M Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests

de classics, modern fiction,
We



Friday, October 31, 2014

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766)

"No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he had." Samuel Johnson on Oliver Goldsmith 





Oliver Goldsmith (1730 to 1774, born Ballymahon, Ireland) was an Anglo-Irish writer of a famous play, She Stoops to Conquer, a still much read pastoral poem "The Deserted Village" but most famously he is known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield.  My mental picture of Goldsmith comes from Samuel Johnson's many backhanded compliments, quoted by Boswell in his Life of Johnson.  He emerges from Johnson's battering as kind of like Polinus.  Johnson did greatly admire The Vicar of Wakefield and read it numerous times.

My purpose here is just to make a few observations on things that occurred to  me as I read the novel

The prose style is a great pleasure to read and lends itself to fast reading.  The story is told in the first person by the Vicar.  It is kind of an innocent Tom Jones.  The vicar has two daughters ready for marriage as well as two sons of marriageable age.  For women this seems at the time about sixteen and men a bit older.  He and his wife also have two younger children.  The subjects of older novels do not normally have real work every day jobs, being a cleric was often the choice for a central character.  Like many a novel of the period much of the plot action turns on finding suitable spouses for the children, suitable meaning rich.  Keeping the girls "pure" prior to marriage was of all importance. The cleric is given to constant instances of sage advice, most of which is actually very sound.  He is a devoted family man and excellant husband.  The family has their ups and downs, the vicar spends sometime in jail for debt but circumstances rescue him and his family.  

I would that The Vicar of Goldsmith was a great pleasure to read, the plot was interesting, the village life scenes were well done so I endorse the reading of this book to all literary autodidacts. This is a book well described as a "pleasant read".   My understanding is that in Victorian England it was very widely read.  

    

    There seems an error on this Irish Postage Stamp

Mel u



Thursday, October 30, 2014

German Literature Month IV. November 2014. My Plans for this Year




The schedule and guidelines for participation are on the event webpage.  Just reading the posts of all the other participants is tremendously informative. 

I am very happy to be once again participating in German Literature Month, hosted by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life.   Events like this are one of the great things about being part of the international book blog community.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into a month long event and I offer my thanks to Lizzy and Caroline.

This year I will for sure read more novels by Josepth Roth and was very pleased to see a week of the event is being devoted to him.


I will continue to read more Stefan Zweig.


Herman Hesse in the way back was a counter culture literary icon.  I hope to reread at least two of his books in November.


I plan to participate in a month long group reading event on one of Thomas Mann's giant works


I found a great affinity to Robert Walser and I hope to read more of his works also.


Early this year I read The Sleepwalkers by Herman Broch, in November I hope to read his classic Death of Virgil.


I hope to discover some as if now unknown to me writers I will add to my read all I can list.  

Here are the works I read in November 2013 for German Literature Year III

All but Kafka were new to me writers.  Of the writers whose work I first read last year Joseph Roth, Stefan Zweig, Gregor Von Rezzori, and Robert Walser are on my read all I can list. 

The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Klein - a work of genius
"The Job Application" by Robert Walser 
Chess Game by Stefan Zweig-I will read much more of his work
"The Battle of Sempach" by Robert Walser
I have also listed to podcasts of "Basta" and "Frau Wilkes" by Robert Walser
The March of Radetsky by Joseph Roth I hope to read all his work

MEMOIRS OF AN ANTI-SEMITE BY GREGOR VON REZZORI AMAZING WORK OF ART.

"Flypaper" by Robert Musil

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig - I totally love this story.

"The Dead are Silent" by Arthur Schnitzler an entertaining work from 1907

"There Will Be Action" by Heinrich Boll a very good short story by Nobel Prize Winner

Transit by Anne Seghars 1942 very much worth reading

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig - an elegy to a lost culture. 1942

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. 2001. 

The Emperor's Tomb By Joseph Roth 1938 

"Flower Days" by Robert Walser 1907 (no post) 

"Trousers" by Robert Walser -1909 (no post)

Medea By Crista Wolf

An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor Von Rezzori 

"Forgotten Dreams" by StefanZweig (no post)  

Leviathan" by Joseph Roth

"The Legend of the Holy Drinker" by Joseph Roth 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Chouans by Honore de Balzac (1829 - A Novel. - A Component of The Human Comedy)






Recently I read in The Biography of the Novel, a brand new book by Michael Scmidt (published by Harvard University Press) the chapter devoted to Balzac, Flaubert, Zola and Proust.  Schmidt states  some interesting things but he asserts something thing that disturbed me a lot and made me wonder about the depth of his research.  Here it is


This is simply wrong and the presiistence of this error in secondary sources keeps people from reading Balzac.  Anyone who says anything like this has for sure not read The Human Comedy in full or even looked at the full edition in an E Book (cost $2.95).  If consists of 41 novels, 25 short stories and 25 novellas.  At most 10 of the novels are more than 500 pages.   Once you see that it is not 95 full length completed volumes or what ever made up number an authority suggests, reading it in full, which is one of my reading life goals, is very feasible.  Many book bloggers could easily read it in three months.  

