Gina Apostol won the Philippine National Book Award for her first two novels, Bibliolepsy and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata. She lives in New York City.
An excerpt from her novel Gun Dealers' Daughter appears in Issue Thirty-Six of The Collagist.
Here, Gina Apostol answers interview questions "in the form of excerpts"--with further excerpts from Gun Dealers' Daughter.
1. What is writing like?
Mucking through this part of the story discourages me, but I might as well go through with it. I’ve been told Kierkegaard’s sickness unto death is only a bodily malfunction, a glandular lack. Maybe this throb of incompleteness is the same. In my mind, the anxious compass of something yet to be averted—a sordid, unsatisfying suspension. I keep pushing it down, stomping on it, this heft of my expectancy, my wish to resurrect him, again.
2. What isn’t writing like?
When he wrapped me up, in that windy Oxford pontoon, prissily wiping off the splashing water from my summer calves; when he fussed over my Spanish mantilla before the march of the Feast of Fallas, one spring in Valencia, tightening the corset and smoothing the lace on my springtime chest; when he patted me on the head like a puppy, danced with me like a Gypsy, or put me to bed like my dad—odd sensations of replenishment, of completion, of being loved with the absolute devotion of someone who would always be loved back, no matter what she did.
3. When you do it, why?
I discovered that our books of history were invariably in the voice of the colonist, the one who misrecognized us. Filipinos were inscrutable apes engaging in implausible insurrections against gun-wielding epic heroes who disdained our culture but wanted our land. The simplicity and rapacity of those books’ reductions were consistent and provided the ballast for my tardy revolt.
4. When you don’t, why?
I should beat my breast, retreat into an ashram, join the crucifers of Pampanga and lash my body against a bloody cross, at the mere sound of my name. Because I do not have the imagination to possess affection. To be honest, I have never been able to envision society as a creature with genuine warmth or pumping heart. I act by impulse, by the inarticulate suggestions of my errant sensations. I have a cadaverous soul. In short, I am a member of the damned burgis—the Filipino bourgeoisie, with links to feudal lords. Whenever I think of my work, source of privilege and horror, I believe it is with conflicting purposes and incoherent intentions, when, in fact, I should never speak of it at all.