Dream Jungle by Jessica HagedornDream Jungle by Jessica Hagedorn

Dream Jungle

byJessica Hagedorn

Paperback | September 28, 2004

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Jessica Hagedorn has received wide critical acclaim for her edgy, high-energy novels chronicling the clash and embrace of American and Filipino cultures. With Dream Jungle, she achieves a new level of narrative daring.

Set in a Philippines of desperate beauty and rank corruption, Dream Jungle feverishly traces the consequences of two seemingly unrelated events: the discovery of an alleged ?lost tribe? and the arrival of a celebrity-studded American film crew filming an epic Vietnam War movie. Caught in the turmoil unleashed by these two incidents are four unforgettable characters?a wealthy, iconoclastic playboy, a woman ensnared in the sex industry, a Filipino-American writer, and a jaded actor?who find themselves drawn irrevocably together in this lavish, sensual portrait of a nation in crisis.

Jessica Hagedorn is the author of the novels Dogeaters and The Gangster of Love, Dream Jungle, and a collection of poetry and short fiction, Danger and Beauty.
Title:Dream JungleFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 7.72 × 5.06 × 0.76 inPublished:September 28, 2004Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142001090

ISBN - 13:9780142001097

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Read from the Book

Zamora: 1971How to explain that moment when Zamora López de Legazpi first laid eyes on them? Zamora’s gaze was steadfast and shameless. O they were beautiful, powerful, strange! Their fierce, wary eyes scrutinized him in return, taking in the brown, unruly curls on his head, the scraggly beard of his pale, unshaven face, the muscular arms and small, compact body that was, surprisingly, no taller than theirs. He had walked into a dream. Someone else’s dream—perhaps Duan’s—but now stolen and claimed by Zamora. The landscape of that dream—vast, ominous, shimmering blues and greens—was simply part of the loot.The Himal people were not unfriendly; they could easily have killed him. One man demanded a cigarette, pointing to the Salems in Zamora’s jean jacket. Zamora gave him the entire pack. Another pointed to the ornate collar of brass, glass beads, and bone hanging from his wife’s neck, hoping Zamora would buy it. Zamora grinned and shook his head. Duan berated the man, who was crestfallen and backed away. The man’s wife fingered her precious necklace, relieved not to have to part with it. Others offered wads of flat green leaves to Zamora as a test, a gift. Zamora crammed the rolled-up leaves into his mouth, chewing and spitting as he saw the old women around him chewing and spitting. His tongue and lips became numb, but his other senses grew more acute. It was almost unbearable. Everything he saw and heard filled him with love. The tips of his fingers tingled. His eyes were wet with tears.Children hid behind the long, dazzling skirts of their mothers, stealing glances at the hairy stranger. The old women of the tribe were the only ones who acted indifferent. Squatting comfortably on bony haunches, they turned their brown, haughty faces toward the heat of the sun, away from where Zamora stood with a goofy smile. The old women smelled trouble; they were disgusted with Duan for bringing the hairy Spaniard to them. The old women spit at the dirt and muttered curses under their breath, hoping to drive the stranger away. Tiny bells jangled on their brass anklets as the splayed toes of their cracked, bare feet burrowed into the hard, red earth.Zamora López de Legazpi had been traveling for days to Lake Ramayyah. The lake, once filled with crocodiles and considered sacred by the Himal people, was located in Cotabato del Sur, the southernmost tip of the Philippine archipelago. It was Duan’s home, approximately 550 miles from Manila, as far from Zamora’s mansions, cars, polo horses, and beauty queens as anyone could imagine. Zamora had traveled first by helicopter, then by jeep, then on foot. He was led by Duan into the heart of a remote Himal village at the base of Mount Taobo, a grand, forbidding mountain. In the Himal language, Mount Taobo literally meant “mountain of the human being.” Zamora López de Legazpi stood in the shadow of the spectacular cordilleras surrounding Lake Ramayyah. Dense, rugged, green with trees, chains of dark mountains loomed in the clouds. That day he was a conquistador without an army, a rich man without his usual posse of bodyguards, photographers, doctors, PR flacks, cooks, and servants. That day his only friend was Duan, a man he did not trust. The thought was oddly liberating. Zamora kept chewing. The bitter, caustic juice of betel, tobacco, rock salt, and lime powder coated his tongue. Bliss.Duan had repeatedly told him about the shy, mysterious people in the forest.