The Chouans is set in around 1793 in the Brittany region of France.  There was a lot of sentiment in favor of the dethroned by the Revolution Bourbons and Jean Chouans formed a militia to fight the armies of the republic. Brittany is treated as a very "country" region  in contrast to Paris.  His group was known as The Chouans.  Said to be heavily influenced by Sir Walter Scott and Maria Edgeworth in using real figures and history as the basis for fiction, The Chouans focuses on the attempted but ultimately futile rebellion.  There are some very good battle scenes and discussions of military strategy.  In terms of people, it is centered on two brothers, one a Chouan and one an advocate of The Republic and their common love of a woman.  There is lots of deceptions and trickery in the plot and I never really got interested in the romances in the novel.  A lot turned on who was or was not an aristocrat.  A lot of the fiction of the period turns on someone pretending to be a commoner who really is a noble and secretly rich.  The discovery of this then paved the way for a marriage which ends the novel.  

It is hard to see if Balzac favored the Royalists or Republicans.  

I found the military portions of the novel, the physical descriptions of peoples faces, housing, food and clothing were really good, the account of the landscape of Brittany was masterful.  The romance kind of left me uninterested.  


I am suggesting this novel is for those reading all of The Human Comedy and to those who wish to see the development of the historical novel on the model of Sir Walter Scott in Europe.  

I am now reading a very interesting epistolary novel, Letters From Two Brides.


22 of 91. 

Mel u



A Question and Answer Session on Nathanael West with Joe Woodward author of Alive Inside the Wreck - A Biography of Nathanael West.

Today I am very happy to present a Q and A Session with Joe Woodward, author of a wonderful new biography of Nathanael West, Alive Inside the Wreck - A Biography of Nathanael West.  





Official Bio of Joe Woodward from his webpage






Joe Woodward is a native of California and currently lives in Claremont, California.  He is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of a Los Angeles Press Club Award.  His non-fiction has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, Poets & Writers Magazine and regularly in The Huffington Post.  His fiction has appeared in Passages North, Notre Dame Review, Zone 3 and elsewhere.
Joe received his BA in English at the University of Redlands and an MFA in English from Brooklyn College.  He is grateful to his teachers including Allen Ginsberg, L.S. Asekoff, Joan Larkin, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Ralph Angel, Bruce McAllister, and the many others. 
He is represented by Elizabeth Evans at the Jean V. Nagger Literary Agency in New York.  
Select Publications: 
Books
Alive Inside the Wreck A Biography of Nathanael West -- O/R, 2011
Short Fiction
"At the Airport" -- Peregrine, 2012
"The Season of Her Imagination" -- Passages North, 2012
"Salad Days" -- Notre Dame Review, 2012
"Crossings" -- Connecticut Review, 2011
"Viola" -- Lake Effects, 2011
"The Decemberists" -- Zone 3, 2010
"The Autopsy" -- Southern Indiana Review, 2010
Profiles
"The Gun on the Table: Tobias Wolff -- Poets & Writers, 2008
"A Novelist's Inner Poet: Carol Muske Dukes -- Poets & Writers, 2007
"In Search of David Foster Wallace" -- Poets & Writers,
"Welcome to Ellis Island: Bret Easton Ellis" -- Poets & Writers, 2005

You can read his work on these links

Profile of David Foster Wallace -- Poets & Writers


There are also links to two of his short stories on his webpage.


Nathanael West (1903 to 1940) was a sublime chronicler of the dark side of the American Dream.  Joe Woodward in his brilliant, very well written and documented biography of West, Alive Inside the Wreck -  A Biography of Nathanael West, helps us understand how he came to write his novels, why he kept writing when his work found only the smallest of audiences. The general literary consensus on West is that Miss Lonelyhearts is for sure a master work and probably The Day of the Locust is also.  Little interest is shown in his two shorter,  very strange novels, The Dream Life of Balso Snell and A Cool Million.  Woodward book takes us deeply into the life of West, his very successful work as a screen writer in Hollywood, his Jewish roots, his friendships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and other well know writers and his tragic death in a car wreck.  In a fascinating segment he details the reading habits and loves of West. I hope to reread them of West's novels in 2015 and I think after reading Alive Inside the Wreck - A Biography of West I will be able to see a bit deeper into West's oeuvre and enjoy it more.  West's work is dark, randomly violent and focuses on the Preterite of America but it is also very funny at times and a delight to read.  







