Once upon a time at past 3 in the wee small hours of the morning, while I was hurriedly packing for a three-day work travel, my estranged housemate Doi asked if I read Nora Ephron and my reply was nope, classic Meg Ryan romantic comedies she scripted were enough for me. Sometime this year, I watched the lukewarm Heartburn, a film penned by Ephron. Based on the breakdown of her own marriage, the film was not well received by critics inasmuch as its lead actors, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, were their usual magnetic selves. The screenplay is wanting perhaps because Ephron failed to distance her fiction from her reality.
So what has Nora Ephron got to do with Jessica Zafra’s new collection of stories?
The Stories So Far is Jessica’s self-published two-decade long-overdue follow up to Manananggal Terrorizes Manila. I became a Jessica minion for her sardonic wit and humorous observations on Pinoy society, pop culture, and everything feline encapsulated in her Twisted books and the now defunct Flip magazine. As a book hoarder, her three-part feature on plastic covers that appeared on Twisted 3 remains gospel though Jessica herself no longer preserves her books in plastic. Our country’s climate tightens the plastic and warps our beloved paperbacks. So it was a blast for me when she was in Cebu last June for a local literary event and I also went home on the same weekend. She signed my copy, asked me if my name is just Jessie, told her that my parents are never really so creative in the field of naming conventions to which she replied that I should be thankful that I was not christened Jennelyn.
In The Stories So Far, Jessica disappointed me. Or I grew up and then failed her. Whatever. The point is most of the short fiction in this collection resemble writings she already did before but in nonfiction format. Maybe readers who are just discovering Jessica will be amused, horrified, or moved by the unique qualities of her fiction but no longer followers like me who devoured her Twisted books as adolescents or yuppies. Or I may have simply changed thus the shift in the way I fathom what was already familiar. A good friend raised that maybe Jessica is the type of writer who appeals to us at a certain point in our lives hence reading Twisted now might no longer provide that affirmation reaped before. Another colleague pointed out that while Jessica’s old catalog already bores him, her current writings validate that she’s still here with us. Or at least she’s still with the generation that she spawned with her Twisted. I believe I should go get a copy of her Geeks Vs. Jocks.