“Of course there are people in the forest! Why are you wasting my time with something I already know?” Zamora said, though he was intrigued. They were in a one- room shack made of cinder blocks and tin, what passed for a military outpost in the dusty, godforsaken town of Sultan Ramayyah. Zamora kicked the back of Duan’s leg. The older man grunted, taken by surprise. He was angry but did not dare show it. Duan was an elfin, toothless man of uncertain age who, while as poor as any Himal in this part of Mindanao, claimed to be a datu, a chieftain descended from a long, distinguished line of datus. Duan’s reputation as a skilled hunter and guide was legendary. He was fluent in several obscure tribal languages and dialects, and he knew enough rudimentary English and Tagalog to be useful to Zamora. Duan boasted of having three wives and seventeen children, yet he was a loner perfectly at ease roaming the Muslim settlements and isolated Jesuit missions nestled in the lush valleys below the mountains. Duan had known Zamora’s father, who once owned and controlled the profitable silver and copper mines in the region. But those days were long gone. Legazpi Mines now belonged to the government.Duan rubbed the bruised calf of his leg where the Spaniard had kicked him. “These people are different,” Duan kept insisting, glad no one was in the room to witness his humiliation. The soldiers were outside, joking with Zamora’s bodyguard and pilot. “These people live in trees and caves. They are monkey people. Bat people.”Zamora chuckled. “Are they poorer than poor? Do they have tails?”“No,” Duan said. “They have no tails. But they climb and jump better than I can. I do not lie.” Duan’s voice grew whiny and higher as he became more agitated. “I am a datu,” he kept saying. “I do not lie.”“Show me, prove it to me!” Zamora shouted. He lunged at Duan as if about to kick him again, then stopped himself. Both men stared at each other, breathing heavily. Zamora spoke after a long silence. “Lead me to them, Duan. Then you must promise to leave me alone with them. But if you are lying”—Zamora paused—“I will kill you.”Duan’s people, the people in the village by the lake, watched in silence as Duan and Zamora made their way up the mountain. The old women shook their heads and covered their eyes, amazed at the two men’s foolishness. There were no trails, just clumps of thorny bush and vines, trickles of waterfall, walls of rocks and trees. The shrieking of birds and monkeys filled the air. The journey would take at least another four to six hours, Duan informed Zamora. Maybe ten. The thick mud made the going excruciatingly slow. It started to rain, gently at first. The steady patter of raindrops grew into a roar as the forest darkened. Zamora and Duan huddled together in the rotted-out cavity of a colossal tree trunk, forced to wait until the downpour ceased.The rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun.“We can go, boss,” Duan finally said.Zamora and Duan crept out of the makeshift shelter, carefully wending their way through the dense, thorny bush until they reached a small clearing. “Wait here. I will tell them you have come,” Duan whispered before disappearing into the trees. Zamora collapsed on the muddy jungle floor and flung out his arms in joyful surrender. All that green. Humid, pulsating, unforgiving, alive with predators and scavengers. Zamora heard the triumphant screech of a monkey-eating eagle, imagined it pouncing on a startled tarsier. A yellow python uncoiled—swallowing an unsuspecting cloud rat, then a furious, screaming wild pig. Leeches dropped off jade vines in a sinister shower of welcome, slithering into Zamora’s ear canals and the corners of his eyes. He blinked in wonder as they fattened and gorged on his blood. Trees towered two hundred feet above him— Kekem, lunay, nabul, balete. God’s trees, so ancient and huge they obscured sky and sun. Such clichés he felt, such reverence and awe. A tingling in the loins, a fire in the belly you can only imagine. Ilang-ilang, waling-waling. Pungent perfume of wild, monstrous lilies and orchids in bloom. Pungent perfume of heaven, stink of fungus and mildew, bed of earth. Voracious green of dampness and rot. Green that lulled but also excited, green of exhaustion and thorns. Enchanted green of Lorca the poet. Ominous green of Mindanao rain forest.Zamora would gladly die here, alone.Just hours ago his knockout Teutonic goddess of a wife had sat up in bed and yelled out his name. ZAH-MO-RAH! She caught him just as he was about to sneak off in the gray light of dawn. “Why are you going to Mindanao? What is so important? Why? Why? Why?” The sounds of a car horn, honking once, twice. Sonny, his bodyguard, waited to drive him to the heliport. Sorry, baby. Gotta go. Ilse’s mouth turned down in a grimace. His name uttered again. This time softly. “Zamora.”Come on, let’s hear it, darling.