How did you first get interested  in Nathanael West?  When did you decide to write a biography on him?

I first read West in college (The Day of the Locust), in the same course that I also first read Flannery O’Connor. It was a strange and heady time for sure. I was mesmerized by both of them. Of course, I learned later that O’Connor was indeed greatly influenced by West—her characters struggle with the grotesque in and around the religious experience. They both are so very brutal in their characterizations of us all. Brutal but tender, empathetic.  



I am a great reader of literary biography. I’ve been interested since I can remember in the writer, the artist, the maker. How and why do they struggle on in the face of such terrible disappointment. Why!! So, when I read the great West biography by Jay Martin, I wondered if there might be more to say about how West wrote, what compelled him to continue in the face of such public apathy. Also, nothing new had been written about in about 40 years when I started. Finally, I did some research and found that a great archive rested just 20 miles from my home.

In what order should a reader new to West read his four novels?

I believe his great masterpiece is Miss Lonelyhearts. It is the most completely original, brutal and tender of his novels. I would read The Day of the Locust next. Again, a fantastic and perhaps easier novel. A Cool Million is a wonderfully entertaining literary experiment, but somewhat flawed. The Dream Life of Balso Snell is a freshman effort, and so perhaps most useful to the budding writer and less so for the general reader.

Do you have a favorite West novel?  



Miss Lonelyhearts always seems so starkly original, so deeply awful and troubling to read. I love that while you completely understand nothing like this novel half-world exists, it is in fact our world in a mirror—punishing us sentence after sentence with true unfairness.

 
                                 Ellen McKenny West 1940 

Is Harold Bloom right in saying that Miss Lonelyheart is really about being Jewish in America?  Is that the deepest meaning of West?

I don’t believe Bloom is right here. Certainly, West was concerned with understanding what it meant to be Jewish in America…what it mean for himself as opposed to his father and uncle, his grandparents etc. His position, in my mind, on this subject was conditional, shifting. It was not the great concern of his life or his work however…nearly every close confidant has said so.

For me, what West does better than anyone is defend those who can’t defend themselves, draw our attention to them. He has a great passion for revealing the hateful, perhaps even the evil that walks the earth. He blames of for either participating in it, or standing by and doing nothing about it.  

How American do you have to be to really get into West?  

Well, in fact, you do not need to be American at all. In fact, the French took to him first and with such passion. Europeans have loved him for so long. He is perhaps too dark in a way for most of America. I believe his discussion of the individual in society speaks to every political system on the planet. Certainly, his take on “all that glitters is not gold” is buried in Chinese and Japanese literature…and beyond.




I saw Candide in Cool Million and did not see the characters as underdeveloped cartoon figures but as representatives of a type or theme as a character in a No play.  Is this way off?

I think this is right. Nothing is underdeveloped in West. He is an artist that draws what he sees as critical, but nothing more. He does not embellish. He does not believe in it as a literary tool or otherwise.  

         
              West at Fourteen

As West wrote about the novel, it is about “The breakdown of the American dream.” It is a sample of our “success literature” told in reverse. At every turn, the story grows darker and darker. In fact, the character is literally pulled limb from limb. And it’s a comedy. So, there you have it.


I am very grateful to Joe Woodward for his very insightful  responses.  I hope he will make another appearance on my blog one day and I look forward to reading his next book.


7.  What are some of the best movies on which West was a script writer ?




The best movie made from a West script I think is "Stranger on the Third Floor." West "polished" this script, but his language is all over it. It is one of the first (or the first) real noir film. I do believe that he would've got quite good at script writing would he have kept at it. He did not believe it was "art," which made be why I think he would've conquered it. Instead, what we are largely left with is impossible plotting and thin characters, etc. In fact, though Fitzgerald did believe film writing an art, West did not.

8.  What are some of your favorite literary biographies!
 
My favorite literary biographies include.... Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey, Flannery: A Life by Brad Gooch, and anything written by Claire Tomalin--Hardy, Dickens, Pepys...all classics.

9.  What is the best film made of a West novel?


 
Finally, the only truly watchable film of a West novel is John Schlesinger's "The Day of the Locust." This was done in 1975 and stars Donald Sutherland, Karen Black and others. Still, it is a very strange film to watch...though, indeed, not as terrifying as the novel itself. 

End

am very grateful to Joe Woodward for his very insightful  responses.  I hope he will make another appearance on my blog one day and I look forward to reading his next book.




Monday, October 27, 2014

Amador T. Daguio - A Son's Perspective by Danny Daguio (with analysis and background on "Wedding Dance") - A guest post



Of the 2300 plus posts on The Reading Life, those on short stories of the Philippines are the most read.  International and domestic interest in the work of the great writer, Amador T. Daguio is very high.  Older short stories by authors from the Phillipines are not just great art they are our best way of keeping intact the rapidly declining memories of pre-World War II life in the country.  They are a great resource for cultural historians and an untapped treasure trove for readers of Post Colonial Literature.

