Sunday, June 22, 2008
: . Summer Reading
(Library of the Santo Tomás university in Manila. Álbum de vistas de la Universidad y Colegios.1887. BN.)
Reviews of new Philippine titles have always been hard to come by. Philippine newspapers seldom review local publications and, as far as I know, rarely employ in-house book reviewers. Philippine academic journals, like their overseas counterparts, publish their reviews months if not years after a book's release date. Philippine trade and academic publishers, with few exceptions, infrequently update their websites. And, for those of us outside the Philippines, overseas Philippine booksellers, those with brick and mortar shops and those that market their wares exclusively online, irregularly add items to their inventories. Those in the Philippines could always browse local bookshops, but they must often brave traffic to find bookshops either large enough to devote more than a few feet of shelf space to Philippine titles or that specialize in Filipiniana. Those directly connected to either Philippine academia or Philippine publishing could always rely on word of mouth or mailing lists to learn about the latest titles. But those of us who aren't have to conduct time-consuming searches online to learn about new books "back home." Gone are the days of Morton Netzorg's Cellar Bookshop or Linda Nietes' Philippine Expressions when all one had to do was place a phone call and be guaranteed to hear a knowledgeable bookseller on the other line eager to talk about the latest in Filipiniana. Nowadays, we are left to our own devices.
Acquiring Filipiniana from overseas is another matter. After the long wait for new titles to be finally available for sale, they are either overpriced or, if you're buying from a Philippine-based seller, involve obscene shipping and handling costs. Paying for the books poses another problem. Most online booksellers accept credit cards but the Ateneo University and the University of the Philippines Presses as well as Libros Filipinos do not. You'll either have to mail them a money order or, in the case of Libros Filipinos, wire transfer the payment to their Bank of the Philippine Islands account. More time and more money. For example, I recently ordered a copy of Resil Mojares' "Brains of the Nation" from Gallery of Prints, a Makati shop that sells books and artwork online through AbeBooks.com. The book was priced at $25.00 (the Philippine price at Libros Filipinos is Php 695.00 or US $17.82), surface mail costs an additional US 17.00 for those willing to wait 4 to 6 weeks, while airmail for the impatient costs US $42.00, two and a half times the book's Philippine price. Thankfully, Gallery of Prints accepts credit cards. The book is also available at the University of Hawaii Press, distributor of select titles from the Ateneo and University of the Philippines Presses, for US $87.00, five times its Philippine price or at other sellers on Abebooks for a low of US $78.30 to a high of US $136.32. And that's exclusive of shipping costs. The best Filipiniana source online, the Coimbatore, India-based Mary Martin Booksellers, which has formed a partnership with the Manila-based Solidaridad Bookshop, also sells the book, this time for US $29.50 plus US $14.00 for shipping, but that would involve a 30 to 45 day wait for the book to arrive, often looking battered from its long voyage at sea. In a year or two, other booksellers like the Philippine American Literary House or Arkipelago Books, both in California, may have the books available for sale. But by then, I suspect that the book will be considered out-of-print. Better to fly to the Philippines and shop there instead.
These are the books that I will be reading in the next few months or as soon as I get my hands on them. They range in subject matter from US colonial governance to nationalist masculinity to Franco Moretti-inspired analysis of canonical nationalist texts. If you know of other new Filipiniana titles, please let me know.
Tagalog Bestsellers of the Twentieth Century: A History of the Book in the Philippines
by Patricia May B. Jurilla
"This pioneering work is a study on the history of the book in the Philippines, with a focus on literary publishing and Tagalog literary bestsellers of the twentieth century. It spans more than four centuries of publishing , from 1593 when the first book was printed in the country to 2003 when the first nationwide survey on reading attitudes and preference was conducted. Through its case studies of twentieth-century Philippine literary forms and texts that may be referred to as the bestselling books in their time, the work both highlights and puts in wider context the publishing, manufacturing, distribution, reception, and survival of these bestsellers, and their impact on and relation to the conditions and circumstances in the culture, society, politics, and economics of the time.
This study is, in a sense, an expedition. It is an initial, painstaking effort at exploring the immense terrain of the history of the book in the Philippines, with the hope that it will leave deep enough tracks for other explorers to follow."
Why Counting Counts: A Study of Forms of Consciousness andProblems of Language in Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo
by Benedict R. O'G. Anderson
"This book examines Jose Rizal’s great novels, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, through a hitherto untried quantitative analysis of the scope ands evolution of their political and social vocabulary, as well as their use of Tagalog and the lengua de Parian. Special attention is given to which characters (including the Narrator) use these terms and languages, and with what frequency. The study aims to throw new light on Rizal’s changing political consciousness and use of his native language. The most important questions raised are: the shifting nature of Rizal’s intended readership; the geographical location of the birth of a Filipino identity in the modern sense; the odd concealment of the Chinese mestizos combined with a growing hostility to the Chinese as an alien race; the level and ambit of the author’s political sophistication; and the complicated relationship between the colonial-international aspects of Spanish, the ethnic-nationalist claims if Tagalog and the emergence of a democratic cross-class lingua franca, especially in Manila."
