Edith L. Tiempo, poet, fiction writer, teacher and literary critic is one of the finest Filipino Writers in English whose works are characterized by a remarkable fusion of style and substance, of craftsmanship and insight. Her poems are intricate verbal transfigurations of significant experiences as revealed, in two of her much anthologized pieces, "Lament for the Littlest Fellow" and "Bonsai." As fictionist, Tiempo is as morally profound. Her language has been marked as "descriptive but unburdened by scrupulous detailing." She is an influential tradition in Philippine literature in English.
Together with her late husband, writer and critic Edilberto K. Tiempo, they founded (in 1962) and directed the Silliman National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City, which has produced some of the Philippines' best writers.
She was conferred the National Artist Award for Literature in 1999.
Storytelling when it was still an unadulterated passion; when writers wrote stories because they because they have to and not to impress the readers.
This collection of 8 story is my first book by Edith Tiempo. Originally published by Alberto Florentino in 1964, my birth year. Why is it that local authors no longer write the same as Tiempo? Has the quality of art (short story writing) diminishes as we digitalize? The 8 stories are here are told like poems. You need to imagine almost everything. Characters come and go. Say what they want to say even to the point that you don't know why they say it and at times, inconsistent to who they are. Or so I thought... because when you finish the story and give yourself sometime to ponder the whole piece, you'll have some ideas why and hopefully have some take away from reading it. Sometimes, you also have to supply some details to get some sense of the story.
In the end, this is a nice cerebral book. Edith Tiempo is definitely one of the brightest writers - a novelist, short story writer and a poet - that the country has ever produced.
It’s not difficult to see a common theme in “Abide, Joshua and other stories.” Tiempo’s characters struggle with themselves, each of them having internal turmoils that she expounds on quite extensively. Perhaps Tiempo considered character vs. self conflict is universal. I agree; a person always has conflicts within themselves, sometimes due to external reasons, like family conflicts in “Abide, Joshua” and “The Corral,” or internal ones, such as the fear of getting old in “The Dimensions of Fear.” I like the complexity of the characters, though I have reservations about stories that fixate on the self only as the site of conflict—the personal is political is sometimes inadequate.
I also think that Tiempo is difficult to read. I believe that the first short story of Tiempo that I read was “The Dimensions of Fear,” and I remember having had a difficult time trying to understand the story. Rereading it along with the other stories in the collection, I surmise that perhaps Tiempo has taken the golden rule of writing, “Show don’t tell,” to a fault. There is a kind of restraint to her writing that almost seems like she doesn’t want the reader to understand the story; or maybe it’s not restraint but deliberate crypticness. Reading the stories should have been like following a trail breadcrumbs that lead away from the forest, but instead, I felt like I was being led towards the witch’s candy house, unaware and confused. I feel like I should have had an “epiphany” or realization of some sort at the end of each story, but I didn’t. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. I guess I’ll have to rethink and reread these stories, sometime in the future, to understand them better.
EDIT a month and a half after: The main character of “The Chambers of the Sea” is apparently queer. I can’t believe I missed that. I knew the story sounded familiar, and it was my queerness resonating with the queerness in the text.
EDIT 2 six months later: I‘ve realized that the stories are meant to be read as individual stories. Each has a different focal point.