“Today is Dulce’s birthday. Or have you forgotten? “She turned away as he approached the bed. Zamora longed to reach out and kiss those parched lips, climb on top of that golden, clammy, perfect body and assure her that of course he had not forgotten his daughter’s birthday. But instead he left the room and fled down the stairs. Celia stood by the front door, ready with his bag and a thermos of black coffee. Good morning, sir. Her face betrayed nothing—though surely she had heard it all, heard Ilse railing at him just moments ago.“Good morning,” Zamora said to Celia, who gazed at the floor. He raised his voice. “I said, ‘Good morning,’ Celia.”Hers was barely audible. “Good morning, sir.”“That’s better,” Zamora said.Celia’s blush deepened. Zamora did not regret intimidating her. Her discomfort and unease excited him. He owed her a visit. He had not visited her in a long time, and he missed her. Celia was the yaya in charge of his infant son. She belonged to him. She was ordinary-looking but young, with lovely, burnished skin and a taut body. At first Celia used to run and hide from him. It became a game with them, even after the night Zamora took her to the poolhouse and deflowered her. Celia was seventeen then; she is nineteen now. She once made the mistake of daring to say she loved him. Minamahal kita . . . po, she had whispered in Tagalog. The “po” added as an afterthought, to signify respect.Zamora’s response had been brusque and chilly. “But, dear girl, I love my wife.”It amused Zamora to watch Celia, in her nervousness and haste, fumble with the lock on the front door. She finally got it open. The Mercedes idled in the driveway, Sonny at the wheel. Zamora stepped out into the rising heat. His arm brushed against Celia’s swollen breasts, making her jump.Ilse! If only you were here. Fire ants swarm across my face, minuscule spiders bite through the cloth of my pants, I feel eyes. Not animal or insect eyes, but human eyes peering through the leaves at me. I open my mouth and begin to sing, imagining you, imagining my secret audience hunkered down in the bushes, their amazement and surprise at the sound of my sonorous voice. “What a diff’rence a day makes.”. . . A fluttering of wings. Your sigh. The rustling of leaves. The forest in an uproar as my voice booms and echoes. You run. I close my eyes and begin another random song, something I am sure my invisible audience would enjoy. “Cu cu rru cu cú, paloma . . . cu cu rru cu cú, no llores . . . las piedras jamás, Paloma, que van a saber de amores....” I open my eyes. A boy with hair down to his waist—thin, naked—creeps out of the bush and stands there, gawking at me.The boy’s name, Zamora and the rest of the world would soon find out, was Bodabil. A born clown with a talent for mimicry, approximately ten years old. Maybe older, but none of the people in Bodabil’s tribe looked their age. The adults, by twenty-five, seemed as gnarled as the trees in their sacred forest.Bodabil craned his neck to get a better view of Zamora. Duan had warned them all that the Spaniard was coming. A stranger so powerful that hair sprouted on his face; a stranger so powerful that he flew a whirling demon bird above the trees. Duan had spoken of the Spaniard with a certain proprietary air. “Be careful. The stranger carries anger inside him.”Zamora kept singing, but softly now. Bodabil hooted and warbled in response, either in appreciation or in mockery of his singing. The boy’s reaction reassured Zamora. His singing faded down into quiet. Bodabil crept closer. Zamora lay still, did not dare move for fear the boy would bolt and run.“Don’t be afraid,” Zamora whispered in English. He felt foolish—for why English? A twig snapped, but Zamora kept his eyes fixed on the canopy of dark trees above. “Don’t be afraid, mi hijito,” he continued in a low, gentle voice. Zamora added, in awkward Himal, “I am your Spirit Father, here to protect you.” There were eyes and ears everywhere, watching and listening. Bodabil froze in his tracks, surprised by the familiar words the stranger was uttering.“My language,” Duan once said with pride to Zamora, “is understood by these cave people.”“But how is that possible?” Zamora asked, immediately suspicious.“Because I taught them,” Duan answered with a mischievous smile.“How much time have you spent with them?”Duan shrugged, feeling no need to offer the Spaniard any further explanation.