Sundry book news
Congratulations to Eugene Gloria, whose poetry collection, Sightseer in This Killing City (Penguin Books), was recently honored with the 2020 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Author Award for Poetry.
A professor of English at De Pauw University in Indiana, USA, Eugene was a Fulbright Fellow and Special Visiting Fellow at the UST Center for Creative Writing & Literary Studies in 2017. He taught a poetry workshop class in the Graduate School, and actively participated in the Center's activities.
Two other recent publications by Filipino American authors have been making their mark and eliciting positive write-ups.
Lysley A. Tenorio’s debut novel, The Son of Good Fortune (Ecco Press), was an Amazon Best Book of July 2020. Originally from Olongapo, Tenorio, now 48, graduated from the University of Oregon. His short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. Distinctions include a Whiting Award and a Pushcart Prize, as well as a nomination for the Dana Award in Short Fiction.
Here’s an excerpt from a review in the Chicago Review of Books:
“Lysley Tenorio follows his debut story collection, Monstress, with his recently published debut novel, The Son of Good Fortune. The novel focuses on Excel, a young undocumented Filipino immigrant, and his mother, Maxima, a former Philippines B-action movie star turned online scam artist. Set in Colma, a Northern California city known for its 17 cemeteries, and Hello City, an off-the-grid desert community, The Son of Good Fortune explores questions of home and belonging, of family and community, and ultimately, of what it means to be a mother, and to be a son.”
Scheduled for publication in February 2021 is Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez’s Empire's Mistress. Duke University Press promotes the 232-page book with 41 illustrations thus:
“In Empire's Mistress, Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur. If mentioned at all, their relationship exists only as a salacious footnote in MacArthur's biography — a failed love affair between a venerated war hero and a young woman of Filipino and American heritage. Following Cooper from the Philippines to Washington DC to Hollywood, where she died penniless, Gonzalez frames her not as a tragic heroine, but as someone caught within the violent histories of US imperialism. In this way, Gonzalez uses Cooper's life as a way to explore the contours of empire as experienced on the scale of personal relationships. Along the way, Gonzalez fills in the archival gaps of Cooper's life with speculative fictional interludes that both unsettle the authority of ‘official’ archives and dislodge the established one-dimensional characterizations of her. By presenting Cooper as a complex historical subject who lived at the crossroads of American colonialism in the Philippines, Gonzalez demonstrates how intimacy and love are woven into the infrastructure of empire.”
Blurbs include the following, by Gina Apostol — “A deeply satisfying work of exhumation... a masterful work of postcolonial noir.” — and by Vicente Rafael — “...Rethinking the process of archival research... A compelling read.”
Cinema scholar Joel David weighs in:
“Long-overdue volume on ‘Dimples,’ the spunky young woman who made the intrepid World War II hero, Douglas MacArthur, quake in his boots as she threatened to out their affair while he schmoozed with politicos in Washington, DC. (Dugout Doug was equally terrified of his mom finding out that he was consorting with a woman who was not just non-white, but a screen actress as well.) Reputed as one of the ‘first kiss’ stars (it's Philippine cinema, so there will always be other pretenders), she lost her bid to claim MacA for herself and died by her own hand after attempting to relaunch her career in Hollywood.”
Gonzalez is a professor of American Studies and director of the Honors Program at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. A previous book, published in 2013, also by Duke University Press, is Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i and the Philippnes, where she “shows how tourism and militarism have functioned together in Hawai’i and the Philippines, jointly empowering the United States to assert its geostrategic and economic interests in the Pacific.”
Here in Manila, a new title that would have drawn a solid turnout of literary fans (not just drunken titos) to its public launch were it not for the lockdown, is rock star Lourd de Veyra’s fourth poetry collection, Marka Demonyo.
Trumpets Gémino H. Abad’s blurb:
“It’s ‘poetry of the spoken word’ as theater, evoking a compelling, ‘out-raging’ sense of our troubled times: coming to grips with dire poverty, despotic governance, carnage, duplicity, and subservience to foreign imperialism, it stands fast its ground on human dignity and freedom, justice and morality.”
Designed by Tom Estrera with illustrations by Paul Eric Roca, the book is available online through bit.ly/AnvilMD or from official stores on Lazada and Shopee. It’s also available at select National Book Store branches. Inquiries may be addressed to [email protected]
Here’s one of the poems in the collection, titled “Cirilo in State,” a tribute to our dear departed friend, the National Artist Cirilo F. Bautista, with whom Lourd had shared office space at the UST Center:
“Stunning X’s of light flares./ Moon River, wider than a mile./ The intensity of things, indeed./ Aha, so the man who despised cute little poems/ Was a sucker for sappy ballads. Through the hallway/ You could hear the gasp of catacombs./ Crossing you in style someday. Skulls and slavery./ We are but prisoners of our own pronouncements./ Rhapsody is arbitrary, o weaver of strange music,/ Always addressing yourself heroically therefore abstract/ But not quite, only the complexity of crosses/ And the susurrus of sea images/ Or how a syllable vacillates between/ Two blank spaces, to excite, to excise,/ To flummox—the mathematical infinitive./ Once we imagined surf, froth, plankton/ Moving in rhythm with the edges of your mustache./ Astral notation, literature as bloody labor,/ Which you kept all the way to the end./ Dream maker, your heartbreaker. Consonants swarming/ The imaginary theater generate energy,/ Hurtling toward that same rainbow’s end./ You said to me the last time,/ Funny, but I think it’s only now/ That I’m beginning to understand poetry/ And I’m still unsure if it’s a joke/ Or another cryptic piece of advice./ Or perhaps a cold confirmation of a lifelong curse./ What I mean is that thing on your back./ What was that again, sir? A monkey?/ What amazing simian.”