By Joel Pablo Salud
*First published in the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature
“Like most pubescent boys, I found a certain pleasure in seeing the flash of a panty. In high school, even a skirt raised to reveal a bit of thigh was enough to get the blood running. So, there was a sense of accomplishment in positioning yourself in such a manner, with or without a mirror, to get a glimpse of a girl’s panty.” (Celebrity’s Panties and Other Passing Fashions)
Take that for a few first lines of a book. Carljoe Javier’s And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth makes for good reading even if it stops at the entertaining irreverence it offers. Underwear humor, however, is not all there is to expect from Javier’s playfully impish mind. The recently launched e-book edition by Flipside Digital Content Company (first published in print by Miraflores Publishing in 2009) carries with it everything—from thoughts about girls’ undies to riotous out-takes on infidelity, fashion, personal vanity, penile enhancers, FHM babes, shopping for video games and, of course, more girls. One would readily conclude this to be a journal of sorts, quite the autobiographical account of a young man’s virginal perspective on his coming of age.
Carljoe Javier’s attempt at undressing the wittier side of literature reminds one of Butch Dalisay’s uproarious take on computer gadgets in his book, Man Overboard or Jessica Zafra’s Twisted series. One book that comes readily to mind as to its comedic value and literary prowess is the collection of essays by author Joseph Epstein, Narcissus Leaves the Pool. However, Carljoe’s essays offer more than the commonplace gags about life and loves. He weaves mundane stuff, such as shopping for video games, with such remarkable eye for the funny side of Filipino life you’d hardly spend a day finishing the ebook.
Now, who would ever find it entertaining to read about being the life of the party from a self-confessed recluse, who also happens to be a geek? Ah, but Carljoe writes it with such comedic gumption it’s hardly a piece that provokes hypnotic sleep:
“People who know my drunken persona will wonder at my claims of social awkwardness. At parties, once lathered up with a good amount of liquor, I become outspoken, talkative, engaging and a generally entertaining speaker and conversationalist… I become the kind of guy that people say, ‘Hey-I-think-we-should-hang-out-more,’ to. Then I’ll pass out. But that’s the uninhibited, intoxicated me, not the real me… The real me is the one that doesn’t know how to talk to people.” (Life of the Party).
A writer who uses a generous splash of wit and humor in literary expression deserves some serious attention. He or she sees the ordinary or the deathly sombre as something altogether deserving a hearty laugh, and that takes a huge amount of giftedness to accomplish. As in the case of characters in a comedy, as spoken my Miguel de Cervantes, “The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part.” In the same manner, one aspiring to write essays thick with humor must never, for any reason, treat the effort lightly.
There is no lack of healthy curiosity in Carljoe Javier, and that is the secret to this book. Life, mundane or otherwise, should never be anything but an object of untiring curiosity for a writer of exceptional talents. To pen instances of humor at a time when the world whirls toward a very uncertain future is a gift from which we can all derive healing. Laughter is a potent cure; even old generations of people knew that. Of the myriad joys Carljoe Javier may have luxuriated in while penning this book we can all freely share, inferences to little boys’ predilection to lurch and heave at the sight of an exposed girls’ undies notwithstanding.
JOEL PABLO SALUD is the editor-in-chief of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications (sister publication to the BusinessMirror). He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle. He regularly writes reviews for the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature.