Eileen R. Tabios

(a novella-in-prose poems)

Selected Notes

Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 15 contain made-up words from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig.

In Chapter 5, the phrase “Therefore, and” is rooted in the title and concept to Barry Schwabsky’s Feelings of And (Black Square Editions, 2022) which bears this epigraph: “We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold” from William James’ Principles of Psychology.

In Chapter 15, the sentence “We should all learn the Klingon language because all knowledge should be equal,” a paraphrase from dialogue in the Chinese drama “In the Mood for Love,” YouTube Episode 14.

In Chapter 21, the quote “Rain never says the same name twice in all its chatter” is by Sean Thomas Dougherty.

In Chapter 22, the first sentence is paraphrased from “A wound will either heal or fester with the passing of time” from “Blossoms to Shanghai” YouTube video, Episode 31.

In Chapter 23, information regarding kulintang’s tamnag sticks was provided by Titania Buchholdt who wrote an essay on the kulintang for the SAGE Encyclopedia, Editors Kevin Nadal, EJR David, and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022).

Finally, all of the prose poems were written in response to opening lines of other novels. The lines came from a list put together by American Book Review, Vol. 27, No. 2 (2006) of what it calls the “100 best opening lines of novels,” as edited by Charlie Harris (Ms. Tabios may not share the same judgment on “best” lines). The following are the opening lines that inspired each poem:

Chapter 1:
From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Chapter 2
From 1984 by George Orwell: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” (re the thirteenth hour).

Chapter 3
From Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

Chapter 4
From Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Chapter 5
From The Stranger by Albert Camus: “Mother died today.”

Chapter 6
From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

Chapter 7
From Neuromancer by William Gibson: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

Chapter 8
From Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”

Chapter 9
From Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: “I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.”

Chapter 10
From Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane;”

Chapter 11
From Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: “I am an invisible man.”

Chapter 12
From Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini: “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

Chapter 13
From Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

Chapter 14
From The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: “A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

Chapter 15
From The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton: “The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.”

Chapter 16
From Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler: “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

Chapter 17
From The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein: “Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree."

Chapter 18
From The Color Purple by Alice Walker: “You better not never tell nobody but God.”

Chapter 19
From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Chapter 20
From The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: “Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.”

Chapter 21
From Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood: “Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.”

Chapter 22
From A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis: “Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.”

Chapter 23
From Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things by Gilbert Sorrentino: “What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?”

Chapter 24
From Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne: “I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.”

Chapter 25
From The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers: “In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.”

Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. Recent books include her first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and two translated-into-French books, PRISES (Double Take) (trans. Fanny Garin) and La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery). She is currently looking for a publisher for a new novel, A LITERATURE WITH NO MINOR CHARACTERS. She is the inventor of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; and the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed. More information is at https://eileenrtabios.com
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