Aww, kids? Y u give yourselves (not me) such low scores on your tests? You just ruined my Sunday!
So glad I saved this one. Part of my review of Kostova’s The Historian. Also a tribute to my late father, Nanding.
Before there was e-mail, there were…letters.
Before I even had an e-mail address, I didn’t have much fun writing letters, and I didn’t relish receiving them. I wasn’t the “Dear So-and-So, Truly Yours type”, to the disappoinment of friends and relatives abroad. I didn’t even bother writing captions for pictures I send via snail mail.
To this day, there are only two letters that I ended up keeping. The first, I do not wish to talk about here (and I guess I never will). The second is from my dad, addressed to Mama, my brother and me. The letter was handwritten on yellow pad paper; the penmanship puts mine to shame, for my dad was a maestro of calligraphic strokes. I especially adore his signature, done with much style and fluorish, almost impossible to forge.
Daddy was a prolific letter writer, owing perhaps to the nature of his work as division supervisor of a national bank. I’ve seen the memos he’s sent to various people over the course of his career. He preferred them handwritten on office stationery, and he had a penchant for commas and cliches. But he wrote poetic prose as well, and Tagalog was his dialect of choice. I enjoyed his racy essays, his archaic epithets, and his over-seriousness, all reflections of the kind of family man he was to his family.
In February 2001, he wrote that one letter I mentioned earlier—a farewell letter to his family. The actual words are too painful to quote here, but suffice it to say that when Mama found it a few days later, she was inconsolable. Five months later, my daddy would die of a lingering kidney ailment.
Rossi’s letters, as read and shared by his protegee and friend Paul, moved me like no other fictional letter did. Kostova’s use of the epistolary device in unfolding multiple, parallel stories is so skillful that the letters not only framed time, place and occurrence, but they also felt real to me, like I was holding the actual yellowed paper that Rossi wrote on, and not the book that I am in fact clutching right now.
Let me point out, for now, the tone and significance of Rossi’s first three letters. Both are dated 1930, from Trinity College, Oxford. Nothing strange in the time and place. But the professor always started his letters with "My dear and unfortunate successor," and ended them with "Yours in profoundest grief, Bartholomew Rossi." The letters themselves were cries of despair and confusion, though Rossi kept insisting that the researcher in him was too potent, that it overrode all reason and sanity: "…my confidence reasserting itself, and my curiosity growing—again—perversely—within me, I picked up the volume again and reaasembled my notes…the consequence…was immediate, terrifying and tragic."
Rossi was referring to the wordless book, the one with the snarling dragon, which he brought with him in subsequent travels. He blames it—or his obsession with it—for precipitating a series of events that would echo across time and place, and one such consequence of his frenzied research into the Dracula legend was the “initiation” of his “unfortunate successor”, and that’s Paul. His letters recount telltale experiences that have a direct bearing on later calamities: in one excursion to Greece, a stranger made him down a drink called amnesia, and he was terribly sick the days that followed. Midway through the book, I got goosebumps when I read the part about a young Romanian woman whom he met, fell in love with, and promised marriage to, then mysteriously forgot about after his sojourn to Greece. Coincidence? Or did the amnesia drink make him forget his enamorata?
The third letter reveals the horrific attack of a vampire (?) on his friend and colleague, Hedges, right at Rossi’s doorstep. Rossi found a bloody gash on his neck, and his friend, articulate and well-educated, in full bloom of health, was incoherent and near-death. "Brook no trespasses," he kept saying. Hedges would die a few days later, and to Rossi, it was a chilling warning of more despicable things to come.
Like I did my dad’s farewell letter, I read Rossi’s letters several times over. From both, I was looking for character, not for answers. Rossi’s helplessness in the face of an unseen enemy was offset by his indomitable spirit. Daddy’s letter was morose, but his spirited acceptance of his mortality gave me reason to believe that he is going to a better place after all, where there is no pain, no disease. These letters, one real, the other imagined, prove to me, finally, that the pen is mightier than the cursor when it comes to matters of grave and lasting importance.
I am on a mission: Save my Xanga blog posts before they disappear!
I was afraid it would happen. The end. The fade out. The disenchantment.
I’m referring to the gradual distancing of myself from the Twilight books.
