Epifanio San Juan comments on Gun Dealers’ Daughter

‘Only perhaps in Apostol’s Gun-Dealer’s Daughter and the Mayi Theater’s plays (collected in Savage Stage) do we encounter a less exhibitionistic and more ethically committed grappling with the moral and political issues of colonial war and its offshoot in civil war in the neocolony. The reason for this is the rampant neoconservatism of the Reagan-Thatcher period that followed the end of the Vietnam War. This was worsened by the ruthless repression of mass movements in Chile, Argentina, and Central America; capitalist restoration in China; the collapse of the Soviet Union and the genocidal devastation of the Middle East beginning with the first Gulf War. In Apostol’s novel, the killing of the American Colonel Grier testifies to the rearticulation of war as a deadly game conforming to Clausewitz’s instrumentalist view. In 1981, a CIA officer advising the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) was killed by urban guerillas; while earlier, in 1974, three US Navy officers were gunned down in Subic Naval Base by suspected leftists (Jones 247). However, the theme of revenge and its ambiguous repercussions in Apostol’s fiction complicates the picture. Whose will is being imposed on whom remains blurred since the enormity of destruction resulting from secret government maneuvers eludes the traumatized psyche of the central protagonist, the mentally unhinged narrator of the novel:
‘ “…a list of the colonel’s talents was alleged in the press. “Sponsored low-intensity conflicts…an instructor at the School of the Assassins in Fort Benning…projects sowing confusion and conflict in rebel-taken areas…CAFGU was his brain child…proposed and trained head-hunting vigilantes…Alsa Masa, Bantay Bayan…troops that gouged the eyes of children after they were killed…littered the countryside with Garands and carbines…dead women…dead children, their severed heads….” (227).
‘Before 11 September 2001, the futurologist Alvin Toffler expatiated on the preponderant role of “Force: The Yakuza Component” in twenty-first century global affairs. With knowledge linked to wealth and violence, Toffler anticipated an impending, decisive powershift in which “global gladiators” will cross nation-state boundaries in pursuit of hegemony. War becomes permanent, “an inescapable social fact” (468). No longer can we afford relishing the nostalgic refrains in Bulosan, Vera Cruz, and Santos, nor the metaphoric/symbolic pyrotechnics in Hagedorn and Rosca. War has become a permanent feature of everyday life, particularly after 9/11, the catastrophic slaughter in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya—the intractable vicissitudes of the“global war on terrorism” overloading the human sensorium and imploding the limits of quotidian reality.’

Jessica Hagedorn interview in Bookslut

Jessica is publishing excerpts from The Unintended, a novel in progress, in her anthology Manila Noir. She talks about Filipino writers here.

From the interview:

“And who are some of those Filipino American writers we should be checking out?

R. Zamora Linmark’s epic and bittersweet novel Leche was published by Coffee House around the same time as Toxicology. We had a blast doing a lot of readings together this past April and May. I just finished reading a galley of Lysley Tenorio’s short story collection, Monstress, which is due out early next year. It’s a fabulous collection, really original. Another writer is Miguel Syjuco, who wrote Ilustrado, which has done really well. Miguel was my student at Columbia’s MFA Writing Program way back… about a million years ago. Also, Gina Apostol, who had one of her stories in the second Charlie Chan, is a marvelous, very experimental fiction writer. Eric Gamalinda also has a new novel in the works that I can’t wait to read. So does the brilliant and prolific Han Ong.”

Review of Gun Dealers’ Daughter in Library Journal

Publication Logo
Library Journal Reviews
May 1, 2012
Gun Dealers’ Daughter

BYLINE: Ashanti L. White

SECTION: REVIEWS; Fiction; Pg. 64 Vol. 137 No. 08

LENGTH: 179 words

Apostol, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows her previous novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, with this cultural coming-of-age story. Soledad Soliman, having experienced the highs and lows of life, transforms herself from a bookish, affluent girl to a Communist rebel, fighting with her dedication to the movement and the man she loves. The book is her confession; rich with emotion, reflection, and fervor, the story takes on the added element of revealing the struggles of Filipinos and women. While the narrative is strong, Apostol’s writing style—simple, poetic, and captivating at every point of Soledad’s journey—is the real draw: “And yet it was soothing…. A lulling, desperate state, but comforting, the way the extreme inactivity forced on us by illness has a morbid, feculent pleasure…there’s that sensual garb, this state of malaise.”

VERDICT Reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Paradise and Melissa P.’s The Scent of Your Breath, this book will appeal to readers of literary fiction.—Ashanti L. White, Fayetteville, NC

Watching Barcelona

random insert in a novelist’s blog: barca!

Writing any of my novels, I rest by watching football: the complete concentration you need to watch the game (when you are not multitasking) is the respite that allows you to forget your work–and so get back to it later, recharged. Watching Barcelona gives me a chance to think about art, structure, flow, indeterminacy amid beauty, dream.

And not so good hairstyles (Puyol, cut it!).

Publishers’ Weekly on Gun Dealers’ Daughter

Just in: a review from Publishers’ Weekly, link here.

Section I liked: “reflects the revisionist history of her country and calls into question the very nature of truth and narrative.” It’s an excellent reading of the issue of memory, though one could also say the “shattered prism of Sol’s memory,” as the reviewer calls it, questions history as well, or the way history is written by the survivors: we lose the tales of the dead.