For those who want frank, crass prose like Bukowski (Women, Post Office). And a streak of drinking and adventuring like The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway). And simple writing like Murakami — Karinderya Love Songs is likely for you.
“I like this book because it’s unforgiving. It hits a lot of hard truths not everyone can handle but a lot of people are facing… There’s a rawness in it that I LOVE!”
Set in the 2020s, the 23-year-old unnamed narrator is recovering from a bad breakup. He meets Kayla, a college freshman he approached at a cafe. And they spend a Viagra-assisted night together. Then they each confess a secret. She had two abortions. And he can’t get an erection unless his partner is cheating on someone by sleeping with him.
The narrator, Kayla, and R — a friend who broke off her engagement — spend drunken nights in Metro Manila and Baguio City. They purge all that alcohol through mountain excursions. And they struggle against a modern dating landscape akin to a Filipino karinderya: Bland, readily-available food that gorges but doesn’t sate.
“Unibersal man ang usaping pag-ibig at sex, pero, dito sa Karinderya Love Songs ni John Pucay, pinatitikim tayo sa daigdig ng Gen Z, ang kilig at kilabot, ang haplos at dagok, ang pait at tamis, ang anghang at tabang… gaya ng karinderya, iba’t ibang putahe para sa iba’t ibang panlasa… tena’t tikman.”
“John Pucay’s writing is raw and hits like a sledgehammer, but with a touch of tenderness and humor. His storytelling is like a foul-tasting cocktail that, strangely enough, made me feel pleasantly buzzed — A drink I’d surely order more than once.”
“If I have to describe this book in one word, it’s nostalgic, but of course, you’d probably only feel the same if you are from the province who moved to Manila for college or work… This book talks about life and the struggles of not knowing one’s self at the age of 20s. It felt like I was listening to a guy best friend opening up about emptiness. All in all, I found the book as depicting the reality of modern dating.”
“John Pucay is a great story-teller. His multilayered narrative is fascinating and captivating at the same time. I will read everything he writes!”
“Karinderya Love songs is a beautifully written short novel by John Pucay that did not shy away from telling the hard truths about relationships & dating. I feel like this novel wasn’t just made for us to sob or be weird out over each character’s confessions. Rather, it is for us to understand that we are flawed and can be messy as human beings… I am happy that a Filipino author wrote a book that deserves recognition here in the Philippines and internationally.”
Born in Baguio City, Philippines, and raised by a jeepney driver father and a budget-savvy mother; I moved to Metro Manila in search of Glory, Girls, and Gold.
I got fired after 5 months.
During my 3rd month of unemployment, frustration led me to write an article that I sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on a whim. PDI published my piece in a week and readers started offering me a job. That’s how I discovered I could probably write for a living.
I worked a year in corporate before quitting everything in early 2020 to pursue writing full-time. Then the pandemic happened.
- I started blogging on Medium in 2021.
- I mostly write about relationships, dating, polyamory, and running. I also have pieces on career, work, and mindfulness.
- The blogging pays for my internet bill and cafe expenses; the writing client shoulders the food and rent.
- I’ve since become a Top Writer for short stories (2021) on Medium. And a Runner-Up for the Vocal.Media Fiction Awards (2022).
- My short fiction stories have appeared in various international literary magazines. While my creative non-fiction pieces were published in places like Tiny Buddha, Thought Catalog, Runner’s Life, Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and others.
- And I managed to finish and publish my debut novel, Karinderya Love Songs, after throwing away three different drafts!
KLS cover art and illustrations are made by the wonderful James Guerrero.
“John’s writing style reminds me of Haruki Murakami and a little bit of Sally Rooney… This book is not the kind that overwhelms you with so many strong emotions. However, it is very relatable… It showed a lot of truths, including the ugly ones, that not everyone can admit even to themselves.”
“I’ll be honest, this is not something I’d usually go for. My personal values and beliefs are in direct contrast with the narrator’s, but I plunged ahead to learn more about the realities of today’s dating culture… Kudos to the author for the clever use of sex and dating, as well as creative metaphors, to discuss philosophical points about life, relationships, privilege, the choices you make, and the maturity it requires to deal with the aftermath… It is crass, but honest and raw – I appreciate that… I’m happy to report that I liked it.”
