DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Time
The First Long-Form Novel by Eileen R. Tabios
Erotically charged and intellectual, entertaining, always surprising, this virtuoso novel seduces with its layers, its characters, and its wide-ranging reflections on art, poetry, history, politics, and desire. The story circles around Elena, orphaned as a child in (the fictional country of) Pacifica and sent to live in the United States, where, as a young woman, she repeatedly seeks out a stranger for domination/submission encounters. What secrets about her country and herself is she trying to uncover, and how are they linked to Ernst, her nonbinary lover? How does her story — and that of her father, her mother, her daughter and grandsons — reflect and change the history of her homeland? The novel is structured like indigenous myth, where past, present and future do not exist, and where everything is present at once and connected to each other: fairy tales, the struggle against a dictator, poetics, colonialism, motherhood, gender identity, sexual passion, romantic love, and even a recipe for adobo. Eileen R. Tabios uses her pen like Elena uses her whip, provoking tenderness through intense sensation as well as illumination through sensuality and a passionate, hungry mind.
—Reine Arcache Melvin, recipient of two Philippine National Book Awards for her short story collection A Normal Life and Other Stories and her novel The Betrayed, which also received the Palanca Award for Best Novel
Meet Elena Theeland, poet, rapscallion, nimble art gourmand, and colorful sleuth. Her reason for being in time is Ernst Blazer, a painter, lord of hues and ripples, and a container of the fragrance of memory. Not since the meeting of the poet Rainier Maria Rilke and the artist Auguste Rodin (while Rilke wrote The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, an autofiction like DOVELION) has there been a melding of true artistic minds. As well, philosophers will be entranced by this book that hearkens Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time). Eileen R. Tabios has achieved a Gabriel García Márquez with the emotion and aplomb of Laura Esquivel. Recommend for all fine libraries and personal collections.
—Nick Carbó, author of the poetry collections Andalusian Dawn, Secret Asian Man (winner of an Asian American Writers Workshop’s Readers’ Choice Award), and El Grupo McDonald’s
DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Times is Eileen R. Tabios’ mythic imagination enlivened! History marks bodies and cultures, making up stories deemed worthy and purposeful by the powerful until the Storyteller/Poet reveals the secrets and shadows lurking beneath power’s machinations. The figure of an indigenous community and spiritual leader known as “Baybay”—inspired by the Philippine Babaylan—emerges as the Medicine that calms the heart’s longings and reweaves the fragments of diasporic displacements. Eileen R. Tabios welcomes us into the world of “Kapwa-time” where the past, present, and future comingle and entangle with our own capacity to believe in the potency of myth-telling. Kapwa-time and mythic imagination form a descent into the underworld, or a psychic and archeological exploration into the subconscious; it’s notable that the indigenous Filipino concept of ‘Loob’ has internal and external dimensions. If this descent is done well and blessed by the deities, it becomes manifest in the Beauty of the novel’s form—such is Eileen R. Tabios’ accomplishment with DOVELION. As a reader going deep into Kapwa-time, I find my inner compass and this compass floods my life like the light of a thousand suns.
—Leny Mendoza Strobel, Founder of the Center for Babaylan Studies, Author of Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans and Editor of Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous
The novel contains one Appendix and it is the long poem “The Return of DoveLion,” available online through its publisher Erotoplasty 7 (Editor Colin Lee Marshall). Click HERE (Pages 124-130) to read the poem which was written by the novel’s primary protagonist, Elena. Here also are some excerpted lines:
7: I forgot there is a country somewhere on the opposite of where I stand on this earth, a country whose scents stubbornly perfume my dreams.
46: I forgot discovering the limited utility of calm seas.
124: I forgot aching for fiction that would not chasten my days.
141: I forgot addiction to Duende for its intimacy with savagery.
142: I forgot greeting mornings as an exposed nerve.
1,034: I forgot the anguish of knowledge.
68: I forgot love stutters over a lifetime.
—from “The Return of DoveLion”
DoveLion was presented by Eileen R. Tabios—with Leny Mendoza Strobel, Lizae Reyes, Mila Anguluan, and Matt Manalo—during the 2020 Conference of The Society of Indigenous and Ancestral Wisdom and Healing. More information HERE about the Nov. 22, 2020 event:
Excerpts from old drafts of the novel were refashioned into a short story entitled “Aesthetics in the Dictator’s Aftermath,” Pagsulat Sa Mga Bulaklak / When Writing For Flowers, June 1, 2019
“Returning to my Beloved Margins: How I Got My Novel Published,” Otoliths, Issue 59, Southern Spring 2020