Last week my wife's youngest brother, age 43, Bonny Norte, tragically passed away. The ancestral home of the family is in Candelaria in Northern Zambales, a town of about five thousand. Bonny was a teacher, a father and husband and a dedicated family member. Bonny was a calm, gentle person who loved being with his family above all else. My wife, me and three daughters and a niece and nephew all traveled up from Manila to Candelaria. Manila is the epitome of a S. E. Asian Mega City, Candelaria is a very relaxed place where it is a pleasure just to breath. Sitting out in the veranda of the main house on the family property, I almost feel like I could be back 100 years in time, if I let my mind run free I can imagine watching the Spainish first arrive.
I find being there very conductive to deep and extended reading. You can see the white carabao pulling a cart on the highway in front of the family property. I had just read E. F. Forster's wonderful story about the reading life, "The Celestial Omnibus" and I wondered if the carabao could really be pulling the celestial omnibus through Zambales.
While in Candelaria I completed Elizabeth Taylor's excellent 1947 novel, A View from the Harbour, read in Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe's most recently translated novel and read about a third of a book on my life time must read list, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I also read and reread a number of short stories, some by favorite authors I knew I could count on for quality art and some by writers totally new to me. I will list them with sometimes a comment.
The German Pension by Katherine Mansfield. I read and posted on all these stories about five years ago. The stories were among her first published works, she was to later call them immature, are interconnected works set in an elite German boarding house where people go to take water cures in hot springs for various illnesses. I wanted to see if I would like her work now after five years of reading short stories as I did years ago. I found I liked them much more. The characterizations are very subtle and the wit so dry. Set just before W W I the houmourous jibes between the Germans and the English woman narrating the stories take on a dark under tone. The stories are really funny at times, at times very sad. The stories have lots of subtle class markers. I reread about half the stories and will reread the rest again soon.
I also read or reread six short stories by a contemporary writer I have admired for a long time, Ethel Rohan, all from her newest collection Goodnight Nobody. Rohan writers about death and pain in a very illuminating fashion. Her stories are a pure joy to read and I am greatly looking forward to her first novel. The Irish know Death.
"The Celestial Omnibus" by E. M. Forster (1911) belongs on your must read list. It is brief but may keep you pondering for a long time.
"Slight Rebellion off Madison" was my first J. D. Salinger short story. I liked it a lot.
Robert Walser is on my list of holy writers. I read the very prototypical Walser story "Heblinger's Story".
"His Mother" by Mavis Gallant, anyone who has read Mavis loves her work and so do I.
"The Silk Hankerchef" by Sait Faish Abasiyanh, Turkey's highest regarded short story writer. My first of his work. I was given a while ago an anthology of his stories and will soon read more, I hope.
"Barren" by Saadat Hasan Manto. Literary works about the dark side of the Indian mega city are very trendy now, Manto was there first.
"The Way Things are Going" by Lynn Freed. First read a Freed story in 2011, glad to have read a second.
"High Belt Over Coat" by Mikhail Shishkin (2012, Russia). I liked this story and maybe I will overcome my aversion to post- Romanov Russian fiction one day, though I do like Gorky a lot.
"The Semlplica Girl Diaries" by Geroge Saunders. My second of his works, a strange very interesting quite creative story.
Bonny, we all miss you. See you again.