October 1, 2013

Now we’re talking. Best review so far since she got all the nuances / subtleties. Thanks, GNO!

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Book review: Refracting darkness in ‘Report from the Abyss’

 By , GMA News September 30, 2013 2:21pm

The list of things one can talk about in a book review grows longer when the book itself falls under non-fiction. Seeing as each essay found within Karl R. De Mesa’s newest collection of non-fiction, “Report from the Abyss,” is strong enough to stand without its neighbors, I’d like to talk about what struck me most about the book as a whole. It seems that its strongest point is its curation, or how each part and piece was arranged in a sort of seamless pattern for maximum effect.

What is unique about “Report from the Abyss” is that De Mesa—who is a regular contributor to, and part-time editor for, GMA News Online—manages to use refraction, a property of light, in order to talk about darkness.

Composed of autobiographical essays, a defense of horror, travelogues, and reportage on local superstitions and institutions, the collection is able to refract two things: the feeling of horror, and the “abyss” itself, often at the same time. This is most evident with two of the three essays in “Part One: Open Your Hands and Step Into the Void, Child,” the first part of five sections that divide the slim volume.

“Report from the Abyss: Episodes from a coming of age in the Philippine Left,” the essay from which the collection takes its name, delivers exactly what its title promises. Readers are treated to detailed narrations of being inside a bus as a child while rallyists throw sharp projectiles at the windows; to caring for a broken father incarcerated during Martial Law; to watching his parents’ marriage crumble, eroded by the Cause—these among a slew of other turbulent scenes.

What the two essays at the beginning do best is refract horror, the dark side of the soul and of human nature, and elicit from your gut horror’s many shades: disgust, anxiety, suspense, loathing, terror, and everything else in between.



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