“All right,” Zamora said, “then teach me your language.”Duan taught Zamora bino-bino, for “welcome”; maladong, for “companion”; lagtuk, which either meant “penis” or, with a slightly different intonation, “tree frog.” Over and over Duan repeated the crucial phrase for Zamora to say: Ago mong Amo Data, for “I am your Spirit Father.” Zamora had underestimated the wicked complexity of the Himal language. Nuance was everything. There were clicking words and gasping words, words that were quick intakes of breath, words that were harsh sighs of longing. One had to be careful about tone and inflection, to get it just right. Otherwise words could mean the exact opposite of what was intended. Just before he left Zamora alone in the clearing, Duan taught Zamora something else to say to the forest people, something important: Laan-lan, for “I mean you no harm.”

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTIONIn her riveting new novel, Dream Jungle, Jessica Hagedorn takes us to the Philippines of the 1970s and spins an extraordinary, epic tale that is inspired by two real-life events: the supposed discovery of a primitive tribe, the Tasaday, deep in the rain forest—a discovery later alleged to be a hoax—and the filming of Apocalypse Now, a war movie foolishly filmed in a war zone with a vast and unpredictable cast and crew. Shifting between accents and dialects, between slang and philosophical reverie, Hagedorn channels the unique voices of dozens of characters with pitch-perfect accuracy, weaving them into a complex tapestry: a portrait of a country in flux.For Hagedorn's characters, the dream of the Philippines proves to be one of fantasy and delusion rather than the realization of paradise. Zamora Lopez de Legazpi is a wealthy playboy and dilettante, accustomed to freely exercising his power, who briefly finds meaning and self-worth in the discovery of a lost stone-age tribe called the Taobo. Upon seeing them, the jaded millionaire feels that "He had walked into a dream. . . . Everything he saw and heard filled him with love" (p. 5). The Taobo, and a young boy named Bodabil in particular, tap into his desire to be admired and accomplished. But is Zamora being tricked, fed what he wants to know by underlings desperate to please a rich man? Zamora owns a mansion in Manila, through which travel a host of confused and compromised characters, including his German wife, Ilse, and his cook, Candelaria, mother of the young beauty Rizalina. Rizalina is the only survivor of a shipwreck that drowns her good-for-nothing father and twin brothers, a survivor with a feisty spirit and a keen mind. A strange bond develops between the precocious Rizalina and the bored Zamora, one that will enrich her life but that will also force her to choose between her mother and her own well being, even as Zamora spirals downward into boredom and self-doubt.Later in the same decade, another man trying to bring a fantasy to life arrives in the Philippines: Tony Pierce, the egomaniacal director of Napalm Sunset. The filming of this sometimes comic and sometimes disturbing send-up ofApocalypse Now involves a host of variously imbalanced characters, including Vincent Moody, an unhappy child actor grown into a decadent young man yearning for escape. Moody falls in love with Rizalina, now working in the seedy streets of Manila, and their attempt to achieve a workable love drives the second half of the novel. Paz Marlowe, a Filipina journalist transplanted to Los Angeles by a now failed marriage, returns to the country for her mother's funeral and stays to pursue both stories: that of Zamora and his now discredited Taobo and that of the Hollywood production in the process of self-destruction near the banks of Lake Ramayyah. Working for a sensationalist magazine, she hunts for answers to the riddle of Zamora's discovery and the motivation for Tony Pierce's out-of-control, potentially brilliant film. Together with her friend, an aspiring director himself, and the contacts of her artistic family, Paz provides a modern Filipina heart to the last half of the novel; through her, Hagedorn leads the reader deep into the soul of the Philippines.Jessica Hagedorn uses her remarkable talent to inhabit the life of this beautiful country, using an astoundingly wide array of voices to explore the after-affects of colonialism and the repercussions of globalization. Evoking a transitional moment in a nation's life, a decade teeming with corruption, populated by citizens striving for opportunity as modernity arrives in all its clamorous chaos, Dream Jungle demonstrates the cost of the abuse of power and the devastation that can be wrought by