Manila, in Theroux’s Kowloon Tong

theroux%24paul.gif Image from High Browse Online.

Have you read any Paul Theroux? One of the American writer’s more recent novels is Kowloon Tong, a story about a forty-something Brit who has lived all his life in Hong Kong, and whose escapades include being “entertained” in dark clubs by a Filipina from Manila named Baby.

Following is a passage from the novel, chosen for its description of Manila:

Luz (Baby’s friend) was from Manila, city of bangers and jitneys. They were single-minded, and credulous, and you could never please them, and that was why a million was meaningless, just funny money.

Here’s another:

He considered this (going to Manila) in an idle way, inventing a life, hypothesizing his moves, from arriving there and meeting someone like Baby, to raising children and perhaps starting a business. He got that far and then became obscurely anxious – was it the children or was it everything he had heard about the Philippines, the danger and dog-eating and disorder?

I do not know what to think. What do you? Mr. Theroux’s image of Manila is not inaccurate, but it certainly isn’t complete. I do hope that any one of our realist fictionists would soon offer a magnified glimpse of our city, its sights and sounds: from the enchanted, to the ugly, both the beautiful and the honest. Just like how Lino Brocka depicted old Manila in his films.

By the way, Mr. Theroux kind of looks like Orhan Pamuk, don’t you think?

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