Friday, February 1, 2013

sifting through the garbage

i just finished listening to the random house-produced audiobook of andy mulligan's novel trash, a YA crime caper about three young boys living in a smokey mountain-type giant dumpsite in a thinly veiled fictional version of the philippines, and the very important thing they find one day while  sorting the endless piles of trash.

the audiobook itself was a bit of a disaster: one of the voice talents actually managed to sound reasonably like a filipino speaking english, but another, who voiced a major character and narrated many of the climactic scenes, sounded like a ten year-old attempting a borat impression. no, really, it was that bad.

the story itself was highly enjoyable and reasonably well-plotted (if you don't look too closely, and a local would scrutinize the heck out of it), if a bit fanciful and heavy on the exoticism at times. i liked the nice little set pieces mulligan lines up, and i came to really care for the three protagonists, dumb accent and all.

but what struck me the most about trash was why it had to come from the mind of a foreigner, published by a foreign imprint. why don't we have a basura, written by andres muligan? are we too close to the subject, literally and figuratively? i mean, aside from pasan ko ang daigdig, have there been any other attempts to present a story (and i mean a story, not a documentary), for mass local consumption, set in a garbage dump? or don't garbage dumps exist in our collective imagination?

sometimes i get the feeling that we keep looking in the same places for stories to tell. in our movies, our TV shows, our comics. sure, there are places we don't go because the boss or the marketing person says to stay near and familiar, but then there are also places we don't go simply because no one goes there. and maybe it's time we went there.

where's my jeepney driver turned formula one racer? where's my abu sayyaf political thriller? did they get thrown out with the other genre trash? best get digging, then.

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