23 January 2011


I’m not writing a novel. Do you see this chin? It’s still smooth, pathetic, and childish. It’s not exactly in what you would call a novel-y state. No novel-y beard here. Such as Dostoevsky had. Or Tolstoy. Hemingway. Or that guy Jonathan Franzen. Well, his is more a salt-and-pepperish sort of shadow, and it’s probably not uncommon for someone to mistake him for a short story writer, or a journalist.

Who else has it? The novel-y, or novelist, beard? I can think of a few more. D.H. Lawrence. Charles Dickens. Gary Shteyngart. André Aciman. Henry James, when he didn’t have to present a shaven self to high society. Feel free to add to the list. I don’t really care. Because already I feel like I’m at a disadvantage here. These men can grow facial hair faster than I can say “verisimilitude”. We Asians are so much less hairy than our Western counterparts, it’s totally unfair. So we have no choice but to stick to ceramic art, hacking, and great coconut milk recipes? So the job of achieving startling psychological acuity is exclusive to those who can face-scratch their way to it? If that’s not unfair then I don’t know what is.

It’s unfair that it will take me a year or two to grow a freaking John Steinbeck moustache, and another year to transform it into a Thomas Mann regent. It’s unfair that G.K. Chesterton’s gringo is still going to be so much thicker than the world’s hairiest Asian’s treasure trail. Or pleasure trail, for you chicken lovers.

Let’s not even begin to talk of Filipinos. We’re the hairless-est Asians. Or the hairleast. Ha ha. We’re probably like the race that just had to have the most filamentously deprived dermis of all. (Whoa. Big words.) At least someone like Alexander Chee, who’s Korean, can still grow a formidable rap industry standard. And the Chinese can still beam with pride over bearers of the Fu Manchu. Meanwhile, have you seen a Filipino with a full beard? Or, at the very least, a goatee that doesn’t look like an inverted conifer? If you have, send me a picture. That way, I’ll be able to judge if he’s the kind of guy who’ll rape you first on Quezon Avenue before stealing your wallet or if he’s the kind of guy who looks like a novelist.

So there you go. Anyway, I’m reading The Unconsoled. It’s not as good now as the first time I read it. Although that’s probably just because I still can’t find a picture of Kazuo Ishiguro, masterfully unshaven.

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