Saturday, July 28, 2007

Who killed reading?

MY college chum Ibiang was aghast. “What do you mean my godson does not read Harry Potter?”

Ibiang—bless her ink-stained soul— is the only godparent who gives my son Carlos books.

It might be because she reads. Or that she expects any child of mine to read. Or that, like me, she remembers the terrible days when one ran out of books to read and had to make small talk with a boy.

Then again, Ibiang rarely sees her godson and does not know Carlos slips into the virtual world when he can, not by way of flipping open a book but plugging the power cord of his PC.

The last time I was in Manila, Ibiang once more rescued my Tagalog-challenged self. Before my flight, she asked me for her godson’s favorite book character. “Scooby-Doo?” I said, sheepishly.

Cool and rational Ibiang did a superwoman act of controlling her impulse to shriek at the idea that any “kinugos” (godson) of hers worshipped a talking dog in a TV cartoon series. Yet, with the same methodical planning that helped her stage lightning protests defying the no-permit, no-rally policy, she led me in ransacking the shelves of a national bookstore chain before she was finally satisfied that a couple of Scooby-Doo novels were “suitable for his reading age.”

Peeping at the pages, I commented, weakly: “But it doesn’t have enough pictures.” Before I could damage more our old friendship, she packed me off for my flight.

More than five years have passed. Things have become worse, I grimly report to my friend. I have scattered my six volumes of Potter books in strategic places around the house so when my sons open the fridge door or pull out a shirt, a copy will just fall down and knock some sense into their heads.

Once, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” fell on Carlos after I cunningly insinuated this near his gadgets. “Why should we read when we can watch the movie?” shrugged my teenager. Up to this writing, “The Half-Blood Prince”—the second top seller in book history, selling nine million copies in its first day of release—anchors and keeps his sheaves of photocopied assignments from falling on his favorite companion, the computer and modem.

About an eighth of me is now resigned that my sons do not belong to the hordes that devoured 11 million copies of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in the first 24 hours of its release.

But manipulation and mothers share more than the first letter. I waged last summer a campaign to get my Nancy Drew collection into the hands of my sons.

I itched to ask Ibiang how my campaign fared with the Manila bookstores’ promotional blitz for “Deathly Hallows.” The countdown activities of one bookstore alone included a Muggle Magic digital contest, Harry Potter Book Club Discussions, Triwizard Tournament for most exhaustive Harry IQ, Kiddie Quidditch Game, and Hunt for Missing Horcruxes.

On the other hand, my Nancy had a hairdo that never altered its curling-iron appearance over the decades, held hands with admirer Ned Nickerson without removing her gloves, and was the reason why, from fourth grade to the middle of sixth grade, I went home with the seat of my panties an unrecognizable shade of charcoal. When I was solving a mystery with Carolyn Keene’s heroine, I paid no heed where I squatted in my school skirt.

Indeed, during the summer break, the boys read a dozen of my Nancy Drews. But they snickered about her “sporty maroon roadster.” And Juan wondered if Nancy’s “boyish” pal George was, like Tinky Winky in Teletubbies, “gay.”

Then last June, the movie “Nancy Drew” transferred her from small-town River Heights to Prada-wearing Hollywood High School. Emma Roberts’ Nancy wore a plaid skirt that actually stops short a few inches above her knees, I overheard the boys discuss. “Can we check soon if the DVD is available?” is an inevitability I can see coming, as well as decades of cobweb and dust descending like the final shroud over my Nancy and Harry.

In our heyday, Ibiang and I went up against a dictator and a couple of dummies. When I sought her out recently, my friend had to do drastic first aid for a heart-sick soul who lived to tell about Technology’s Rout of Reading. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 29, 2007 issue


isolde said...

Hi, Yette!

Mana ko's HP 7. Are you sure you
don't want to get back "The Gutenberg Elegies" for when your boys grow older? :) Also: I've tagged you. Check this link, please:


Mayette said...

Hi, Solang. I think you should keep The Elegies. If ever the boys realize this is a classic on reading, and not a band or website, I hope they'll look for you and borrow the book :-)

And about HP7: er, umm,ahhh, ugh! I said I'll wait for the tradebook version. If I am really in danger of blackening out from holding out too long, I know whom to run to :-)