This is a crude list of a few titles that stuck—because every person has a unique history with more than a few chapters influenced by literature. If you, dear reader, can make sense of this, then we are probably kin. 🙂
Children’s Treasury of Knowledge. Illustrated bible stories and Kenkoy comics aside, my first venture into reading was through the now defunct volume with a mind-blowing breadth of subjects from anatomy, to stamp collecting, the moon, tectonic plates, piano music, and basic illustration. I tried to preserve what’s left of it by photographing some pages and posting them on my tumblr account. But for the sake of the two nitwits who actually read this blog, here’s a much better set. Up to this day I still find the book so beautiful and I’ve successfully kept my parents from throwing it away in spite of being a fire hazard.
Changes on the Surface of the Earth
Music and Art. And David. Haha!
Drawing from Imagination. I drew a lot as a kid, for sheer love of colors. 🙂
Rocks. After seeing this, I just had to pick up every rock I see on the sidewalk to check if there is something shiny in them.
Mythology. This is not even the condensed version by Edith Hamilton. I read mythology from several sets of (again, now obsolete) Britannica, by looking up names and religiously following other topic suggestions e.g. ‘See: Persephone’ or ‘See: Ragnarok,’ and then drawing up a chronology of sorts. So when ABS-CBN aired a series entitled Young Hercules with a younger and skinnier version of Ryan Gosling as the half-man-, half-god Greek myth celeb with a fucking Pegasus, I could not put my elation to words. To me, Ryan Gosling was Hercules, flesh and blood. Too bad none of my friends actually remember the series. 😦
The Cask of Amontillado. The first ever short story I was asked to report on in class was an Edgar Allan Poe classic. The Count of Monte Cristo was not yet on the radar so Amontillado is pretty much my first taste of literature about revenge and its delicious details. This was of course, nothing compared to other more interesting pieces like A Rose for Emily and Herrick’s poem for virgins. But still, we’re talking about an insulted man who buried his drunk ‘friend’ brick by brick. After which, I downloaded Poe’s other short stories and works of related authors like Ibsen (using none other than dial-up internet with a breakneck speed of 12 kbps) and printed them at home. It cost me about two black ink cartridges and the wrath of my parents.
Pride and Prejudice. I hated this book! Hated its verbosity, the subject matter, the setting, the frailty of some women characters. But it was assigned to me by my favorite English teacher who said I needed another perspective. Not that I didn’t have any choice. It was a toss-up between Austen and Bronte (and Bronte had an irritating pink cover. There is no way I’d be seen carrying that book). I would only come to appreciate and read it again after a few years when the movie version came out. Keira Knigthley as Elizabeth Bennet was hot as fuck. That’s so lesbian. End of story.
The Catcher in the Rye. My life then, in his words. Also, I like profanity.
Bible. The years I spent trying to find something to believe in was parallel to my daily reading of this great piece of literature. I still attended church then, went to bible study, and enrolled in Church History class because there was a horribly severed part of me that needed fixing. I read until the concept of god suddenly wasn’t helpful or convenient anymore. So I stopped and my life spiraled out of control. The journals that detailed the struggle are still here and I look at them whenever I come close to breaking point. Purging—I think that’s the popular word for it. After this came Nietzsche, Sartre, my first few books in Economics, including one by Walden Bello.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I’m not even talking about the universality of this feeling. In each of us, there is a fragment of Tomas, Teresa, and Sabina. But a big chunk of me is Sabina and that makes me terrible. And any person who is predominantly Sabina would do terrible things to people and in life with little regard to the weight of their actions.
Crime and Punishment. I read this for ‘leisure’ in the summer of ’07 per counsel of my friend S., who by nature, loves complicated things. I was ready to take it in as would any other narrative, except that I had to brush up on socialism. Fine. She never mentioned anything about getting emotionally prepared. I remember clearly, the interplay of hunger, fear, and guilt within Raskolnikov—I was afraid for him, but he had blood on his hands. I felt sick reading it. There is a difference between merely holding a book and being in that exact material condition. But what the hell. We are all driven by lack.
I’ve read more as the years passed. Finally I’ve picked up on less depressing titles and achieved some sort of balance, but parts of me have either been chipped away or have congealed in the process. I am patchwork of the worst kind, but I think it’s fine.