This time around, the Manila International Book Fair at the SMX convention center was unlike any previous MIBF I went to. And the main difference is: children. This was very unusual for me because, every since I started going to the MIBF—as a kid myself—I only experienced it within a trinity: myself, my inner nerd (who is even nerdier than the nerd I already am), and the collective consciousness of all the books in the trade fair.
So, last weekend, this old paradigm was destroyed by the presence of my own children, Lakshmi, Krishna, and Sophia. I discovered that my own spawn are the most effective way to distract me from making conscious, reasonable book purchase decisions.
I mean, I could not effectively wrestle with the questions:
1) Which Charles Bukowski book do I grab and take home with me—after payment of course—and who the heck is pulling on my arm? It was my son, Krishna, of course, already bored to death because he had already picked his own book and already wanted to leave the SMX; which Bukowski book? Wait maybe this one… wait, Krishna, I still have to… okay. What does your sister Lakshmi want? Okay, let’s get this book for her. Yeah. Let’s pay for the books. Okay, wait. I didn’t get my Charles Bukowski book, it was right… never mind.
2) I can’t find Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, so what do I buy instead? I don’t want any of the other Wallace books, so what? What do I get instead—of course, the answer to that question, it turns out, is that I bought The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. I didn’t even buy it 100% for myself. I had read that book from cover to cover about three or four times since college, and I’ve lost all my copies of it, but I bought another copy partly for nostalgia’s sake and because I thought it would be a cool book for Lakshmi to read.
3) What do I buy instead of “Post-colonialism and Filipino Poetics” by J. Neil Garcia, a book which, I only found out right there at the U.P. Press MIBF booth, is already out of print? What about the Filipino translations of Pablo Neruda’s “Selected Poems”? But wait, my wife is already on the cellphone—Sophia had already bought three books and had her photo taken with the Lorax mascot, so could we all go NOW because everyone, including myself, needs a toilet really, really badly?
And that, my friends, sums up my MIBF experience.
Another interesting development at the MIBF: mommy porn rules. Of course, “mommy porn” is what reviewers and critics on the Internet are calling the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy, and so many women, some obviously moms, have been buying their copies.
So many of these women were at the MIBF, swooping onto the piles of “Fifty Shades of Grey” that were already on the floor. There were so many copies of these books that they could no longer fit the shelves and tables.
The term “mommy porn” has been used so often that the author of Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James, who is a mom herself, is already raising her objection. For her, it’s not a flattering term. In an interview with Today on MSN-NBC (see full article here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/48177363/ns/today-books/t/dont-call-it-mommy-porn-says-fifty-shades-author/#.UFbMk7LiaEY) James said:
“I think it is disparaging. It’s actually quite misogynistic. Women like sex. If it’s done well, it’s really quite good fun.”
Well, James’ books are about sex—not just typical sex but BDSM—and moms reportedly love reading it. The term seems pretty accurate.
The Fifty Shades book trilogy has already sold more copies than all seven Harry Potter books, reports the UK’s Daily Mail here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2182618/Fifty-Shades-Grey-outsells-SEVEN-Harry-Potter-books-Amazon.html
And significantly, a lot of these copies are downloadable e-books for e-book readers like Kindle and other formats available to smartphones, laptops, tablet devices, etc. So it would seem that moms’ appetites for erotic literature are also being aided by mobile technology. In other words, moms are now enjoying porn very similarly to how dads are doing it.
Well, it’s about time that moms had this opportunity to enjoy their own erotic literary genre—don’t you think? There’s even word that the coming (pun accidental but… whatever…) Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF) will be including a serious discussion of the Fifty Shades phenomenon.
That’s a good idea but it might have been better if the PILF had stuck to its previous name, which was the “Manila International Literary Festival” or MILF. That way, they could post the announcement: “MILF to discuss mommy porn genre in ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy.” It would have made more interesting, more apt copy. Swak na swak.
(At this point, I’m counting down the days before the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issues a statement about the popularity of “Fifty Shades” among Filipina Catholic moms.)
This, of course, brings me to my main beef with the Fifty Shades beefcake, Christian Grey. I’m very suspicious of erotic literature characters that have no facial hair. And based on how the text describes Christian Grey, then his face is as smooth as silk, without a trace of stubble.
In fact, Justin Bieber—who had at least two biographies being sold at the MIBF—has been rumored to be in the running for playing Christian Grey in the movie version.
I believe that erotic male characters must have facial hair. There’s something seriously wrong if they don’t—it’s like we’re violating a cosmic law. I mean, just look at tubercular D.H. Lawrence, the writer who gave us Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Even he had facial hair:
Erotic characters with facial hair are, more often than not, safer to be with than the smooth-faced ones—the latter seem to be hiding some kind of grotesque evil beneath the surface. Case in point: 1980s Filipino erotic actor Greggy Liwag.
Just watch Greggy Liwag’s erotic films during the 1980s. No matter how “bad” his character becomes, you always sense that, deep inside he’s really “good”. Same with American actors Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds—both moustached sex symbols who always have a good guy vibe.
Another challenge arose during my trip to the MIBF: how to answer my kids’ questions about the Fifty Shades trilogy. Of course they observed how all these women were queuing up to pay for the books. So they would ask me, “What are those books about, dad?”
Do I need to say more than just, “Oh, those are books for grown-ups”? How are the moms who brought these books home explaining said books to their kids? I’d like to know—it would be very useful information in case my kids ask me again.
If only there was something like a magical pair of shades—sunglasses—that I could let my kids wear, so that it protects them from the reality of moms buying porn, and thus spare me from explaining life a little bit more to them.
I imagine that these shades should be made of ultra-reflective material, so reflective that we’re not even sure if that level of reflective tint is legal anywhere. I actually bought such a pair of shades for my daughter—they’re ultra-reflective but made of cheap, only fifty pesos worth, non-magical material.
Nowadays, I use those shades to obscure the vision of scary Baby Alive dolls—so they won’t come after me in the night:
I’ve been trying to read “Fifty Shades of Grey”, of which I have a copy in PDF—but I found it rather boring, monotonous, with the prose quite flat and lifeless. After four or five pages, I just couldn’t go on reading.
Is that the kind of erotic fantasy that moms like? Well, maybe moms like it that way—boring, flat, and lifeless—because it reminds them of their sex lives with their husbands.