9/20/2008
Infatuated with eccentricity

"Dapat pala hiniram ko na sa'yo yung libro kahapon," I told my sister when she woke up at her usually very late hour. "Nung nagpunta ako sa LTO."

"Anong book?" she answered, flipping her hair in front of the big mirror hanging in the dining room.

"Yung yellow," I answered, not remembering the title.

The next thing I knew, she already brought out the book in question. It was Escape from Film School, a novel written by UCLA professor Richard Walter which apparently made the Los Angeles Times' bestseller list. What drew me to it, when it still wasn't covered and placed on the shelf, wasn't its stark, Hard-Fi-like yellow and black cover. The paperback's front cover had a testimonial from film director Francis Ford Coppola: "Eerily accurate in its portrayal of the student film world."

In an instant, my attention was captured. Of course, I worked on a student film myself, writing a screenplay and somewhat living up to expectations. But of course, student films in the United States is a completely different thing, or at least completely different from DLSU's; if you've seen On the Lot, then that might be close. (How would I know? I haven't really seen it much.)

That was almost six weeks ago, and by then life - or should I say, tediousness - already got in the way. An idle afternoon was my only chance to finally start reading the book, and my chances at killing boredom earlier was heightened because my sister doesn't see herself picking up that book any moment soon, thanks to her school readings. So she came out with the paperback, and as if I am not trustworthy, belted out her instructions. "Huwag mong gaganituhin," she said, while curling the pages. "Ganito lang." The pages were straight, and I wondered whether reading it that way was possible.

I started reading at around half past one, and after I plugged in my iPod to the home entertainment system, I was off. The book wasn't really about the world of student films - well, not entirely, at least, but it still manages to touch on it. For the next four hours, I was just flipping through the pages, wondering why the book's chapters only max out at six pages, and checking back at some sentences to make sure that I didn't miss a detail. In the middle of page 57, it struck me: why am I suddenly reading a book?

Yes, I've said this many times, but I have to state it again: despite some people thinking I'm a bookworm, I'm not. Most of my reading came from newspapers and magazines. (In fact, I think my girly handwriting came from my attempts to imitate newspaper typography.) If I picked up a book, it was because I was required to do so - The Sky Over Dimas, for example, which I thoroughly enjoyed, or perhaps it's because I endlessly talked to Eena about it. The last book I seriously read, aside from The Dilbert Principle (which was definitely out of boredom), was Musunderestimated, which was given to me by my mother's friend knowing my interest in current affairs. And I'm no fan of Dubya.

I haven't really shunned books; I just haven't found time in them. Or it's my short attention span, which means I'll be drowsy after a couple of chapters, unless I really haven't got anything better to do. That means recent weeks have been a surprise, because I'm suddenly taking my bookstores seriously. The one time we were at Bonifacio High Street - my sister picked up a school requirement that common friend Jae lovingly reserved her - I was looking through the Filipino books section, realizing that Dolphy's autobiography costs me a big fraction of my salary, and that I still go queasy over seeing Kelly's face. But I was there thinking about buying something, even if I didn't really have plans to do so; at the A Different Bookstore branch nearby, I was looking through their quaint collection of war retellings, global dramas and political biographies.

And I absolutely don't know the reasons for my recent interest. Perhaps it's the maturity - the realization that I can now buy books on my own, and that music albums only provide some sort of instant gratification. Perhaps it's the way Carmel and I end up talking about her own political interests, when conversation about Shale Campaigns lead to her purchase of one of Barack Obama's books. At least, I usually think, it's a good distraction against weeks of endlessly crushing over workplace eccentricity, but perhaps that's a reason, too...

Eventually, my attention span started dipping and I realized that I was skipping the long, supposedly witty explanations about why the lead character got to where he is, mixed in with descriptions of a, err, love scene. Escape from Film School has fifty-two chapters, but with its penchant for short chapters, perhaps reflecting the fickle nature of the industry - or at least that's the impression I get - you'll feel that you've done a lot. Three and a half hours later, however, I felt dismayed, partly because of Walter's need for salvation - something I absolutely don't believe in - and partly because I was finished with the book.

"Anong oras ako nagsimula?" I told my sister, who was fixing up in her room before attending a friend's debut.

"Hindi ko maalala," she replied, flicking through her make-up kit.

I took out the book and slammed it on my bed, signifying the end of its purpose.

"Huwag kang mayabang," she retorted.

"Sinosoli ko lang naman, ah," I answered. "Besides, people read Twilight twice as fast as I did now."

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