Friday, August 03, 2007

Mysteries Abound

Thanks to dean, I just found out that FH Batacan, known for her award winning mystery novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles, has joined the blogging circle.

Likewise, here is her take on why Filipinos aren't big mystery readers where she makes some interesting points. (Which reminds me of this good discussion on mysteries with sean, kyu, charles, and moi.)

Personally though, after going through the online reviews of Batacan's book, I just have to shake my head at the opinions out there. The book has its flaws; however, I do wonder why all the hate out there. Is it the priests-as-protagonists?* Is it the feeling that it is allegedly copying the TV show, CSI?**


*Which reminds me of a friend's comment years and years ago after seeing a book I was reading, i.e. that the protagonist wasn't believable because he was a US senator. All I could say at that time was "HUH?"

**Which is untrue since Batacan won the Palanca for the book in 1999 but CSI premiered in the US in 2000. Someone must tell these reviewers that a little research would do heaps of good.)


Ayen said...

it's the priests as protagonist. it's the csi mimicking. it's sort of everything, i guess. a detective novel has to make sense. causality. motives. connections. some order in the universe that allows people to place blame on others, following a process of reasoning, and then punishment is meted out. all this is a little hard to believe in in our society where government authorities are suspect, religious authorities are suspect, and out of court settlements and unreported crimes (and do it yourself justice) are the alternatives to the "rational" due process.

maybe i'm just too burned out to believe.

banzai cat said...

Well, I also had a problem with the priest's character though as being priest per se, I always wondered if its a matter of reader's bias (and not just yours since another reviewer took issue with that). On the other hand, I can't really say much about what a detective novel should be (or not be), not having read enough the subject matter. (On the third hand, it does seem that a detective genre based on the Philippine setting should preclude making a different template altogether on what a detective story should be, given-- as you say-- the Philippine society's rather unorthodox for trying to solve such problems. Hmmm, someone should do a paper-- or post-- on this.)

What detective books would you recommend anyway?

skinnyblackcladdink said...

er. i think the reviews you just linked to articulate what the reviewers didn't like about the book pretty well, and it doesn't seem to necessarily have anything to do with the general mindset of the Filipino reader.

it sounds like they have good points, and while there *are* hints of an inborn grass-roots class struggle simmering underneath, it doesn't seem to be the be-all and end-all of criticism for this book.

besides, a lot of people *did* like it, didn't they? if those who *didn't* are more vocal, i think it's only natural given the attention this book has apparently gotten...the way slaggers of the Da Vinci Code, say, tend to be snarkier and more immersed in bile than others.

it might be that you're trying too hard to find a forest where all you really have here are a few trees.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

also, crime fiction *does* have an outlet in the Philippines. take just about the entire run of 'FPJ sa GMA' for instance...

banzai cat said...

Well, I never said anything about the general mindset of the readers but rather the reviews of those who didn't favor the book. More to the point, I couldn't discern the point of some of the criticism leveled against the book.

For example, I quite agree with criticism against the somewhat heroic view of the protagonist. Where is the humanizing factor? It reminds me of those cliche detective characters who play a saxophone and listen to Coltrane on their off-hours. But the other criticism, especially the alleged CSI copying-- and ESPECIALLY that, gets my goat somewhat.

The class struggle criticism is a bit iffy for me but then again, the Marxist literary perspective seems to work for me only if its overt. (Further discussion depending on debator, of course.)

As for what-seemed general positive reviews, what can I say-- I didn't read 'em, preferring to read the book meself. :-)

You're quite right on the DVC slaggers though, being one of them meself. ;-)

(As for crime fiction, i.e. FPJ sa GMA... hah.)