Short Stories of the Month: December 2014

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This post is almost a month late. The holidays distracted and disrupted my routine and I was only able to read the stories and post my thoughts of late. But let’s not allow the delay to tarnish the beauty of the featured stories for December, shall we? Referential by Lorrie Moore touched my (maternal) heart while The Bread of Salt by N.V.M. Gonzalez made me long to read for more notable Filipino short stories.


REFERENTIAL by Lorrie Moore

Referential struck a chord in me. It made me teary-eyed and  brought to light my worst fears and anxieties.

In this story, a mother is visiting her teenage son who is confined in a mental institution. She is with Pete, with whom she is hoping to have a serious relationship after her husband died years ago. But it seems that Pete has withdrawn himself from their lives because he isn’t sure if he wants to have something to do with a boy who cuts himself and who believes that the earth revolves only for him. Who will she choose? How can she cope?

All this had to be accepted. Living did not mean one joy piled upon another. It was merely the hope for less pain, hope played like a playing card upon another hope, a wish for kindnesses and mercies to emerge like kings and queens in an unexpected change of the game.

Read the rest of my thoughts at The Short Story Station.

THE BREAD OF SALT by N.V.M. Goonzalez

Unlike other college students, I didn’t have the privilege of being enrolled in a Philippine Lit class while I was at the university. Or maybe I had, in one of those general education courses, but I could not remember being required to read local stories by famous local authors such as those by Nick Joaquin and Jose Garcia Villa. I was glad, therefore, that one of the featured stories for December was by a local author.

According to Wikipedia, Nestor Vicente Madali (N.V.M.) Gonzalez, the author of this featured story, was a notable author and essayist, and was awarded the Palanca Award for Literature and a Philippine National Artist. He also played the violin, and this perhaps inspired him to make the main character in the story as a violinist.

The Bread of Salt is a coming-of-age story narrated in the voice of a fourteen year-old lad who gets smitten by Aida, a mestiza, his classmate and the niece of a Spaniard with whom his grandfather used to work for. This infatuation makes him aware of their great incompatibility so he strives to improve himself by becoming more skilled in playing the violin. He hopes that through this, Aida will notice him and eventually reciprocate his affection.

On quiet mornings I imagined the patter of her shoes upon the wooden veranda floor as a further sign, and I would hurry off to school, taking the route she had fixed for me past the post office, the town plaza and the church, the health center east of the plaza, and at last the school grounds. I asked myself whether I would try to walk with her and decided it would be the height of rudeness. Enough that in her blue skirt and white middy she would be half a block ahead and, from that distance, perhaps throw a glance in my direction, to bestow upon my heart a deserved and abundant blessing. I believed it was but right that, in some such way as this, her mission in my life was disguised.

Aside from being a story of a boy’s transition into adulthood and maturity, The Bread of Salt is  also a portrayal of the societal chasm between the poor and the rich, and how unnatural and improbable it will be for the poor to marry the rich. Gonzalez used the pan de sal – the bread of salt, the bread of the masses, as a strong symbol and for me this was what makes the story remarkably very Filipino.

Read the rest of my thoughts at The Short Story Station.

Short Stories of the Month is a regular feature at The Short Story Station. Stop by, join us, and read a story!



2 thoughts on “Short Stories of the Month: December 2014

  1. Haven’t read Referential, but Lorrie Moore has this gift of telling stories that are… wistful. Like, narratives with deep, dark undertones. The may be youthful at the surface (whimsical, energetic) but at some point in her writing, something tells you that something else is going on.

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