April 23, 2013

From Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Desire and Fantasy


From Darna to Zsazsa Zaturnnah: Desire and Fantasy: Essays on Literature and Popular Culture by Soledad S. Reyes (Anvil, 2009)


Ang aklat ay naglalaman ng limang sanaysay tungkol sa popular culture (komiks, pelikula, FPJ, Pacman, telebisyon, atbp.) at dalawang sanaysay tungkol sa panitikan (nobelang Ingles at Tagalog). Sa pagtataya ng antolohiyang ito, idagdag pa ang masinop na pagkakasalin ni Soledad S. Reyes ng nobelang Ang Ginto sa Makiling ni Macario S. Pineda, mamamalas ang masusing kaisipan ng isang manunuri ng panitikan at kultura. Madulas na naipahayag ang mga kumplikadong konsepto at ideya kahit pa sabihing nagmula sa isang akademiko. Maraming bagay ang matututunan. Halimbawa ay kung bakit hindi kailangang basta na lang isantabi ang mga produkto ng popular culture kagaya ng teleserye, mga formulaic na pelikulang aksyon at pantasya, pelikulang slapstick, Precious Hearts Romances pocketbooks. Kailangan ay tingnan sila sa konteksto ng kultura, kasaysayan, at panahong pinanggalingan nila.

Sa panitikan na bahagi ng aklat, masinop na nailahad ang epekto ng kolonyalismo, neokolonyalismo, at diktadurya sa pag-unlad ng nobelang Ingles at Tagalog. Naipakita rin ang balangkas ng mga pagbabago ng istratehiya, tradisyon, at tema ng mga nobela sa paglipas ng panahon, pati na ang iba't ibang paraan ng produksyon nito.

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The book contains five essays about popular culture (Philippine comics, films, FPJ [the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.], Pacman [boxer Manny Pacquiao], television shows, etc.) and two essays on literature (novels in English and Tagalog). On the strength of this anthology, not to mention Soledad S. Reyes's fine translation of Macario Pineda's novel The Gold in Makiling, one encounters a first rate cultural and literary critic. For an academic, she has articulated well some rather complicated concepts and ideas. A lot of things are in store for the reader. One is persuaded, for instance, to not discriminate against the products of popular culture such as sentimental telenovelas, formulaic action and fantasy movies, slapstick movies, and chick lit pocketbooks published by Precious Hearts Romances. They have to be seen in the context of culture, history, and period that gave birth to them.

In the literature part of the book, Reyes systematically surveyed the effects of colonialism, neocolonialism, and dictatorship in the development of Filipino novels in English and Tagalog languages. She has outlined the shifting strategies, tradition, and broad thematic elements of these novels through the years, including the different modes of their production.

We should learn to examine not only what is being said—this is being too literal—but what cannot be said, couched in words and images that, upon closer examination, constitute a huge chain of meanings perhaps already understood by some instinctively, but still waiting to be deciphered more fully and systematically. The hope is that eventually, the layers of meanings, still lodged beneath the surface of things, will be made known in order to dispel the cloud of "unknowing" that hovers above us all.

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