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Story Review: The Dog Eaters by Leoncio P. Deriada

The Dog Eaters by Leoncio P. Deriada

The Dog Eaters tells the story of a couple’s disintegrating marriage against a backdrop of poverty. Mariana, the distressed wife of a husband lacking in ambition, explodes when her husband’s friends invite him for a drink. These friends have prepared a canine treat for their drinking bout. The food disgusts Mariana. She feels that eating dog meat is indecent and inhumane. But when she realizes that the people around her do not have any problems with this, her cup is filled and takes certain matters into her hands as a desperate attempt to escape her squalid realities.

I have many problems with this short story. First is the language. It is rife with grammatical errors and typography. It’s possible that the version I read was carelessly typed by someone else, but one could detect lapses in diction and parallelisms, things that are not committed by dyslexic fingers. I’m not a grammar Nazi, the kind who would triumphantly point out such and such mistake, but how can one trust a writer when the work presented to you makes you want to grab a red pen? With that, the work feels unfinished and hurriedly submitted to a writing workshop.

Second is technique. I’m sure that you’ve heard of the dictum “show, not tell.” Reading the story feels a little gossipy, and this made me lose interest in whatever Mariana, the disillusioned protagonist, is going through. I like themes of disillusionment, particularly this one because of its transgressive twist, but this could have worked better had the structure been reconstructed.

There is a flashback scene shoved to the reader that tries to summarize how Mariana and her husband , Victor, ended up in poor state.

Victor was quite attractive. When he was teen-ager, he was a member of the Gregory Body Building Club on Cortes Street. He dropped out of freshmen year at Harvadian and instead developed his chest and biceps at the club. His was to be Mr. Philippines, until one day, Gregory cancelled his membership. Big Boss Gregory – who was not interested in girls but in club members with the proportions of Mr. Philippines – had discovered that Victor was dating a manicurist named Fely.

Victor found work as a bouncer at Three Diamonds, a candlelit bar at the end of Artiaga, near Jacinto Street. All the hostesses there were Fely’s customers. Mariana, who came from a better neighborhood, was a third year BSE student at Rizal Memorial Colleges. They eloped during the second semester, the very week Fey drowned in the pool behind Three Diamonds. Just as Mariana grew heavy with a child, Victor lost his job at the bar. He quarreled with the manager. An uncle working in a construction company found him a new job. But he showed up only when the man did not report for work.

One of the challenges in writing a short story is giving life to its characters within its limited boundaries. A blow-by-blow account of the key moments in the characters’ lives will not do, and these paragraphs hold a testimony for it. There are details in this part that are included only for the sake of being details. They hardly contribute anything to the development of plot.

Furthermore, they seem like details that are seemingly important but are just glossed over, as if they were just things suddenly remembered as asides, therefore giving the reader an impression that indeed, they are inconsequential.

I have never heard of Leoncio P. Deriada. This first encounter is not good.

Published in: The Dog Eaters and Other Plays

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


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