DANGER AND BEAUTY by Jessica Hagedorn


Dangerous Music, Pet Food and Tropical Apparitions, and New Writings
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 Overwritten collection of poems, stories, and essays from the Philippine-born Hagedorn (Dogeaters, 1990). Despite a keen eye and some powerful writing, these pieces, which focus mostly on the immigrant experience and its contrasts to life in the Philippines, seem like jaded rehashes of old material too hastily assembled. In a short story like ``The Blossoming of Bong Bong,'' for instance,--in which a recently arrived Filipino is so overcome by the strangeness of his new life in San Francisco that he has ``finally forgotten who he was''--as well as in the essay ``Homesick,'' the emotions evoked strain after effect and seem to come from the head rather than from the heart. A long short story, ``Pet Food''--wherein a young Filipino girl leaves her divorced mother and moves in to a San Francisco rooming house filled with larger-than-life types (drug-dealers, porno stars, and a notorious art columnist called ``Silver Daddy'') to write poetry but ends up as the lover of the crazed drug-dealer--has all the faded shock- value of an old 70's piece. In ``Homesick,'' Hagedorn writes also about the conflict she feels between English (the language of ``her oppressor'') and her native Tagalog (``used to address servants'' in the Philippines); in ``In Los Gabrieles,'' she describes life for expatriates in Spain, a country that has a ``penchant for melancholy exuberant sensuality, and anguish''; and in ``Carnal,'' she recalls a depressing visit to her ailing mother and old friends in San Francisco and notices the effects of change on people ``quiet in their madness as they swung from dusty chandeliers.'' The rest of the entries are indifferent workings-over of similar themes. Very slender, and, for the most part, very disappointing.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-14-017340-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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