by Jessica Hagedorn
Hagedorn’s latest masterpiece described by the New York Times Book Review as “a narrative collage hopscotching from year to year, from place to place and from one point of view to another: that’s what Jessica Hagedorn offers in her intricate new novel, which boldy links a Manila millionaire’s ‘discovery’ of a Stone Age tribe on Mindanao with a filmed recreation of the Vietnam War on that same guerilla-plagued island six year later.”
I just started reading this novel and am savoring every word of it – that is why I elected to read it only on the train going home from work. I usually finish a novel in one sitting. But this one deserves to be taken in slowly … as I want to live and relive within the countless web of stories in it. It is a very lush and baroque novel just like her Dogeaters of several years ago, and just like the Philippines, full of contradictions, half-baked notions, inferiority and at the same time superiority complex, characters dropping by and disappearing without excuses, confusions, noise, dust, grime, and all the things we miss from home. If you are a martial law baby, this will take you back to that era of dangerous uncertainty, breathing in and choking on that insidious feeling of confinement and self-imposed censorship. You just know. Sometimes you even squeal (well, I guess me) with delight when you encounter a character or an event that you recognize. I may sound like I am portraying the book as insular but it’s not. It works on so many levels and for those of you who missed that era or who don’t know anything about the Philippines, there’s enough here to learn about the horrible undercurrent prevailing during that dark, yet to some, golden age of the Philippine history that, catches up with us when we least expect it.