unsure. Then, he developed confidence and became daring as he gained paragraphs. My headache started to subside. Eventually, his eyes began to jump. "Voluntarily, not voluntary," I corrected. He turned to me. "How come you knew it was 'voluntarily,' not 'voluntary'?" he asked, "Your eyes were closed." "I simply knew it," I said. I was about to explain but quickly he cut me short. "If you already knew everything, even with your eyes closed," he said, "Then, I don't have to read to you at all." He put the book down and walked away.
Monday, March 25, 2013
She vanished after Nico and I appeared lukewarm to her idea of turning the world upside down. The sight of her hauling all her books into the office used to make our day. I am still midway through her old Granta, its pages filled with her marks and comments, which really bothered me as I inched my way through Luc Sante's "Lingua Franca;" her copy of Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time," conveniently gathering dust among the books on top of my cabinet which is not my bookstand, while I watch my dendrobium spikes new blooms right before my eyes, while I water my dillweed, my sage, my basil, my ailing oregano, and my peppermint forever attacked by wilt; while I cooked dishes in the kitchen and blackmailed Sean and Ja to tell me the food is good or else I might not cook again. Where is Sheilfa? She was the only woman who can speak what nobody else I knew dare to speak, with bitterness that could sting the eyes, with so much passion, with so much fury, with so much rage! Where is she?
Sunday, March 24, 2013
About a year ago, I was at first intrigued, then, taken aback by the exciting and decadent life of Henry VIII, the English monarch father of the first Queen Elizabeth of England, as portrayed in The Tudors, the historical English drama fiction serialized in UK television created by Michael Hirst, filmed in Ireland, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the character of King Henry VIII. I was totally enthralled by the character that must have been Henry VIII, how charming and vain he was, how untrammelled in his sexual appetite, how irrational in his statesmanship and in his policy-making, I was willing to be taken in for a voyeuristic ride except for the disturbing scenes which I could not accept: the senseless slaughter of peasants who questioned and opposed Henry’s policies of shutting down and ransacking of abbeys in rural England, the untrammelled use of the torture machine inside the Tower of London to extract confessions from suspected heretics; the untiring and overzealous witch hunting carried to the height of abuses that led to the death of so many innocent people. Yet, what really struck me was how accurately and astutely Henry VIII’s daughter Elizabeth figured out on her own how to survive as a woman in that patriarchal world: how rightfully and correctly she had guessed that her marrying someone, whether for love or for any other reason, will erode her power as a queen, and might even annihilate her as a person. And so, Elizabeth, the astute Queen Elizabeth, deemed enemy and political rival of King Philip of Spain (the monarch in whose name tributes were extracted from the Philippines) lorded it all in England, ushering in the era of English history that brought about the likes of William Shakespeare. But the reason I was struck by Elizabeth figuring out the equation of power all by herself, was because it took me years to understand that woman question myself, as it manifested itself in my life; and then, when I understood it completely, it was already too late. I could no longer do anything about it. I admire Elizabeth for holding it out, for being so tough and strong, for keeping her emotions (and affection) in check and for keeping the men at bay while she stayed in power.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013