The Manila Conundrum
(No apologies to Dan Brown and I expect none from him.)
It was a cold, rainy night followed by a hot, humid day. Like an inferno but with a tropical climate. Manila was a bewildering tintinnabulation of sights and sounds, except there were no bells, just the echoes of exotic diesel jeepneys and karaoke.
I peregrinated throughout the metropolis in a chauffeured BMW sedan that can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds. Alas, it could not reach that ideal speed because the traffic jams lasted 6 hours. My magnificent mechanical motor vehicle was mauled by the maw of a masticating morass. (See what I did there? I know how to use alliteration, you starving critics.)
I did not wish to perambulate because I'm a fabulously rich writer who can't be bothered by the details of so-called social reality. Or just reality, even. It's just too shocking when you look too closely at it. It's much more effective to describe it in broad, dramatic strokes. Like this: OMG! The slums! The beggars! The pimps! The child prostitutes! The parents of the child prostitutes! Did I mention that I was shocked by the poverty?
I had never been to a country that poor before, just Italy, the empire that gave birth to the Renaissance to which I owe my literary career. What? Rome was the empire, not Italy? Yeah, whatever. Minor detail.
Anyway, I had never been to a poor country before. Or if I had, I stayed in fancy hotels paid for by my phenomenal book sales. I had no need to talk face-to-face with anyone except my publishers and hosts. All context was lost to me, therefore, along with any insight or original metaphors.
So let's see... as an extremely popular, best-selling author with a vast expanse of words at my disposal, how can I describe Manila? The rich history dating back 500 years, the incongruously cheerful residents, the clash between wealth and deprivation, the laughter, the depths of misery, the crazy politics, the pluck and creativity of ordinary people, the flavors, the colors, the chaos.
I know. It was the gates of hell. Yes. The gates of hell. Because my new book (available now at your leading bookstores) is called Inferno. It makes sense, right? You see the connection?
Exhausted by my research, I retreated to The Fort--the only civilized corner of Manila populated by educated natives who had read my books. It was such a comfort to be among fans who understood my horror and disgust over the state of their capital city. My tears fell like sugar pearls into my forlorn macchiato, whose foam had slumped from the cruel heat of literary criticism.
My writerly spirit is not defeated, however. I shall keep on writing about what I know to be true! Perhaps next time I shall explore other parts of this continent called Asia. I leave you with a tantalizing preview of my next destination: OMG! The heat! The traffic jams! The slums! The ladyboys! The parents of the ladyboys!
Sorry to leave you hanging. I can't give more details away. I am, after all, the master of suspense.