Thursday, August 12, 2010

NUTSHELLED: "Ilustrado"

Ilustrado starts off like an exploded drawing of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature with a severe Filipino streak - a mentee investigative biography of his acclaimed/distained  Third Worlder-in-NYC-exile mentor, piecemealed together in the wake of the mentor's mysterious demise, dripping with eye-rolling snark, laced with "revealing" bits from the mentor's novels, autobiographies, poems, and interviews, horseplay with narrative devices - but very, very gradually reveals itself to be something drastically different, even if the undercurrents of loss, of hard choices made, of tainted love are very much universal and heartstring plucking no matter how much postmodern trickery the author hurls at us. (The mentor doth protest too much the "magical realism" tag his detractors have applied to him.) One of many takeaways: hilariously, young Filipino men and women familiar with hip-hop culture refer to one another as "fligga." If you're familiar with Che Guevara's biography - or that of any number of internationally hailed freedom fighters - you'll laugh to yourself; if you're also a fledgling novelist, you'll wish you'd written it first. Oh wait, you're not from the Phillipines? Fligga, please. B+

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