Wednesday, April 16, 2003

reading and writing

On our trip to New York last October, Nikki and I picked up a small pile of books from the various book vendors we visited. Apart from finally getting stuff from the list of books we wanted, we also found several other good things to read, thanks to the principles of serendipity.

One of these is Michael Chabon's Summerland (you know, of course, that he won the Pulitizer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay). As one of my new favorite short story and novel writers, he manages a near impossible feat - getting me to read about baseball (like The Golem's Mighty Swing did). Of course, it has elements of the fantastic like the Fey Realm and a great Evil, both of which, when done well, never fail to interest me.

This may be the only book I'll read over the break because I really need to catch up on my own writing. For all my verbosity about craft, the proof, in the end, is in the pudding, right?

I'm struggling with my Filipino language play right now. I know, I know, it's like forcing an anchor to swim, but dammit I have to try. Mewling and angsting about my inability may have some therapeutic use, but certainly nothing prevents me from at least trying (except the frustrating moments when I pause for long minutes desperately trying to think of the right word, and then pecking away doubtfully at my keyboard hoping to spell it correctly).

Apart from the language issue, I'm more in trouble with what the hell the damn play is about. I've actually finished it now, but managed to write something that says nothing at all, which, in a post-modern sense is actually fine, but really, the formalist in me is appalled at the lack of...something. I constructed it in a such a way that there seems to be dramatic tension over something but that something never happens (and not in any Godot sense, mind you).

So its rather peculiar.

I think what happened was that I was so focused on the language issue that I ended up in with this unsatisfactory thing. Between you and me, I am confident in terms of structure, dialogue, pacing and characterization, but where is the oomph?

Maybe I am struggling against melodrama. The easy way out is to go back and carefully inject action and tension that leads to a melodramatic resolution. But do I really want to do that?

The problem with a one-act play is the fact that you have less an hour's worth of stage time to do everything. I've also agreed to abide by the Unity of Time. So, in effect, I've trapped myself in a single continuum. Once the play begins, it ends 45 minutes later in real time.

I could cheat and break it down into mini-scenes. But I've used that little chestnut in the other thing I've written, and really, where is the challenge in writing if I resort to little geegaws just to get myself out of the hole I've written myself into?

This is the real work for me, as a playwright - getting the entire thing up to par.

If I end up with nothing of worth, at least I got some good mind exercise.

Geez, and I have a hell of a backlog writing schedule for Hinirang.


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