Literary finds at National Book Store

My mission was to locate a copy of Agatha Christie’s short story “The Case of the Perfect Maid” which is to be found in an anthology “The Complete Short Stories of Agatha Christie”. National Book Store, the “national” book store of the Philippines, on Quezon Avenue, I was sure, was the best place to go to; its little branch at Robinson’s Magnolia was only good for school supplies. But I was aghast when a staff at the Quezon Avenue outlet politely informed me their store didn’t cary a single Agatha Christie book.

Being a bibliophile, I combed the rows of books and my disappointment quickly dissipated when I stumbled upon three interesting finds: “Beauty and the Beast – Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World” edited by Maria Tatar; “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Other Stories” by Ambrose Bierce; and “Practical Research 1 Qualitative” by Prieto, Naval, and Carey.

“Beauty and the Beast” was tucked at the bottom of a book shelf. I was immediately reminded of one of the Indonesian legends where a human character marries a dog as I looked through the contents table. I forget the title but it is a favorite piece of students who take part in story-telling competitions. Majority of the stories come from the Western and European literary canons, but, interestingly enough, a Philippine tale called “Chonguita”, of which I have never heard of, is part of the anthology. Another story that caught my eye was “The Frog Maiden” from Myanmar, a country mired in political turmoil that Burmese literary works, which are far and between, are absolute treasures when they come my way. The anthology will make a good reference when I get to tackle fictional narratives.

The second great find is the collection of short stories by Ambrose Bierce, a figure of interest for me since I read “The Gringo” by Carlos Fuente. Bierce is an enigmatic figure because, to this day, no one knows how and where he died. He became the main character, the gringo who vanished in the Mexican revolution, in the novel of Fuentes. The first story by Ambrose that I read is “A Watcher by the Dead”, a tale about three physicians in San Francisco who decide to test their theories on the nature of the fear of death, of whether it is hereditary or all based on superstitions. The macabre vibe of the written text was heightened by a reading of it by Welsh-Canadian stage, film, and TV actor- director Geraint Wyn Davies in the audio book “Great Classic Hauntings” of which I bought in a bookstore somewhere in Danville. Unknown to most, Bierce stands alongside literary giants Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft et al when it comes to tales of horror and the supernatural.

“Practical Research 1 Qualitative”, my last find, appealed to the teacher in me. Writing a scholarly paper is not an exercise to be engaged in lightly. Teaching it is equally difficult to do given the goldfish attention span and apathetic attitude of today’s students towards reading and writing. Skimming it, the “textbook” breaks down the steps of conducting a research, explains the importance of research, has exercises for immediate practice, and provides guidelines in writing a quality paper. It will be a good source when I restructure my lecture series on the research paper for my senior high students.

Still, the hunt for “The Case of the Perfect Maid” continues. When this bibliophile wants a book, her inexorable determination is hard to quell. It is time to visit other bookstores.


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