“Write what you know”, is a mantra that literature and creative writing professors tell their students. Edgar Calabia Samar takes this seriously by creating a character whose desires revolve around the realm of writing itself. Daniel, the hero of the art piece, discloses the chapters of the novel by being a storyteller that repeatedly shifts in voice, person, situation, and mood. Why do novel writers separate the “real” literary work from the “making” of the literary work when they can simply fuse and package them into one book? More, why do novelists need to think of a plot of the novel when the very “making” of the novel can pass as a great plot? Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog is created by a writer who creates a main character dreaming to be a writer who formulates philosophies and employs narrative voices which he has learned from a dozen of other popular writers which the main character uses to imagine characters that he is imagining, or dreaming, to write. This project, this creation of labyrinths through playing with the scheme of “writer within a writer within a writer ellipsis” , is what makes Samar’s work a difficult read, if difficult means trying painfully to find “what The Author Samar wants to say” according to the conventional structuralist/beginning-muddle-end method of literary interpretation.
Many Filipino literary writers do not disclose their writing influences even when asked, most of them living with the delusion that whatever they write is original, and emanates from their great spleen of talents. Edgar Samar’s book brandishes a fuck-you finger to these authors. No one is and can never be original, and whatever Samar, or Daniel, or Daniel’s protagonist-Arcangel, or whoever-really-depicts-the-narrative writes or say is just an amalgamation of the works that they have read and the experiences they have encountered. The attempt to depict Daniel’s hometown, Atisan, is brought by reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Samar is explicit in telling that Daniel reads Kundera, Salinger, Murakami, and so many other contemporary writers, and their works, in one way or another, affect how WDNP is going to proceed.
Jun Cruz Reyes’ blurb focuses on the ‘new way of writing’ that Samar has introduced with the publication of Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog. This remark perhaps springs from the fact that the novel does not show how conflicts can be resolved, but exhibit how conflicts are not conflicts at all. The “writers” in this novel tell their stories in jumping fragments that readers cannot and will never trace which parts tell the beginning, and which ones tell the end. Time flashes forward and backward without giving warnings, characters’ memories are blended with realities, and this confusing blend is further complicated by dreams, afterthoughts, and musings.
In the end, what are the things that we remember? That Daniel is abandoned by his father for Saudi and lives with his Tito Tony who, as the novel pursues, is disclosed as the actual father. That Atisan is a childhood paradise where dwendes, tiyanaks, diwatas, and many cultural mythical characters exist. That Daniel lives for the memories of childhood friends Michael, Glen and Erik. That Daniel, like other teenagers, falls in love and discovers sex. That Daniel opens the novel with him being pushed to the brink of death by a snatcher who has stolen his mother’s picture. That Daniel closes the novel by falling off the brink and failing to find her. Family, friends, love, local elements through the mysterious and the unexplained. The way of telling perhaps is revolutionary, but what is being told stays the same.