Today I am very proud to present a guest post by Danny Daguio, son of Amador T. Daguio.  He has presented us with insights and knowledge only he has.  I am honored to have a small role in preserving the literary heritage of the Philippines. 






Amador T. Daguio - Insights from a Son's Perspective


By Danny Daguio

 

When I posted on my father’s Facebook page about a dream that I had, where he was prodding me to write the things I knew about him as his son, I received an encouraging comment from my cousin Vicky anticipating a Part 2 to his short story, Wedding DanceMy immediate reaction was one of hesitance, in my mind, my father cannot be imitated. Not even my lineage is guarantee that I can write like him. There is much I can relate about his life, his family, his works and experiences. Indeed, given enough time (and perhaps web space), I am determined to impart these stories and insights to as many of those willing to learn more. However, my intention here is to write about him growing up as his son and the works that had significance and impact to my childhood, and more so after his untimely death when I was only 15. A little insight if you will.





Perhaps my father’s most studied work, Wedding Dance, is an integral part of Philippine literature and indeed many have studied and analyzed the significance, meaning and thought in the words he wrote. Many of his works are thematically linked and invoke the same feelings, which my father had always endeavored to implore in his writing. These feelings are perhaps the reason why his poems have resonated with so many, more so with myself.


Alongside with Wedding Dance, there are three of my father’s poems that are dear to my heart as they related to my life as well as his: The Flaming LyreMan of Earth and Hymn to DeathAll these were written when he was young student and are in his first volume of poems, The Flaming Lyre. He dedicated the book to his mentor during his university days at UP, the Australian, Tom Inglis Moore, “because I owe him my beginnings and because he advised me to withhold the printing of this book until after at least twenty years.”

He says in the Preface
“I have left these first gatherings substantially in the thought, image, and feeling in which I first expressed them in original manuscript. What I did change is the manner of saying, guided as I have been by T. Inglis Moore's demand of me to strive ever for the correct phrase and the perfect form.”

His use of the word “feeling is particularly significant here, as this always played an important role in all his works. He told me once that a writer will try to picture his feelings in a poem and, in doing so, would use descriptive words. He also would try to convey his personal life experiences in his writings.


I studied at San Sebastian College from my elementary grades through to high school. Those days, the school had, every few months, a Sunday radio program, held in coordination with a local radio station, where students from the school participated in a contest among themselves. A student could sing, declaim, recite a poem, or play any instrument. It was hosted by a lovely emcee whose name Ino longer recall. I must have been in Grade 4 or 5, more likely the latter, as I recall Miss Sison, a grade 5 teacher, having joined us on the bus ride to the radio station and back to school.


You probably guessed it, yes, I was to recite my father’s first poem, The Flaming Lyre, on national radio. After having been chosen several weeks back, my father was so ecstatic. Imagine! His first son was about to recite his first poem, wouldn’t you as a father be so thrilled? He made me go through weeks of practice. He would say that poems are oftentimes studied and analyzed but the spoken delivery of it becomes the music to one’s ears. They are written to be read and recited, but always with(and to him this was the important bit) FEELINGS.


Going back to that day, it was a Sunday morning, just before noon after Sunday mass. Amador T. Daguio was at home with his ears close to the radio. All he would hear would be the voice of the emcee, the poem being recited with feelings by his son, Daniel, then the clapping of the audience. He would not be able to see what emotion would be present at the other side. He would not see his son’s gestures, but he would hear the conversation between God and himself, through his son, beingbroadcast on radio. This was the expectation, the reality came out differently.


Picture this, my father at home, listening intently and without pause as it came to my turn, introductions completedbegan to recite the piece that he had himself labored over. With the first stanza done, his pride would’ve been tangible!

“No, you must play the flaming lyre, Your words are not yet good.”

“But how shall I touch your strings of fire,” I asked, “to get the mood?” ….

 

Then, complete silence! One could have heard a pin drop not even the audience made a single sound.After a moment, the quietness was broken by the voice of the emcee, “Is that it? That was a short poem. Let us give Daniel a big round of applause”.


My father was heart-broken. He was unsure what happened and after weeks of heartfelt preparation, he understood in his mind that I knew the poem so well and would not have forgotten a single word.

On our way back to school, I was asked by the teachers what went wrong, though they seemed to have suspected that I was told to keep my piece short. Indeed, that was what happened. Before the program began, the emcee met with all contestants. She asked me how long my poem was. I said it has 5 stanzas, not explaining they were short ones. She told me to cut it down to two. And the rest is history.

This was taken from the book, his first volume of poems, The Flaming Lyre. The poem itself is made up of 5 short stanzas.