self-delusion. But it is also a novel about a country graced with exquisite natural beauty, and about people with the intelligence and wit to adapt quickly to the new worlds that press upon them. In prose that is both ethereal and refreshingly earthy, Hagedorn has written an epic of profound importance and gripping emotion.ABOUT JESSICA HAGEDORNJessica Hagedorn is the author of the novels Dogeaters and The Gangster of Love, Dream Jungle, and a collection of poetry and short fiction, Danger and Beauty.A CONVERSATION WITH JESSICA HAGEDORNYou present the Philippines of the '70s as a country in transition—one struggling to assimilate and resolve multiple outside forces while under the hand of a corrupt ruling class. Can you talk a little more about this? How has the situation changed?After the oppressive twenty-year rule of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, some elements of the situation in the Philippines have changed for the better. Civil liberties have been restored, and the press is free to publish whatever it wants. But the poor remain poorer than ever, the rich are the same old rich, the economy is in a bad way, the environment—particularly in urban areas—is polluted, the Catholic Church still has too much power, and most of the politicians are as flagrantly corrupt as they've always been.The Taobo controversy you describe is based on a real hoax, involving the Tasaday. You went to the jungle to try to find the Tasaday; can you describe both the physical setting and the tribe itself? Had you ever been into the rain forest before? How did your own adventure affect your telling of the story?The fictionalized Taobo controversy in my novel is based on an alleged hoax involving the Tasaday tribe—an actual tribe of people living in the mountainous jungles of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines. I don't take sides on the issue of whether a hoax was perpetrated by the so-called "discoverer" of the tribe, Manuel Elizalde, Jr. (an inspiration for my own Zamora Lopez de Legazpi character) back in 1971. I think the story is a lot more complex than that, and there's always a bit of truth to everything. Before writing Dream Jungle, I had never been to the area in Mindanao that is described in my novel. But a Guggenheim Fellowship allowed me to travel to the region in 2001 and do research. I ended up in Lake Sebu, Cotabato del Sur, which is lush, mountainous and incredibly beautiful. By sheer chance, Belayem, one of the surviving members of the original Tasaday tribe who met with Elizalde back in the '70s, happened to be in the village market one morning. With the help of Maria Todi Wanan, my Tboli guide and translator, I interviewed Belayem and Dafal, the legendary guide who led Elizalde into the rain forest.In Dream Jungle, do you deliberately leave the authenticity of Zamora's Taobo in doubt? By doing so, are you suggesting that the boundaries of fantasy and reality are blurred?Yes to both questions.What inspired the idea of combining the Apocalypse Now/Napalm Sunset storyline with the drama about the Taobo? Can you talk about how they are related thematically?Both events occurred in the '70s, when it seemed anything was possible. The Vietnam War was still going on. The idea of combining the two storylines had to do with the themes of "discovery and conquest" which constitute Part One of the narrative, but really underscore my entire novel. Another parallel theme is cultural mythmaking. As legend goes, the filming ofApocalypse Now was a grueling, crazy process that had an impact on the Philippine landscape and on the filmmakers themselves. A conquistador like Magellan or the fictional Zamora has to be obsessed in order to do what he does. The same goes for a genius director like Coppola or my fictional Tony Pierce.You also interviewed Manda Elizalde, the man who "discovered" the Tasaday. Tell us more about this fascinating twentieth-century figure and his place in Filipino history.I don't know if Elizalde has much of a place in Filipino history at the moment. He's considered—by those who remember him—as more of a millionaire eccentric and a buffoon. The Tasaday event and Elizalde—once the objects of international media attention—are now largely ignored or forgotten, except maybe by a few bemused or pissed-off anthropologists . . . or curious writers like me.You are actually very generous to the Zamora character; instead of merely condemning him as a decrepit colonial vestige, you write him as a man filled with unrequited longings, an almost tragic figure. How did this more complex character emerge for you? Were you tempted to be less sympathetic?I love my characters and especially love my villains. As with most