irst Impression Friday is hosted by J.W. Martin.
First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
I have come across First Impression Friday through Krsitin Kraves Books. It piqued my interest so I decided to do my own. For this version, I am going to preview my current read, Nick Joaquin’s The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic. Wow, that is one long title! It is a collection of short stories, a deviation for me.
Nick Joaquin is widely considered as one of the greatest Filipino writers, but he has remained little-known outside the Philippines despite writing in English. Set amid the ruins of Manila devastated by World War II, his stories are steeped in the postcolonial anguish and hopes of his era and meditate on the challenges of the Filipino individual’s new freedom after a long history of colonialism. This collection includes his best known stories and his celebrated play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.
As someone whose favorite subject in elementary and high school is history and civics, I have encountered Nick Joaquin countless times. Unfortunately, I barely had any iota on what his works nor his contributions were. Imagine my surprise when I saw his work, The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic, along side internationally acclaimed literary classics in book stores. It was very rare to find a Filipino author whose work was published internationally.
My first encounter has left a surprising impression on me although I never for once thought of availing a copy of the book. That was until my latest travel in Cebu City. Alone and bored, I scoured bookstores to find a book to read while waiting for my companions. My adventure made me cross paths with this work. Despite my aversion to short story collections (I have previously started two short story collections but I have never completed them), I nevertheless chose to experience this National Artist for Literature’s work.
I’ve already completed five of the ten short stories and I am currently reading the first of the book’s two primary highlights, The Woman Who Had Two Navels; the other main highlight is Joaquin’s literary play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. Although I am barely halfway through, the stories I have completed have already given me an insight on what is in store for me in this literary journey.
Apart from gaining insights, I am already starting to have an understanding no matter how minute, as to the type of writer that Joaquin was. I can see shades of However, my experience so far has consolidated one of the reasons for my aversion on short stories and short story collections – they are too short for me to create some sort of connection with the characters.
Short stories do have their advantage as demonstrated by Nick Joaquin in this collection. Short stories highlight the author’s ability to capture the reader’s imagination through limited words. It is, after all, a different kind of animal in comparison to a full-length prose. Joaquin made his short stories feel like they were full-length stories.
I didn’t expect that I would be very engaged in this book as short stories are not my cup of tea. However, Joaquin is showing me a different complexion to it that is keeping me reeled in. It helped a lot that the themes and subjects he was writing about were domestic. Moreover, he is brilliantly writing about the intersection of traditions, history and Western ideas.
Uncannily, his writing contained elements that are reminiscent of Japanese and South American writers. Influences of the latter are very evident. Maybe it is due to our shared history of being colonized by the Spaniards? Joaquin’s perversion to long sentences, numerous semi-colons and vivid descriptions reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Joaquin’s prose is often compared to that of the Nobel Prize in Literature winner.
So far, Nick Joaquin is impressing me with his literary acuity. This is a respite from the full-length narratives that I am very used to. I am surprised with myself because I didn’t complete any of the short story collections I tried to read. The last one was even written by Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors. Is it perhaps the crossroads of tradition, fantasy and realities that are drawing me in? I am not sure but if there is something that I am sure of, I want to read more of Joaquin’s works.
How about you fellow readers? What are you reading this weekend? What are your thoughts on short stories in relation to novels? I am interested in knowing your thoughts.