 

Throughout my years as a student, I have had the opportunity to meet colleagues and former students of my father’s as my own teachers/professors. Among these was Prof. Francisco Arcellana, a National Artistwho was my teacher in Humanities at the University of the Philippines. There also was my Speech teacher, also in UP, Mrs. Reyes. She was with my father’s group that went to Stanford University. Almost always, on the first day of class during the roll call, the question was asked, “Areyou related to the late Amador T. Daguio?” The knowledge that I was his son did not offer me any advantage over other students from the teachers. In fact, I had to uphold the name in high regard by making sure I did not fail. I had to study harder.


In my 4th year High School, my Literature teacher was Mr. Nick Lizaso, a student of my father at the University of the East. The textbook used was Philippine High School Readers and, in it, was the poemMan of Earth. This poem is probably the most well-known of his poems or perhaps the first to appear in school literature books. Mr. Lizaso already knew me to be the son and, as such, told the class that next week, Man of Earth was to be taken up and I was to interpret the poem for the class. This meant that, to me at least, I had to get my father to help me out. He was a busy man with the Nacionalista Party campaign for the 1965 Presidential elections in full swing. Even though former Speaker Daniel Romualdez, for whom he worked for, died early that year, my father was still actively involved with the Party. When he heard from my mother that I needed him, he made sure that family came first. I had the whole weekend with him. I learned some valuable lessons that weekend, in addition to getting a first-hand insight into his thoughts when he wrote Man of Earth.


I recall my father telling me that there is no right or wrong answer when analyzing a poem. You need to try, at least, to do it on your own. Strive to picture the thoughts and feelings of the writer from the words he uses in the poem” Funny, as I write this, how some students of literature nowadays go to Google and look for interpretations of poems rather than do it on their own. And with the “copy, cut and paste” software functions of today, not to mention “Spellcheck”, it is a wonder how my father and his contemporaries survived using the good old typewriter to read and re-read their manuscripts and edit their writings!


Going back to the days after my father’s death, we were looking for an appropriate inscription to place on my father’s tomb. It was my idea to take a copy of his The Flaming Lyre book and see if there was something we could use from among his poems. Lo and behold, staring me right in the face as I turned the page to that memorable poem, Man of Earth, was his poem Hymn to Death.

It was not a coincidence but such amazing reality! After giving a very descriptive ode to death, he ends the stanza with the prophetic line, “I’ll someday give my youth to die under a shining April sky”.We must remember that this was a poem written when he was in his late teens or early 20’s. He died in April, roughly 45 years from when he wrote the poem. Equally amazing is the fact that the second stanza of Hymn to Death was his epitaph, very much aptly written to describe him:

When I shall have been gone, say of me:

“He was a seeker of the heart of man.

He was God’s talker, love was his crown

And beauty ruled his sceptered hand.

He established the house of life

Though he carved on rocks of sorrow his songs,

Then he went to land and he went to sea,

Proclaiming, “Faith: at last I’m free!”


And so, the decision came easy. On his tomb at the Manila Memorial Park is written this poem, Hymn to Death. (Unfortunately, the tomb is in a current state of disrepair and the inscriptions have faded sobadly and the marble stone irreparably damaged)

The short story Wedding Dance came to my consciousness a number of years after my father’s death and it actually came in the form of an adaptation written for television and directed by a former student, Mauro Avena, which he titled The Beads, in reference to the gift given by Awiyao’s grandmother for him to give to Lumnay on their wedding day. This short television drama made me aware to the point I wanted to read the story as written by my father. I did so many years ago. I am just so thankful that I brought a copy of Story masters 2 by Alberto Florentino 1973 to Australia whichI use as reference and also be able to re-read the story for my own enjoyment.


Let me now attempt to bring up some major points concerning my father’s three poems and the short story Wedding Dance.


Belief in versus Relationship with God

There is never a doubt that my father believed in God but never did he make a statement of belief normake any attempt to minister his belief in his works. Rather, he wrote of his relationship with God. To him, a person’s relationship with God is personal, intimate and unique to one’s being. God is someone you can talk to, simply put.


In his first poem, The Flaming Lyre, he immediately lays down the main premise that his talent is God-given. He tries to bargain with God to just do what he is comfortable doing. God insists and tells him that he “play the flaming lyre” and reminds him that “your words are not yet good”. Again, he tells God of his doubts. The third stanza relates how God advises to use his feelings (heartbeats) and his vision (things you see), then implies that whatever comes out is, in fact, inspired work from God.The last line of the poem then confirms this,


The words dance as if their music floats, From the soul of God’s magic bell.”

In Man of Earthhe boldly declares that no matter what challenges God will bring to bear on him, he would face these, stoop like the bamboo if he must, but survive and, as man, not break and get to stand again.