writers, I don't like taking the easy road into creating a story or a character. All human beings are flawed, complex and filled with dreams and unrequited longings. I was never tempted to be less sympathetic.You have some very strong passages depicting corruption during the Marcos regime, and characters like Tony Pierce and Zamora also exhibit signs of moral decay. Why did corruption become such a major theme of this novel?I suppose my answer to this question is connected to my answer to the previous question. I am fascinated by dark subjects.Unlike Zamora, a man trapped by his place in society, or Rizalina, a woman caught in circumstances beyond her control, Paz Marlowe is a very contemporary young woman: bicultural, a little alienated, but talented, ambitious, and modern. Can you talk more about why you think she leaves the Philippines, and what her future might look like as you imagine it?Paz leaves the Philippines because she is somewhat ambitious and eager to explore the larger world. She is a hybrid creature—sometimes cursed, and often blessed by her situation.Rizalina also ends up leaving the Philippines. Why do so many of your characters end up in the United States? By deliberately ending the novel with Pepito Ponce de Leon at work, are you trying to suggest anything about those who stay?I don't know why so many of my characters end up in the United States. Maybe because that's what I observe happening all around me. Ending the novel with Pepito at work felt very organic. He is an artist who has chosen to stay in the Philippines and thrive.You write in the voices of many characters in this book. How did you come to the decision to fragment the narrative in this way, and how does this strategy alter the scope and meaning of the novel?I intended this novel to be epic. Writing in the voices of many characters and perspectives is something I do. This time, it felt really right.As a well-known writer, has your own relationship to the Philippines, the country you were born in, changed in any way?I have to keep explaining that I am simply one writer, among many. And that my views are mine, and do not represent an entire nation.You live in New York now. Will your next work—in whichever of your many mediums!—deal with the Philippines again, or are you perhaps working on something set in the United States?I am working on something set in New York City, which I am not sure is typical of the United States.What writers or books have influenced you most deeply over the years? What are you reading now?Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez, Manuel Puig, Denis Johnson, Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Stone, Russell Banks, and Toni Morrison have affected me over the years. Marquez and Puig have been deeply influential. I'm reading Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin at the moment. She's brilliant . . . and I'm loving every minute of it! I am looking forward to reading the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk next.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSThink about Hagedorn's use of language: characters speak in Tagalog, Spanish, German, and in slang that reflects national, regional, and class differences. How does the way that characters speak affect your impressions of them? For example, compare Rizalina's voice and style of speaking to Paz Marlowe's. How does the very multiplicity of voices affect the overall meaning of the novel as a whole? Zamora Lopez de Legazpi is a man born to the wrong time, a descendent of colonialists and a would-be explorer in a world where the forces of capital have supplanted those of empire. He represents a decadent and corrupt upper class, a grown man who can indulge every whim and fantasy. Yet he says, "Did I love money, did I love anyone or anything? I loved the jungle" (p. 122). What is it that Zamora seems to gain from his experiences in the jungle? How does Bodabil, as a kind of substitute child, make him happy? Think over his responses to the Taobo versus his actions in his family life, and consider the ways in which Hagedorn shows him sympathy as well as the scenes in which he behaves badly. Different characters assert contradictory conclusions about the authenticity of Zamora's lost tribe. Look back to what they say; do you think Hagedorn intends us to think that the Taobo are real or not? What is at stake for the various characters as they assert what they believe to be true—for example what does Zamora gain from the existence of the Taobo? What about the anthropologist Amado Cabrera? What might it mean for Paz Marlowe to find out for sure that the Taobo existed? Rizalina has a remarkably eventful life, in which she is