About the Madrigal-Gonzalez Awards

On my birthday in 2009 I went to a book launch. I went to the author, copy of his book in my hand, and I congratulated him on his first book. I handed him the book for signing and as he signed I leaned over and talked in a hushed voice so that only we two could hear what I was saying, and told him, “I hate you Larry. I hate you so much right now.” He just looked up at me from his signing table and smiled as if asking why. I continued, “I hate you because you released your first book the same year as me, and on my birthday, and now i have no chance of winning the First Book award.”

He answered with a hearty laugh and a “Gago!” and we both laughed and I hugged him and congratulated him again on what is a beautiful and moving book, The Highest Hiding Place. And so, as I predicted, I sat on a panel and watched as Larry Ypil’s book won the award. I can’t tell you how happy I am for Larry, and how proud I am to be able to say that he is a friend, or that I know him, or that someone so brilliant has sat around and had beers with me.

Of course the other nominees were hitting it out of the park as well. Jose Marte Abueg, who had won the Centennial Literary Prize with his poetry collection Bird Lands, River Nights, and Other melancholies, sat next to me and explained how his collection was inspired by a picture depicting birds committing suicide. Clarissa Militante, whose novel Different Countries was long-listed for the Man Asian, explained the experiences that helped to bring order to her work. And though they were not there, Robin Lim and Larry Ypil had representatives. All in all it was flattering to just be sitting at the same table as these writers, and throughout, I was thinking, dude what am I doing here?

Once again, congratulations to Larry (who gets a nice fat check along with the distinction), and to all the other finalists, whose amazing books are great additions to our literature. And now here’s what the judges had to say about And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth:

Filipino geekery’s foremost and most candid spokesman, Javier in this first book talks his head off about all the usual things geeks obsess over–girls’ panties, video games, computers, and what-have-yous–and reveals that there may be something to geek groupies’ fascination, after all. Certainly, Javier’s nonfiction pieces are pretty fascinating and interesting examples of the finest sort of memoir writing, but perhaps the biggest attraction of this book’s by-turns-glib-and-broody speaker is his unremitting self-awareness, which is enough–the reader ends up suspecting, by the end of this all-too-slim volume–to redeem not only veritable madmen, but self-confessed geeks as well.

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