“Bend me then, O Lord, Bend me if you can.”

In Hymn to Death, he writes that we say of him when he is gone,

He was God’s talker, love was his crown”.

Again, a reference to what he was told by God in the Flaming Lyre

And you will find how strings are fed, By the sounds that come from me”.

Wedding Dance likewise included references to God’s plan for us when Lumnay was talking to Awiyao:

“You know that I have done my best,” she said. “I have prayed to Kabunyan much. I have sacrificed many chickens in my prayers.” 

“Yes, I know”

“You remember how angry you were once when you came home from your work in the terrace because I butchered one of our pigs without your permission. I did it to appease Kabunyan, because, like you, I wanted so much to have a child. But what could I do?”

“Kabunyan does not see fit for us to have a child,” he said. He stirred the fire. The sparks rose through the crackles of the flames. The smoke and soot went up to the ceiling.


Filipino by Heart and Spirit

Even if my father wrote in pure English (to distinguish from the writings in the new day version called Taglish), it did not detract from the fact that he was truly nationalistic, true Filipino by heart and spirit.

In an article of Jose Wendell P. Capili published in the July-August 2011 issue of The UP Forum entitled SP Lopez and the Mentoring of Tom Inglis Moore, my father’s mentor says (quoting from the article),

As reflected in “Typhoons and April Showers, Moore urged Filipinos writing in English to “learn not only to write with English but also to write against it….fight against the meanings of which are not applicable here… write English without becoming an Englishman or American. In adopting the Anglo-Saxon language, (the Filipino writer)…has to guard against adopting Anglo-Saxon ideas, feelings and customs which are not true for the Philippines or for himself.”


As a devoted student of T. Inglis Moore, my father took to heart his mentor’s words. In Man of Earth, he refers to the Philippine folklore about Malakas and Maganda, the first man and woman, in the first stanza of the poem,

They say that from the bamboo, We had our first birth.”

While some say that this poem seem to apply to modern day events happening in the Philippines, it was actually written at a time when the Philippines was not yet granted independence by the United States. Where he describes the passing of the wind and man stooping and being flexible, he would have been referring to the many years of the country being under Spanish rule and currently, at time of writing, American rule. He, of course, did not fathom the events that occurred in later years when the Philippines endured another war and fell under Japanese occupation. Inspired by God or not, his words were prophetic and his challenge to God to “bend” him was answered. Yet, we now know that the country endured and, as man, the Filipino people stood up again.


The short story Wedding Dance is a classic example of my father writing about what is true for the Philippines. Here, he uses the marriage custom in some tribes in the Cordilleras to create a story with the central theme of how the husband and wife cope with the custom as against their feelings. While it is human drama at its best, the story also gives a lot of insights into the culture and the beautiful surrounds that abound in the north of the Philippines.

His thesisHudhud Hi Aliguyon, which earned my father his Master of Arts in English from Stanford University, is somewhat unique and very Filipino. I quote word for word the first paragraph of the Foreword of his thesis:

The work here presented is the first English translation of Hudhud Hi Aliguyon, a harvest song of the Ifugao tribe of the Philippines, preceded by an introduction which will endeavor to give the reader a more or less comprehensive background for an understanding of the poem. A description of the land of the Ifugaos will be followed by a descriptive sketch of the Ifugaos themselves – their physical characteristics, their social behavior, and the cultural traits whichdistinguish them from other tribes in the Philippines. The introduction will next take up pertinent facts of Ifugao life and culture, including some aspects of Ifugao mythology, beliefs and practices, that have particular reference to the song itself; the preparation of an Ifugao for the office of tribal poet, the manner of an oral rendering of the Hudhud, the attitude of the audience toward their poets; and such other data as will contribute to an adequate understanding and appreciation of the harvest song. Hudhud Hi Aliguyon will then be paraphrased and analyzed, and its place in the literature and life of the Ifugaos evaluated.”


There are many other works of my father that appear in his other volume of poems which are true for the Philippines and for himself, but, not wishing to divert too much from this article’s scope, I will leave that to future write-ups. However, I cannot resist the temptation to quote some portions of two of his works.


The first one, from “To Those of Other Lands”, my father writes,

Though I may speak the English language, Let me tell you: I am a Filipino, I stand for that which make my nation, the virtues of the country where I was born. I may have traces of the American, Be deceived not: Spain has, too, her traces in me, But my songs are those of my race……..

From Credo: For America”…….

I like to think of a Filipino free in his own country

I like to think of my countrymen as brothers, not in religion, nor in employment, nor in party, but brothers in the name of all humanity.

I like to think of dying someday in my country, knowing that death comes as a reward for a life well-lived.

And for America: I like to think of every Filipino speaking of her with a grateful heart, thinking of a rich past and a richer future.