“I judged this book too quickly. I thought it’s all about sex and stuff, and I said, this ain’t for young readers. But as I went along, I’ve come to realize that it’s just a facade. This is not a romance novel or what they call a “spicy” book. There are lessons about life, love, relationship, and self-discovery that we can dig underneath. If you’re going to read this novel and think that this might not be for you, I’m telling you, don’t DNF this book… You can vividly imagine the scenes in the books like an indie film. And the description — the author spitting straight facts… Will I recommend this? YES, definitely!”
My short stories, published in literary magazines.
A story I wrote after my (now ex) girlfriend flew back to her home country and ghosted me, just as the lockdowns were beginning in March 2020. It’s the first short story I ever published.
It first appeared in print in Brittle Star Literary Magazine (based in the UK). And it’s available online here on Medium. It’s also the first Medium story I ever published.
A short story about the burden of familial obligations and trying to rise above one’s place in the food chain of life and success. First published in Anomaly International Journal of Literature (based in Boston, MA).
I first wrote it in May 2020. But it only came out this April 2021. It’s my 2nd story in a lit mag. And I’m quite proud (and embarrassed too) of that as I read my work now. I somehow cringe at the clunkiness of my prose. But hey, we all make art that isn’t so good, don’t we?
This story holds a special place in my heart though, clunky as it is. It contains my deepest feelings about being born poor and seeing all my peers get the things I feel I have to work five times harder for. Just because they have the means and I don’t.
I also wrote a couple of op-eds. One kept me from being homeless. Another got me dates with two gorgeous women who eventually became my consistent partners:
I wrote this when I was about to get kicked out of my apartment. I was recently fired from my tech startup job and I became too broke to pay my rent. Feeling low, I wrote about my predicament and submitted it to The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Then I forgot about it.
A few days later, I started receiving emails from good-hearted people who wanted to give me a job. I eventually got 2 website marketing clients and a full-time job at a large conglomerate. I didn’t get the corporate job through the article. But thanks to my 2 other clients who paid me a good advance rate, I was able to pay my rent and continue my job search. It’s mainly thanks to them that I didn’t go back to my hometown (I worked in Metro Manila then) with my tail between my legs.
Since I live in a Catholic country, I decided to provide a perspective on my relationship orientation. Rappler, the Philippines’ top online news agency, published it this March 2021.
Amazingly, poly people from all over the country reached out to me. And I even had 2 dates from some amazing women who read it and reached out!
Published in Tiny Buddha, this talks about the lessons I’ve learned from getting fired from my first job in Metro Manila and how I coped with it.
There’s also some descriptive imagery about that time I went for a run in the mountains. If you’re feeling down, or you’ve been having one failure after another, this is something I’d offer: From me to you:)
This is my first piece on Thought Catalog. I first published it with the Medium publication, PSILY. And some editors from TC liked it enough that they reached out to PSILY editors to ask my permission to have the article re-published on their site too.
Here are some of my most popular articles on Medium. I’m pretty much a Medium newbie and I haven’t really been publishing much recently since I concentrated on finishing and publishing my debut novel.
But I hope you find them helpful:
- Happy Endings — A long-term couple goes on their last date.
- When To “Give Up” On Any Relationship — Friends, siblings, parents, partners. Relationships aren’t obligations or investments. They’re gifts.
- How Ethical Non-Monogamy Makes It Easier to Be Nice — An ENM Facebook group reminded me how good it feels to be respected
- When “The One” Isn’t Enough —There are always risks, monogamous, or not. It’s up to us to take it, and see if we can make it work.
- 4 Reasons Dating Isn’t Working for You —Tired of all those mediocre dates? Me too.
- A 10-Kilometer Epiphany —I learned exactly what was holding me back in life by running my first 10-kilometer race.
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Whether it’s personal or professional (I provide writing and research services for blogs, companies, and individuals), feel free to reach out to me at: