Philippine Short Stories 1925-1940

Philippine Short Stories 1925-1940, Leopoldo Y. Yabes, ed., 1975

  • Philippines, #8
  • Borrowed from SF public library
  • Read December 2017
  • Rating: 4/5
  • Recommended for: completists

I was about halway through this giant tome of short stories when I realized that everything I’d read had revolved around love and non-platonic relationships. There was endless variation on the theme: happy marriages, unhappy marriages, women fighting over men, men betraying women, star-crossed young lovers, prosaic young lovers, a man who brings his wife back from the dead because he misses her so much, a pseudo-mythological Romeo and Juliet-type tale about love between enemy tribes. There’s this weird tunnel vision that happens when you get hit with the same type of information over and over again (like when you’re reading too many #metoo stories and you start to think that literally every man in the world is a sexual predator): I started to wonder if there was anything else to write about, or if love was literally the only storyline that existed in the world. And then I got to N.V.M. Gonzales’s Life and Death in a Mindoro Kaingin, about a group of loggers who may or may not be cursed by the devil, and I realized that, no, obviously there are plenty of things to write about besides love.

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Berkeley, 2018

This is a big anthology, and naturally some stories are better than others, but overall the selection is pretty excellent. The predominant focus on romantic relationships notwithstanding, it offers a wide survey of life and literature around the Philippines in the between-war period. The authors skew pretty heavily male, but there are a few stories each by Paz Marquez, Paz Latorena, and Estrella Alfon (in fact, it was Alfon who led me to this book in the first place—the original item on my list was The Estrella D. Alfon Anthology, but I had trouble finding it and replaced it with this volume instead), as well as one each by Lydia Villanueva and Ligaya Victorio. Several authors whose longer works appear on my list also cropped up in this collection. In the cases of NVM Gonzalez and Nick Joaquin, the stories convinced me to go on to read their novels; in that of Francisco Arcellana, I was content with the several short stories included in this work and didn’t feel the need to go on to read The Mats. I almost wish I had done the same with Jorge Garcia Villa, except that I found his poetry so strange and inaccessible that it offered amusement for the whole clan on a family trip last year, so I can’t really regret it (more on that later, when I review Doveglion).

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San Francisco, 2018

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