Twisted, Jessica Zafra, 1995
- Philippines, #23
- Borrowed from SF public library
- Read August 2018
- Rating: 3/5
- Recommended for: A momentary distraction from your overwhelming existential dread
This is a collection of Jessica Zafra’s newspaper columns about pop culture and daily life in the Philippines. They’re quite delightful individually—I would definitely read them if newspapers were still a thing and they were in mine, or if they were blog posts a couple of times a week (her actual blog, however, seems to be largely devoted to promoting the welfare of feral cats in Manila, which does not seem very on-brand)—but as a book-length collected it starts to get a bit boring. I got about two thirds of the way through it before I had to return it to the library and honestly I didn’t feel any impulse to check it back out.
However, Zafra is excellent at witty one-liners and surprising images, to wit:
“I had never seen so many women in black in my life, and neither had I seen so much jewelry: the lobby looked like a production of The House of Bernarda Alba crossed with the bridal shower of King Tut’s daughter.” (about a trip to the opera)
“Here’s my review of the Depeche Mode concert: God I miss The Smiths.” This from a column about Depeche Mode’s descent on Manila, which also includes the following quote from a local concert promoter: A great quote from a Manila concert promoter:
‘We’re used to dealing with rock stars,’ De Guia says. ‘We were expecting trouble from Metallica, but they were very considerate. They even asked if it was acceptable in Filipino culture for them to spit onstage. No trouble there. With Sting we were expecting prima donna behavior, but he and his people were very polite. Depeche Mode went out of its way to hassle people. They were making Manila Hotel staff cry, they were making trouble.’
I also loved her analysis of Rapunzel:
Rapunzel, obviously, is a fable on bad hair. Rapunzel, who is imprisoned in a tower by a wicked witch, is forced to grow her hair to unmanageable lengths. Her hair is so long, her entire day is spent combing and styling it. Therefore she cannot realize her full potential as a person. Symbolically, then, she is held captive by the multinational corporations that manufacture shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and whatnot, and the beauty salon chains which create impractical hairstyles.
You can imagine a book full of these. They’re cute and funny little bites, and Zafra is a wonderfully self-deprecating oddball, but they’re too frothy and insubstantial to make a satisfying meal. They would make excellent bathroom reading, or I could also imagine they would just fill the ticket if, for instance, you are stuck in your house for the foreseeable future because of an apparently unstoppable pandemic and want to hide in a broom closet to escape from your children and distract yourself from the impending apocalypse for five to ten minutes at a time.