Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chatwin and D.V.

I am re-reading Bruce Chatwin’s What Am I Doing Here when I chanced upon this funny vignette:

Her glass of neat vodka sat on the white damask tablecloth. Beyond the smear of lipstick, a twist of lemon floated among the ice-cubes. We were sitting side-by-side, on a banquette.
“What are you writing about, Bruce?”
“Wales, Diana.”
The lower lip shot forward. Her painted cheeks swiveled through an angle of ninety degrees.
“Whales!” she said. “Blue whales!...Sperrm whales!...THE WHITE WHALE!”
“No…no, Diana! Wales! Welsh Wales! The country to the west of England.”
“Oh! Wales. I do know Wales. Little grey houses…covered in roses…in the rain…” 1982

A short while, I, too, thought that Bruce would have been writing about Diana, the Princess of Wales.
This is not representative but Chatwin is my guide to writing feature profiles. He is so good in bringing out the persona in a person. His “A Lament for Afganistan” is better than most of the political analyses coming out in that forsaken country and he wrote his in 1980. Must read also is his China profiles and, of course, The Songlines. Gougou de Jesus loves that book. I bought mine in a used bookshop in Seattle. “My Anatomy of Restlessness” I stole from a friend. Utz I bought in National at P50. On The Black Hill I bought in Booksale. My search for What Am I Doing Here is a weird story. I got one in Kinokuniya but someone got it before I can read it. I bought another in National. Same story. Then one day, I passed by Diplomat in SM Baguio and they have a hardbound copy selling for P25! I do not have In Patagonia but I have “Enduring Patagonia" by Gregory Crouch, “The Old Patagonian Express" by Paul Theroux and “Patagonia : Natural History, Prehistory and Ethnography at the Uttermost End of the Earth" edited by Colin McEwan, Luis Borrero and Alfredo Prieto as way of compensation. I know what you would say, it will not do.

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