Thursday, March 24, 2011

On practising the noblest form of shopping

by E Wong

When you hear someone say all my meager annual bonus just went down the drain, you know this is some sort of an all-too-familiar tragedy, but in my case, "drain" is the UP Press's 46th anniversary month-long sale; and thus, needless to say, it is good, guilt-less spending.

So yesterday, the money which I originally intended for an 'unplanned' weekend adventure somewhere up north was spent instead on these eight awesome poetry books:

An Edith Tiempo Reader Edited by Gemino Abad, et. al.
Six Poetry Formats and the Transforming Image: A Monograph on Free Verse by Edith Tiempo
Commend Contend/Beyond, Extensions by Edith Tiempo
Mostly in Monsoon Weather: Poems New & Revisited by Marne L Kilates
The Garden of Wordlessness: Selected Poems by J Neil C Garcia
Passage: Poems 1983-2006 by Edgar B Maranan
Marginal Bliss by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
Onyx by Romulo Baquiran, Jr

All the books above are UP Press titles (with 20% discount), except for Maranan's book which is published by Bookmark (5% off). The student editions of Daona and Baquiran were on sale for only P50 each! I spent more than a thousand bucks for all these--still quite a lot, I know, but I think it's all worth it, considering these are 'real literature' by acclaimed Filipino authors. And also, I feel good being able to somewhat 'help' our struggling local publishing industry. And yes, there's a vast presence of literature in the internet, but nothing will ever beat the intellectual and emotional experience of the book.

Having spent a good hour at the store, I realise that buying books is a therapeutic, even orgasmic, activity. It is probably the noblest act of shopping. Unlike purchasing food or clothes, you don't literally taste the product or try it on... but you do it on a literary level. Book shopping is definitely way way harder than the tough task of choosing the right brand of peanut butter or whitening soap. It knows no hurry; you skim and scan, you browse the pages, read a line or stanza or paragraph. Sometimes you end up finishing the whole poem or story or essay or chapter of a novel. Most likely you'd be going back and forth to the shelves, a Shakespearean question repeatedly arresting you: to buy or not to buy? And when something strange strikes your soul--a phenomenon not defined by even the long years of commercialism--you finally buy it.

Of course it helps if you know the author or if he/she has achieved some fame or notoriety or has an intimidating list of awards and previously published books. Nonetheless, you make your decision not on nutrition facts or expiry dates or newness of the whole package, but on the "promise" of words printed on paper. And who buys "promises" these days?

So shopping for books is a great activity, and this I recommend to everyone (especially on paydays). It is almost as surreal as the act of reading--which, by the way, I am not very good at. My friends have this wrong notion that I am such a bookish person, but I'm really such a slooowww reader that I'd always say it took me a hundred days to finish Garcia-Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. And so with these new titles I bought, I'm giving myself a conservative eight hundred days to finish reading them all.

Being back in the campus halls was another story. I sneaked into AS (sneaking, I realised, was unnecessary as the guards at the entrance weren't too strict after all) and stayed in CASAA for awhile. It amuses me that nothing much has really changed, except perhaps that everyone seems to be using laptops now. But all else is the same. [Well, maybe not the students, for the too-strong smell of the (upper) bourgeois was unmistakeable. How many of these kids came from public schools? From the provinces? Am I in La Salle? Is this Ateneo de Diliman?] But I mean my feelings for, about, and in UP were the same. I could have entered any classroom and just get lost again in the strange 'at home-ness.' Or get found is what I mean?

I remember a friend saying that we should not be working in the BP__ industry, for this is not where we belong. Then the UP thing got into the conversation, and suddenly, we were back in our former selves, well-bathed and basking in the old ideals of the university, perhaps last seen and felt genuinely during the beginning of the past decade, when an academic unit was still just worth P300...

But like I've said, this is another story that warrants another article. Something I better not dwell on for now. :-)

The UP Press anniversary sale is until March 31. The bookshop's new location is at the ground floor of the printing office itself, along E delos Santos St., near the UP Police Station. (Those who try to steal books will go straight to jail!)


  1. Shopping for books is also my idea of leisure... But I try to stay away from bookstores during paydays cause I end up buying titles that get stuck in my shelves and unopened for a long time...

  2. I guess that is normal for everyone, eh? Just shows that buying books is a wonderful art or science totally separate from reading books. But to see books on your own shelf, to have a sense of your 'own library' gives you some strange sense of comfort or relief, right? The prospect that pretty soon you will be reading those books, that idea of a future mental/emotional journey is just so exciting, right? It's amazing. ;-)

  3. I only have Garden of Wordlessness there. I bought it as a requirement. I read most of my UP Press books in the library. I own a few, though.

  4. @Will: How I wish I could enter the libes in UP again! Miss ko nang magpagabi sa Main lib! At matulog sa CS lib kapag break!