What is Serendipity?: Jane Austen, Fingersmith and the story of my de-shelving

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by Geri

Note: This is not a So You Don’t Have To article. This is about my love and hate relationship with finding les-curious novels in our dear Motherland (charot!). GP

If you have no idea what de-shelved means, read my former post Of Lesbians in closets and lesbians on shelves.

This room is mine, not my younger sister's. I just outed myself as a Miley fan.

This room is mine, not my younger sister's. You just saw a piece of me and I just outed myself as a Miley Cyrus fan.

What is Serendipity? Serendipity is giving a used books corner in a garage sale one more chance after raiding the entire thing for six times without the success of finding a novel that will suit your taste. You try the corner most shelf, you found nothing on it that you might like, so what do you do? You push that fated shelf a little bit, a book might have fallen behind, used books in garage sales are like that. You see it, you pin your longer arm behind the shelf to reach it. After perspiring alot and meriting curious stares from the people around you, you finally reach that book, and find out that it’s a novel with a lesbian character. You pay for that book for thirty-five pesos and walk out of the garage sale gloating to fate and feeling like a winner.

What is Serendipity? Serendipity is wanting to go home to your house in Proj. 6 because you have a lot of assignments to do. Sadly, your friend asks you to accompany her to a used books stall in your University. It’s far from the jeepney terminal, but being the friend you are, you agree to her. You check  out the titles available at the store while your friend inquires about the book she’s required to read for the English subject she’s taking. You run your fingers through the spines of the books. They don’t really look like they’ve been used at all. You run your fingers through the spine of a book, and you take a double look. Can it be? No it can’t, can’t it? It’s the book you’ve been looking all over Metro Manila for, and you find it there, when you’re not even looking.

What is Serendipity? Serendipity is finding out that just when you thought you can flaunt the book you bought, you can’t, because the owner knows the plot, and hopefully, if you aren’t ready to come out just yet, he doesn’t realize why you are so excited about that novel.

All I say to you now are true. Finding les-curious novels in this country is hard to do. Though this theory has excemptions (Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart which you can find in a bookstore near you), it is virtually true for all other novels such as the Jane Austen Book Club, Fingersmith, Keeping You a Secret, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and many others. What of the revolutionary G and L section at National Bookstore, you say? Most of them cater to gay men, plus they are the pulp fiction type that I only want to see in Quentin Tarantino films.

No, I can’t buy them from Amazon. The least thing I want is my mom finding a book with a cover of two girls kissing in the morning at our doorstep sent in to my name.  So what I did was search around in the databases of the country’s top bookstores in hopes of finding these books, to no avail. Little did I know that two of these books are lying around, waiting to be found in places that I did not care to look.

The book at the back of the shelf

I first read about the Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler when AfterEllen made a feature about its film adaptation. I only read the article because Emily Blunt plays one of the main characters. It is basically about a Jane Austen book club formed by five women and a guy. They hold out meetings and discuss the works of Austen, with each member assigned a book to spearhead. Little did they know that their lives would be parallel to those of the beloved characters of Austen. The interesting part is, one of the girls is a lesbian yet in the story, no fuss is made about it and it was treated like a heterosexual relationship would be treated by ABC.

So one day, my feet took me to a garage sale in our neighborhood on Proj. 6. That house has been running that sale for almost a year now, they never seem to run out of stuff (or no one really buys from them). I guess it was about time to check it out. Once I entered the garage, the sight of three shelves bearing disheveled books immediately attracted me to it. The shelves do not have a backboard, so things could actually fall at the back. I immediately went there to scavenge whatever books I can. I wasn’t even looking for anything in particular, for such small selections, one shouldn’t even expect. I found the generic The Beach House by James Patterson (something I seem to find in every used books store I visit), but after rummaging the pile atleast six times (a personal rule), I was about to give up. Luckily I gave it one more chance, I might have overlooked something after all. I lifted the books one by one, for some precious piece of literature might be hiding under. I rearranged stacks, I checked every corner, yet nothing. I decided to push the shelf a little to the side. I had to do it slowly so that the owner won’t hear me manhandling his property. Indeed, a few books already fell on that side, neglected by whoever was supposed to be arranging them.

I reached out with my long arm, towards the book that caught my eye first just because it was a red one. When I was finally able to pull it out and read the title, I cannot believe it. No f***ng way! You’ve got to be kidding me! So I immediately stood up, not wanting an opportunity like this go, and paid the cashier the entire thirty-five pesos worth of all their trouble of not arranging the stack of books. Lucky for me, I followed my hunch. And thought the movie version is better than the novel, I can still say that it was worth all the dust I inhaled while reaching that book at the back of the shelf.

The movie was better than the book, not just because it had Emily Blunt.

The movie was better than the book, not just because it had Emily Blunt.

De-shelved!

So you all know that I’m a closeted lesbian. Not just that, I’m an extremely insecure and pretentious closeted lesbian who won’t get caught ever checking out lesbian fiction at bookstores. Atleast at National Bookstore. I, no matter how brilliant my hiding schemes are, found a match one day in the face of the owner of the used books shop along the AS Walk at UP Diliman.