I like to think of going back to God someday, carrying with me a candle, a sampaguita, and a Filipino flag: souvenirs from the Filipino people: a token of our country’s love for Him.

 

Amador Daguio’s Artistry 

My father wanted me to talk to him in English so I would learn it well. Unbeknownst to students of literature, they too are subjected to some form of learning when they read his writings. My fatherwould rarely use common words several times in his poems and would try to use other but similar meaning words. As a matter of fact, I sometimes had to avail of a dictionary (or in this modern day, google a word) to be able to get exactly what he meant. While learning could be a possible reason, I would think it has been a matter of necessity for him as a writer to use different words. Unlike the medium of television or movies where one can easily see the picture, a writer has to use words that aptly describes the message he wants to convey to the readers. The use of exclamation marks is also part of his arsenal. And, to avoid being monotonous, words that are not commonly used find their place in his poems or short stories. That spells Amador Daguio’s artistry!

Let me sight a few examples from his subject works. In Man of Earth, the first word “Pliant”, which by definition means “easily bent”, captures one’s imagination of what a bamboo looks like. At the time I first read the poem. I was 15 and surely would not have clearly understood its meaning. I had to know, so I asked. Same first stanza, he writes

They say that from the bamboo, We had our first birth.

Here he implies the Filipino folklore that the first man and woman (our first birth) was born out of the bamboo. But he did not state it as such.

Hymn to Death contains a number of words that were intentionally used to be able to give a very descriptive feeling of what death looks like and its inevitability.

To you, O Death, laureled by the Sun’s fire,

To you whose dark face is forgetfulness,

To you whose grim, dread presences

Make still the lips of loveliness,

To you, swiftunfathomable,

To you, wholly unsurpassed and pale,

I’ll someday give my youth to die

Under a shining April sky.

 

The Flaming Lyre uses a lot of simple words but are quite significant in meaning. Flaming is used a number of times in the poem, rightly so, because it is something that one would not want to touch as it is intense and burning. But God gave it and, notwithstanding his doubts, he had to trust and have faith in God. He uses the word “golden” to denote the best care you can give and “heartbeats” to mean your feelings. Perhaps, the word “Pluck” would be the uncommon word and my father saw that it would emphasize the urgency of what God wanted him to do. There also is the use of “question marks” and “exclamation points” to make sure one reads the poem the way he meant it.  

Wedding Dance also features a number of words that are uncommon but are appropriate for what he is describing in the story. In describing Lumnay for the first time, my father writes,

He looked at the woman huddled in a corner of the room, leaning against the wall. The stove fire played with strange moving shadows and lights upon her face. She was partly sullen, but her sullenness was not because of anger and hate.”

As Lumnay moved during the conversation,

This time the woman stirred, stretched her right leg out and bent her left leg in. She wound the blanket more snugly around herself.”

Words like “clamorously, “sturdy” and “buttresses” were used to describe sound from the dancers’ gongs and strength of Awiyao and the rocks. At the wedding dance,

The men leaped lithely with their gangsas as they circled the dancing women decked in feast garments and beads, tripping on the ground like graceful birds, following their men.

And close to the end,

The wind began to sough and stir the leaves of the bean plants.”

There are other uncommon words and I enjoin you to look for them.

 

Feelings and Wedding Dance

“Awiyao!”

He stopped as if suddenly hit by a spear. In pain he turned to her. Her face was agony. It pained him to leave. She had been wonderful to him. What was it that made man wish for a child? What was it in life, in the work in the fields, in the planting and harvest, in the silence of night, in the communings with husband and wife, in the whole life of the tribe itself that made man wish for the laughter and speech of a child? Suppose he changed his mind? Why did the unwritten law demand, anyway, that a man, to be a man, must have a child to come after him? And if he was fruitless—but he loved Lumnay. It was taking away half of his life to leave her like this.


Wedding Dance was published in early 1953 and would have been written at about the same time as my father was writing his thesis for his Masters in English at the Stanford University in California. His thesis is rich in historical information as to how he came to learn about the Ifugao harvest song and the stories about the Bontocs and the Kalingas. In his Foreword, he states in part,

My childhood was spent among the inhabitants of Kalinga, a sub-province of the Mountain Province, and I travelled through all the sub-provinces of the area. Close contact with the place and the people gave an intimate knowledge of their customs and their culture as well as comprehension of their dialects.”

Reading through the Introduction part of the thesis, where he wrote about the people of the Mountain Provinces, I came upon this on page 15,

Children are so important in the family that the lack of them is the only ground for divorce. If after some years of marriage no children come to a couple, they may amicably agree on a separation. The pain of separation is mollified by the belief that another chance of marriage by the separated spouses may result in better luck.”