There they were, three black and red volumes, forlorn and untouched since May: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse. I gaze at them, warily, as I type this. As if they sense the blasphemy of my thoughts. As if they were accusing me: “Traitor.” The truth is, I am just tired. Overloaded. It didn’t bother me in the past when I reread books for the sheer pleasure of reliving the moments I shed buckets of tears or secretly let out a snicker or two. I was a voracious rereading machine. Gone With The Wind : 7 times.The Time Traveler’s Wife: 4 times. The Great Gatsby: 4 times. A Song For Summer: 4 times. I’m talking cover-to-cover rereading here. But then the Twilight books came along, and I’ve read them once, one after the other. I picked up Twilight, reread that. Picked up New Moon. Couldn’t stand to read it again, except the part where Edward stonily says goodbye to a rapidly downspiralling Bella. Picked up Eclipse. Couldn’t do it. Except the “Fire and Ice” chapter, which made me shiver. So now I couldn’t relate to posters over at twilightlexicon.com who gush that they’ve read the books a thousand times each (I sense a hyperbole there). But I know that I adore the books as much as they do. I absolutely will not part with these books. But rereading them…
Then I realized why. Breaking Dawn, the 4th and last book in the series, is about 20 days away (as I write this) from hitting the shelves. I’ve reserved my copy, set aside 700 pesos for it. And I want to dive into the book with close to no recent memory of the Twilight universe. Yes, I want to forget the color of Rosallie’s car (red?), the name of the town where all this happens (Forks?), one of Edward’s favorite recorded artists (Debussy?). I am obsessed with inflicting selective memory upon myself, so when I finally have that copy of BD in my hands, I can enjoy it for the fresh tale that it promises to be. I want no foreshadowing. No flashbacks.No movie trailers, either.
Masochism has never been so profound.
So I read about RIP Xanga…http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/rip-xanga-an-ode-to-the-angstiest-social-network-ever/
That is so sad. Makes me feel guilty that I didn’t stick with the platform. Here’s one of my blog entries from one of the coolest social sites ever:
On my way to Ateneo last Saturday, I made a detour to UP Diliman. With me were ten high school seniors who were hoping to get a glimpse of the buildings where they would take next month’s UPCAT. As the giddy seniors pointed to this and that and marvelled at the size of the campus, I made a mental detour of my own…
Funny how the UP Centennial makes me think not of the beehive that was Palma Hall, nor the cold white floor of the Faculty Center where my friend Ria and I used to sit, waiting for an audience with one of our professors. All my happy sappy memories are of Kalayaan dorm, that haven for freshmen plucked from every region of the country you can think of. I remember bitching about the food, and gagging at stories about the fish eating Dona Paz victims, and us eating the fish. I remember filling my dorm room walls with magazine cutouts of my males of the month (yet I don’t remember who they are now). I remember Ely Buendia, pre-Eraserheads, sitting alone in the cafeteria, and teaming up with the St. Scho girls for the all-freshmen volleyball team. I remember swapping Loveswepts and Candelight romances with Shy and Rahnee, boarding Recto-bound jeepneys to get to second-hand book stalls, which would promptly fold up at the hint of a raid.I remember waking up one morning to a loud radio broadcast of a coup d’ etat, which, until that day, I only read about in history books. I was on the first floor—Room 105—and the whole dorm was abuzz with coup news. Our first concern was, “May pasok kaya?” We then gathered that there were government troops storming Philcoa, a jeepride away from Kalayaan. Someone was warning us: “If you have subversive materials, tear them up or hide them!” I thought about my Loveswepts, dismissing them as non-subversive. I remember our Residence Assistant advising us to stay inside the dorm, but somehow, Rahnee and I were able to slip out to the Shopping Center at the back of Kalayaan. We were hoarding supplies—peanut cakes, sanitary napkins, Coke-in-cans. There was no telling how long we were going to be holed up in the dorm. When we got back, my daddy was there, waiting to bring me home. A group of dormers gathered around us as we got ready to leave. But the dorm admin did not allow anyone to leave unless parents themseves came to fetch them. My dad was the first one there, and I was the first to leave.I hated leaving my friends behind. Daddy explained that it would be irresponsible for him to take them without the knowledge of their parents. I waved goodbye, guilty and bothered. I was rather amused by his mode of transportation: a white cargo vehicle with the single word PRESS in big bold red letters, PRESS as in PRINTING PRESS, not Inquirer or anything. But I figured those flashing red letters did the trick. We were not bothered by anyone from any armored personnel carrier as we sped our way home.
I spent four years in UP, but that one semester in Kalayaan—my first 6 months alone in a big school—is the most vivid. After that sem, I was able to brave the endless lines of registration, my first great heartbreak, my 2.75 in Math.