Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's Wrong With the Birds of Prey and Batjay

Mainly a reaction to this column:
  1. First off, it's not that the author doesn't raise interesting points (i.e. "Is literature a form of snobbery?"). She does. However, those interesting points are probably side-effects of her thesis rather than the thesis of the essay itself. And at the end of the day, all we have to work with is the text itself. We must assume that if the author wanted to tackle a subject that's not explicitly mentioned in the essay, she would have included it in the first place or expounded on it.
  2. My main problem with the said essay is the reasoning of the author. If you don't like the piece "Mga Ibong Mandaragit", that's fine. If you don't think it has a place in our academe, it's arguable, but that would have been fine as well. However, the violent reactions stem from your argument that "Mga Ibong Mandaragit" should have been written in a style that is more accessible, perhaps utilizing "simple language".
  3. Well, I'm not here to dictate what style an author should employ. It's the original author's (and perhaps his editor's) choice. As readers, we can only judge whether the text is good or bad. Now the author of the essay is basically saying "this text is bad because it does not use simple language". There are some good reasons why such texts can be deemed horrible. It could be vague, dragging, or simply not making any sense at all. But the author is using the logic that she deems it bad solely because it makes for difficult reading* rather than the other merits (or lack of them) of the text.
  4. And then from complaining about "Mga Ibong Mandaragit", there's a sudden jump for that particular text not employing simple language to literature in general eschewing simple language. (Which you know is not always the case. Literature has both "easy" and "difficult" texts.)
  5. She then has more complaints about a poem that only utilizes periods and a comma. (Which, uh, the Filipino poet didn't really pioneer.) At this point, as a reader, the impression said author is giving me is "this poem is crap because I don't understand it".
  6. It doesn't help the author that her succeeding paragraph goes along the lines of "I have a humorist author friend who uses crass language and he's not considered literature by the literati therefore they are snobs."
  7. And then from there, she suddenly leaps to a classic literature vs popular culture argument. (So by that logic does that mean that just because you use simple or crass language, you automatically belong to the latter? I feel like I skipped a chapter in a novel.)
  8. The author ends with "It is us who should define literature based on what we consider good, effective and beautiful. A handful of so-called authorities do not have the right to do so. They are not all of us." To a certain extent, that's true. We choose what we want to read and what we should read. However, using the same logic, why should we believe you that the only literature worth reading are those defined by your narrow definition?
  9. My biggest qualm isn't necessarily in the thesis of the essay but in how it is written and her flow of logic. There's good reason to use simple language in texts after all (just not in every single piece of fiction) or how Literature can be limiting in its selection at times.
  10. There have been a couple of reactions to the essay, some well-written, others not so well-written, and there's also some low-blows thrown into the mix. People, I'm not exactly a pro-Manila Standard guy (I'm more of a Philippine Star person) and while the said broadsheet has published another controversial columnist, not everything published in that newspaper is to be condemned. Most of all, it's irrelevant to the discussion at hand (unless you're trying to be funny but wasn't that Malu Fernandez's excuse?).

*Just because a text is difficult does not mean it should not be read.

1 comment:

banzai cat said...

Nicely put post, charles. Which is strange given that veneracion's background is law, the logic of her essay is strangely bent (unless she was ranting).