craving by david hontiveros

Posted on September 21, 2010


Like I said, Takod, first book by Hontiveros I read, was an epic fail. There were more parts I disliked than liked. At less than 100 pages, with big font-text, there was little to like.

I should have read Craving first.

The story is about a couple desperate for a child. She had already miscarried twice. On her third pregnancy, her obstetrician advised the couple to take a break from the city, offering her vacation house beside the sea for the couple to stay in.

Every weekend she would drive back from the city to make sure the pregnancy was going well.

For a while it was, despite the rustlings from the tall grass surrounding the house, despite the owls leaving rat skeletons by the big mango tree in the yard, despite the hungry look the townswomen had for Anne, despite Lester’s sickening sense of dread.

Hontiveros created a trilogy of gothic horror, drawing on traditional folklore. Just like with Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, he capitalizes on the idea that there are worse things to happen than dying. Certainly I was creeped out by this:

“She will screech, and she will wail, but you will capture her, you will cut off her hair, and her fingernails, for they grow, so very quickly; cut all of that off, and stuff everything into the hole in the back of her neck. That way, she will be tame, and will not suffer the wretched thirst.”

The hole in the back of her neck?! That image is burning a  hole in my imagination blacker than the ghost of a raped woman in the movie Shutter, sitting, always sitting, on the shoulders of the man who wronged her.

I still don’t see what the fuss is, though, about Hontiveros’s writing. He won a Palanca? Instead of letting readers feel for themselves the menace, he keeps saying there is a menace:

“And Anne, alone in bed, stirred, her hand going to her belly, resting there, as if to shield her unborn child from some unseen, unknown menace…. He had failed to notice though, that there had been no wind, and the tree‘s leaves had been still, and silent, unmoving, though pensive, as if patiently waiting for some cruel inevitability to unfold.”

Ah, well, the horror story in this case was good enough that the metaphor and simile-stuffed narrative was less irritating.

Posted in: filipino, scary