What have I been reading?

‘Barely anything’ is the short answer.

I have to be honest, I’ve been reading less and less over the past few years.

For form’s sake I’ve maintained one book I’m officially reading for as long as I can remember. Right now it’s a collection of Plays Political by George Bernard Shaw (drama plus politics plus British wit – my kind of stuff).

But it’s been over two years since I actually finished a book (I’ve been officially reading this Shaw book for three months now, and I’ve only read five pages).

I even got hold of a great new book recently: ‘Davao Cuisine: Recipes of the Ten Tribes of Davao.’ It’s a brilliant compilation of traditional recipes from the ten designated indigenous tribes of Davao city, edited by Macario Tiu and published by the Philippine Women’s College of Davao, the result of two years of painstaking research. It sells at 300 and is available at PWC.

And nope, I haven’t gotten to reading it yet.

I also recently read short story entries to the 2015 Banaag Diwa Awards, sponsored by Atenews of the Ateneo de Davao University – I was asked to be among the judges for the Short Story Category. I and fellow judge and former Atenews EIC Reymond Pepito then deliberated on the entries and reached a consensus on this year’s crop of fiction from my former school.

The results? Find out on the awarding ceremony this Thursday, 26th March 6pm at AdDU’s Finster Auditorium!

But that was just a total of what, twenty pages, in three weeks? I hardly felt I was on reading-mode.

I guess three things have been preoccupying me lately, distracting me from reading.

First, anime.

Yes, I watch more anime than I read now. I was an anime fan first anyway before I started any literary interests, so I guess I’m just being consistent.

My current anime list includes Akatsuki no Yona, Kiseijuu – Sei no Kakuritsu, Kamisama Hajimemashita 2, Durarara x2 Shou, Yurikuma Arashi, Magic Kaito 1412, the usual Naruto Shippuuden and Detective Conan, and some old One Piece episodes while I eat (I’m trying to catch up on the latest episodes).

I’m not too worried about my lack of literary exposure then, because Yurikuma Arashi is one of the most literary anime titles I’ve ever seen. Now I can say with certainty, that the new face of Theatre of the Absurd is anime, and the next Ionesco is Kunihiko Ikuhara!

Then there’s Kabuki.

I try to watch whatever I can on the internet, and that’s surprisingly a lot. I recently got hold of ‘Hana kurabeshiki no Kotobuki – Manzai‘, featuring actors Nakamura Fukusuke IX and  Nakamura Senjaku III. This auspicious dance drama celebrating the Spring has an interesting history: it’s inspired by a Bunraku puppet play of the same title. But the fact that it’s a dance drama makes it unusual for Bunraku – its writing itself was influenced by Kabuki. It’s a Kabuki dance inspired by a Bunraku dance which is inspired by Kabuki dance!

Fukusuke IX is also becoming one of my favourite Onnagata (his portrayal of Omiwa in this performance of Mikasayama Goten was heart wrenching).

Kabuki is increasingly bringing me back to my primeval theatrical urges – the reason why I started writing in the first place. More and more do I want to write not to come up with a profound articulation of some universal truth (there’s literature in a nutshell for you), but to create something fabulous, something undeniably intense and fun.

And yes, finally, I’ve been writing!

Wordsworth once said, not that I’m a fan of him, that the genuine scholar is preoccupied with reading only when there is nothing better to do. I do not presume to be a genuine scholar (I cannot find monocles in Davao for that), but I have been busy writing.

Outside of the posts to this blog (which you might have noticed is increasing), I’m also completing this collection of short stories that have formed a stylistic suite of their own. I’m calling the collection ‘Proclivities,’ and it includes two published works, ‘In the Manner Accustomed’ (the first of the suite, which won the Joaquin in 2013) and ‘Condign Restitutions’ (which was published in Graphic in 2014). I’ll see if I can get others in the collection published elsewhere.


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