Thus was born the idea of Wedding Dance, the short story. But why choose this particular custom,among so many others, to write about? And, if my father learned of this particular custom in his childhood, why choose to write about it only now?

As my father was collecting his thoughts in the writing of Hudhud, it must have occurred to him that this particular custom paralleled, in a way, his own life. When he first came to learn about this custom, he was so young that it never really entered his thoughts to give it any significance. However, in 1952, it was a different story. He and his wife, my mother Estela, had endured for 10 years, from the time they got married in 1939, not having a child of their own. He knew he had the material to write about the custom. He knew about his feelings and, perhaps, his wife’s feelings from their own communings.And so, the drama he created in the interplay of feelings between Awiyao and Lumnay may have been the drama of his life, though not entirely. And when my father narrates Awiyao’s and Lumnay’s love for each other, he must have been thinking of his love for my mother and my mother’s love for him as he toiled by his lonesome self more than eight thousand miles away.


The tribal custom was somewhat universal, in that, the generation of my father (and even mine) placed so much importance in a couple being able to bear children of their own, even having a son for their first born. It was desired that the first baby be a boy as he would be able to carry the family’s last name. While this was not ground for divorce between childless couples, contrary to the tribal custom in the Cordilleras at that time, it did play up in the thoughts of the couples in some way.People even talked about men being infertile, behind their backs, as if it was wrong to be one. Thus,my father writes in Wedding Dance,

“Lumnay”, he said tenderly. “Lumnay. If I did this it is because of my need for a child. You know that life is not worth living without a child. The men have mocked me behind my back. You know that.”


The tribal custom itself does not discriminate against women. The wife has as much right, as the man, to take another man for a husband. My father hints on this,

“Go out—go out and dance. If you really don’t hate me for this separation, go out and dance. One of the men will see you dance well; he will like your dancing; he will marry you. Who knows but that, with him, you will be luckier than you were with me?”


But Lumnay did not want to hear of this. Awiyao was hers. She loved Awiyao. And so, resentment against the law and the elders was building inside her. This was somewhat like the beginnings of the women’s liberation movement that started in the late 60’s. But it was the early 50’s, hence it is a wonder what my father had in mind when he wrote this.

Tonight all the women who counted, who once danced in her honor, were dancing now in honor of another whose only claim was that perhaps she could give her husband a child.

“It is not right. It is not right!” she cried. “How does she know? How can anybody know? It is not right,” she said.

Suddenly she found courage. She would go to the dance. She would go to the chief of the village, to the elders, to tell them it was not right. Awiyao was hers; nobody could take him away from her. Let her be the first woman to complain, to denounce the unwritten rule that a man may take another woman. She would break the dancing of the men and women. She would tell Awiyao to come back to her. He surely would relent. Was not their love as strong as the river?


As the story goes, Lumnay went on her way to be at the dance. But, as soon as she saw the flaming brightness of the bonfire, she relented. Instead she went to “the new clearing of beans which Awiyao and she started to make only four moons before”.

There, Wedding Dance ends.

The mountain clearing was cold in the freezing moonlight. The wind began to sough and stir the leaves of the bean plants. Lumnay looked for a big rock on which to sit down. The bean plants now surrounded her, and she was lost among them.

A few more weeks, a few more months, a few more harvests—what did it matter? She would be holding the bean flowers, soft in the texture, silken almost, but moist where the dew got into them, silver to look at, silver on the light blue, blooming whiteness, when the morning comes. The stretching of the bean pods full length from the hearts of the wilting petals would go on.

Lumnay’s fingers moved a long, long time among the growing bean pods.

The choice of words by my father are highly significant and symbolic of his thoughts andfeelings.


Undeniably, his works have been written about and analyzed and dissected. Many have brought forward different ideas and thoughts about what he had written. Many will bring forward many more different ideas and thoughts in years to come. These are my thoughts and comprehension of his words as I have witnessed them in my life with him.


My father was only with me for a short time in my life, however I am the lucky one as my siblings had an even shorter time with him, my own children never having known him. However, his works have always resonated and stayed with me and as I read his writing, I read between the lines and behind each word and see much of my father’s very own personal thoughts and feelings displayed on the pages.

 


 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Danny Daguio

I'd like to acknowledge and give thanks to The Reading Life's Mel u for giving me the opportunity to write this article and enable me to reach out to so many, in order that my father's work can be discovered by a new generation of students and rediscovered by scholars of the past.


Written as a guest article for the blog site The Reading LifeAll rights reserved. No part of this article may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews, including essays done by students of literature.


For more information about Amador T. Daguio, you can visit his Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/amadorTdaguio


End of Guest Post


My greatest thanks to Danny Daguio for providing the world with this very valuable historical information.  He is the sole owner of this article. I relinquish all rights as publisher to Mr. Daguio.  It is protected under international copyright laws.  


Mel u