the lost language by marianne villanueva

Posted on February 1, 2011


It’s like I was reading a diary. But it wasn’t truly voyeurism, because sometimes it felt like reading something from my own diary. I didn’t understand many of the mythological references, though. Isn’t our psyche already unfathomable that to mask it with riddles an overkill?

What I feared happened. I met an author and now I must set aside all thoughts of personal consideration so I can be as honest as possible about my review of The Lost Language, an anthology of short stories that read like they were penned in pain.

At the Filipino Book Bloggers meetup last year, Marianne Villanueva was bubbly and witty, so interested in our every word. She shared some of her experiences with us, talked about being a Filipino writer in the United States, gave tips on improving one’s literary craft, and made us feel how wonderful it is be reading and writing at this time.

Her smile was a grin and her laugh at our own odd stories infectious. Imagine my surprise to find out how different the Marianne Villanueva was in her writings, at least those that I saw from this book. They described a world where relationships take more than they give: Why else are her characters dispirited or despairing much of the time?

In the first story, two kids find a hand in a dumpster and feed it to a dog; the girl goes along because she wanted her friend to respect her. A Filipina girl new in the land of milk and honey, I guess she wanted to fit in. It was such a tight fix, though, that she broke, and wetness flowed from her eyes and peed out between her legs.

The other stories carry much the same burden; mother, son, daughter, wife–are these roles worth taking on I asked with each heartache. The mother of the Unruly Heart allowed sorrow over her son’s death to swallow her up that sorrow became normal.

I would have felt disgusted by all the angst if it was not so deftly understated and the language that sheltered it not so refined.

I must admit it was stressful reading this book.  There were moments that I almost remembered the lost language within me; thankfully I was able to shut the covers on it just in time to write this incoherent review.

Read a coherent review here and here.

Posted in: filipino