Brains of the Nation: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the Production of Modern Knowledge
by Resil B. Mojares
"Grounded in a detailed analysis of the lives and works of Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, and Isabelo de los Reyes, the book is a richly textured portrait of a generation that created the self-consciousness of the Filipino nation. It explores the historical conditions that shaped the emergence of a modern Philippine intelligentsia and the unfinished, strange and wondrous itineraries diverse intellectuals took in engaging Western knowledge and dealing with the local realities of the country from, of, and for which they tried or pretended to speak. Brains of the Nation is a groundbreaking work in Philippine intellectual history."
The Knowing is in the Writing: Notes on the Practice of Fiction
by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.
"Part manual, part testament, part autobiography, TheKnowing Is in the Writing was written by the author to engage new and young writers of fiction in matters of not only craft but also life and livelihood."
Mindanao, Nation and Region: The Joys of Dislocation
by Patricio N. Abinales
"The peripatetic nature of the essays in this collection -- representing over a decade of commentary on the affairs in the three zones of Mindanao, the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region -- comes from being written by someone who has never settled down in any of these zones but who has always gone in and out of each of them. They reflect a peculiar position that doesn't exactly fit critics' black-and-white world of insiders and outsiders."
by Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.
"Jose Dalisay Jr’s Soledad's Sister is full of narrative surprise, artfully put together and richly observed. It offers an unillusioned, compassionate portrayal of contemporary society from a Philippines perspective, and is utterly compelling. The characters engage us in the epic, yet very local nature of their quest for dignity and justice. A work of warmth, humanity and confidence."
American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico During U.S. Colonialism
by Julian Go
"When the United States took control of the Philippines and Puerto Rico in the wake of the Spanish-American War, it declared that it would transform its new colonies through lessons in self-government and the ways of American-style democracy. In both territories, U.S. colonial officials built extensive public school systems, and they set up American-style elections and governmental institutions. The officials aimed their lessons in democratic governmentat the political elite: the relatively small class of the wealthy, educated, and politically powerful within each colony. While they retained ultimate control for themselves, the Americans let the elite vote, hold local office, and formulate legislation in national assemblies."
American Empire and the Politics of Meaning is an examination of how these efforts to provide the elite of Puerto Rico and the Philippines a practical education in self-government played out on the groundin the early years of American colonial rule, from 1898 until 1912. It is the first systematic comparative analysis of these early exercises in American imperial power. The sociologist Julian Go unravels how American authorities used "culture" as both a tool and a target of rule, and how the Puerto Rican and Philippine elite received, creatively engaged, and sometimes silently subverted the Americans' ostensibly benign intentions. Rather than finding that the attempt to transplant American-style democracy led to incommensurable "culture clashes," Go assesses complex processes of cultural accommodation and transformation. By combining rich historical detail with broader theories of meaning, culture, and colonialism, he provides an innovative study of the hidden intersections of political power and cultural meaning-making in America's earliest overseas empire."
Love, Passion and Patriotism: Sexuality and the Philippine Propaganda Movement, 1882-1892
by Raquel A. G. Reyes
"Love, Passion and Patriotism is an intimate account of the lives and experiences of a renowned group of young Filipino patriots, the men whose propaganda campaign was a catalyst for the country's revolt against Spain.
José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano López Jaena, and the brothers Juan and Antonio Luna were talented writers, artists, and scientists who resided in Europe during the 1880s and 1890s. As expatriates they were free from the social constraints of their own society and eager to explore all that Europe had to offer. Their studies exposed them to scientific discourse on the body and new categorizations of pathology and disease, knowledge which they used to challenge the religious obscurantism and folk superstition they saw in their country.
Their experience of modern life in Europe also radically reshaped their ideas of sex and the sexual nature of Filipino women. Raquel A. G. Reyes uses the paintings, photographs, political writings, novels, and letters of the propagandistas to show the moral contradictions inherent in their passionate patriotism and their struggle to come to terms with the relative sexual freedom of European women, which they found both alluring and sordid. Provoked by racism and allegations of effeminacy and childishness, they displayed their manliness and urbanity through fashionable European dress, careful grooming and deportment, and demonstrated their courage and virility through fencing, pistol-shooting, and dueling."
The Force of Domesticity: Filipina Migrants and Globalization
by Rhacel Salazar Parrenas
"Taking as her subjects migrant Filipina domestic workers in Rome and Los Angeles, transnational migrant families in the Philippines, and Filipina migrant entertainers in Tokyo, Parreñas documents the social, cultural, and political pressures that maintain womens domesticity in migration, as well as the ways migrant women and their children negotiate these adversities.
Parreñas examines the underlying constructions of gender in neoliberal state regimes, export-oriented economies such as that of the Philippines, protective migration laws, and the actions and decisions of migrant Filipino women in maintaining families and communities, raising questions about gender relations, the status of women in globalization, and the meanings of greater consumptive power that migration garners for women. The Force of Domesticity starkly illustrates how the operation of globalization enforces notions of womens domesticity and creates contradictory messages about womens place in society, simultaneously pushing women inside and outside the home."