The accused:

Me

The accusation:

several counts of les-curiousity

The witness:

the owner of the book shop by the AS Walk

The evidence:

a copy of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

The verdict:

De-shelving, loss of the right to brag about stealth prowess, loss of the right to return to that book shop until the owner forgets about the incident.

You’ve got to understand, this is not me exaggerating things. This is me being the insecure and paranoid lesbian that I am. Insecure that people around me will think I’m a lesbian. Paranoid that the people around me do know I’m a lesbian. So here is how it happened:

That afternoon, when my last class was done, I badly wanted to go home because of the tons of homework I didn’t do during the week-end. The one that I always ride the jeepney home with, a sophomore classmate of mine in that subject, said that she needed to buy a book for an English subject she’s taking. I told her that we could buy it at SM or Trinoma since those malls are on our way. She asked me if it would be okay if I accompany her at the said used books stall because she wanted to save on money. I agreed, not really in the mood to ride a jeep alone because it was raining.

So she asked the owner of the store if they had her book. As the owner searched for the right translation, I examined the titles around me. Not bad. The books are actually fairly new and so are the titles. I wish I had some money on me (or rather, that I’m not so kuripot), so that I can buy something of Murakami’s. I stooped down in order to check more titles (there’s something about low corners when it comes to lesbian fiction). Yup, you guessed it, I saw it. I didn’t really see the title, rather, I saw the name of Sarah Waters and the picture of the two gloves I know so well because I spent many hours looking it up on Amazon wishing that I can order it. I immediately looked at the price: 275 pesos. Good, I had more than enough. I was so excited I had to restrain myself from jumping as I hurried to the owner to pay him. He saw me holding the book before I reached him.

Owner(signalling to the book in my hand): Ay, maganda ‘yan, ine. That’s a good one, child.

(I didn’t really believe him then when he said that. Could he possibly have read all those books he was selling? So I tested him.)

Me: Ay, ‘yong pelikula palang po ‘yong napapanood ko. I’ve only seen the movie.

Owner: Iyong pelikula ba? Maganda rin ‘yon, kaso masyadong sensitive nga lang. The movie was good too, though it touched on sensitive tones.

(Oh, f**k! Alam niya talaga iyong kwento! My insecurities kicked in, it’s time to escape.)

Me: Gan’un po ba? Mas maganda nga raw po ‘yung libro kesa sa pelikula. Is that so? I’ve heard that the book was better than the movie.

(Um, sige, idiin mo pa, kulang na lang sabihin mo na sabi ng AfterEllen yan eh.)

Owner: Mas maganda nga talaga ‘yan, may mga dialogue ‘yan na wala sa pelikula eh.The book is indeed better. There are dialogues in the book not present in the movie.

Me: Salamat naman, ang tagal ko nang hinahanap to. Ang meron lang Powerbooks, indefinitely out-of-stock pa. Hardbound na 600. Thank God. I’ve been looking for this for a long time. Only Powerbooks had it, and it’s out-of-stock indefinitely. A 600 peso hard-bound copy.

(Um! Buhay ka pa!)

Owner: Dito ka na lang. Mas mura pa, bago naman iyan e. Tsaka maski paper back niya di mo makukuha ng 250 kahit saan. Just buy it here, it’s cheaper and it’s still new. You cannot buy even the paper back version for 250 pesos anywhere.

(Good thing the talk has turned into the sales type. I have never been this comfortable during a sales talk.)

So I paid him, grabbed the arm of my friend who already had the book she needed, and left after saying thank you. Did he have an idea of what I am? I think he did, I hope not. I also hope that the day will come that I can finally buy my books on Amazon without fear and with full freedom.

 

 

11 responses »

  1. wow! bookworm ka pla.. i have downloaded a 355-page pdf version of fingersmith from scribd.com. it has an intro in chinese . i wonder if it’s the original text. please email me the one you’ve got🙂

  2. wala yan kay manong ng booksale sa shopping center. nung binili ko ang “well of loneliness”, nirecommend niya ang “book of lesbian erotica” bwahahaha!

  3. nakita ko fingersmith for 238 php sa bungad pa mismo ng a different bookstore. last month lang nakakita pa ko ng kopya sa booksale sm manila. nakumpleto ko books ni sarah waters dahil sa booksale so tip lang sa mga naghahanap🙂 tsaka
    super-sale(287 from 1200+) din pala ngayon ang nag-iisang hardbound copy ng Lighthousekeeping sa nat’l sm manila.

    before pa ko magkahigh-speed net, sa gay-themed movies naman ako madalas usisain ng mga tindero. pero ang pinakamasama: mahuli ni friend/crush na hindi ko naman kasama habang nagbabayad ng dvd sa quiapo. /o\

  4. buti k pa nakakapasok dun, tuwing pupunta kasi ako ng greenhills kasama ko magulang ko, at di pwede humiwalay kasi di ko kabisado yng lugar

  5. nakita ko to minsan sa booksale…at dahil wala akong dalang xtra money nun, tinago ko sya sa likod na mejo kita pa dn nman ung title,,,pagbalik ko wala na..lucky me,,,-_-

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