book review: ilustrado

Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco’s first novel, is about a writer who’s died and his protege is looking for the dead man’s missing manuscript. I haven’t read anything from the “literary fiction” genre for a while and it’s pretty much how I remember it, though Syjuco distinguishes it by it being about the Philippines. Otherwise it’s about a young man coming to terms with his past both in New York and in the Philippines.

It does the chopped-up narrative kind of thing, with the story of the young writer, Miguel, being interspersed with excerpts from the old dead writer’s works, including his schlocky detective stories and self-published autobiography and classic works. If you’ve read this kind of fiction before it won’t be too confusing, though for some reason in these uncorrected proofs the publisher decided to fuck around with the fonts for each different voice. It didn’t need that and I hope the final version loses it.

In general it was an okay book. Nothing horrible, but nothing really exciting or ground-breaking. There were a few pages near the end that talk about writing that are really good. And I like the epilogue quite a bit, though it feels like a first novel in its self-consciousness.

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