reborn or reinvented more than once: by the shipwreck and her arrival at Zamora's house, by her flight from that mansion at the age of twelve, and by her falling in love with the actor Vincent Moody. At the end, do you think she has found peace or happiness? She always seems to slip away from the worst possible consequences of her circumstance. How does she escape being simply a victim? Aling Belen might be called one of the few "traditional" characters in the book. A wise woman, perhaps a medicine woman, she is a dependable maternal figure who still follows tradition and whom Rizalina relies upon to raise her child. Why do you think there aren't more characters like her in the Philippines that Hagedorn depicts? What sorts of changes have happened in her lifetime, and how does she deal with them? Try to imagine the impact upon traditional culture that people like Tony Pierce might have. The affects of the imposition of Western modernity on the Philippines is one drama played out in this novel. Napalm Sunset arrives like a force of nature in a rural location. The actor Billy Hernandez says: "You see the way the cast and crew walk around here like they own the place? Pierce is the worst. Thinks this country's nothing but a backdrop for his movie. The people don't matter, except when they service him and his family" (p. 179). Are the Filipinos being exploited? Or is something more going on? Consider some of the ways that locals gain from the arrival of the film crew, and some of the ways they, and the location itself, are abused. The film Napalm Sunset, its cast and crew, is based on Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now. If you've seen the real film, where is Hagedorn's invented film similar and where does it diverge? If you haven't seen the film, consider what you know about the Vietnam War and the divisiveness it engendered in America. What might Hagedorn be trying to suggest by setting the filming on such a subject within the Marcos era Philippines? At home, Vincent Moody is an irresponsible lover and father and an actor on the brink of failure. But as he sits at the banks of Lake Ramayyah, he thinks: "This was sacred ground, swarming with restless spirits. Los Angeles and New York were irrelevant, inconsequential abstractions, other worlds and galaxies away" (p. 185). Why do you think Moody goes to the Philippines, and what is it that he finds there? At the end of the novel, what is his relationship to the people there, and how has his state of mind been altered? Characters of mixed race pop up throughout the novel: Zamora declares himself "Basque, Negrense, a dash of North American Irish from my mother, Mary. Curdled, diseased, robust, and volatile, my blood runs hot and cold like a faucet. Does it explain anything?" (p. 122). Paz Marlow is Filipina and Irish, once married to an American named Stefan. What thematic connections can you draw between these characters and the embedded subjects of colonialism? What do these characters suggest to us about history and its consequences? Paz Marlowe's mother accuses her of "seeking answers to questions without answers, like some cosmic detective without grounding or direction, or an explorer who isn't really interested in discovering anything new" (p. 285). Think over some of the issues Paz struggles with: her family, her failed marriage, her career as a writer. How does being back in the Philippines affect her response to all of these things? Do you think she accomplishes what she set out to, or does she exit unsatisfied? The title, Dream Jungle, refers to many things: the forest of Zamora's "lost" tribe, the set of Tony Pierce's apocalyptic film Napalm Sunset, the location of philosophical truth as described by Billy Hernandez. It also might refer to the country as a whole, as others have imagined it throughout history. How would you define this jungle of the mind? Look back to how different characters describe the Philippines and to the chaotic clash of cultures evidenced in the book. Why do you think some characters persist in pursuing their fantasies in this country? Hagedorn's characters struggle to achieve peace in the face of confusing circumstances, and, in a time of upheaval, some characters fail: Zamora, the man who had everything, ends up forgotten; his spirit bemoans a family reunion at which "not once does my name come up. Not once" (p.325). Is being forgotten in this novel a tragedy? Think about the various desires of Rizalina, Vincent Moody, or Pepito Ponce de Leon. What in this novel is worth remembering, worth fighting to keep?

Editorial Reviews

As beautiful as summer, as unforgettable as heartbreak . . . [A] luminous performance. (Junot Diaz, author of Drawn)