Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I borrowed Miguel Syjuco’s prize winning book ‘Ilustrado’ from the library last Friday. I was surprised that the book was available. I expected to purchase the book from Amazon once it got published. I checked earlier this year and the message from Amazon was that it would be published in a couple of months. So I was surprised that I found the book at the library. I immediately borrowed the book and lent it to my kids so they could read it first. I read the first few pages and I like the way it was written. I felt that it was something that I would have written if I had not procrastinated. Realistically, I do not have the skills of the writer yet. One usually follows the old maxim to read a lot, experience a lot and write a lot which results in the ‘romantic’ illusion criticized by Ayn Rand in her book ‘Art of Writing.’.

I looked at the writer’s biography and compared my skills and experience to glean some tips. Like most writers today, he attended a creative writing class and is now working as a copy writer. This training is what I lack and my writing consists more of putting thoughts into paper. The creative exercises are not there as I focused more on self-expression. One could only get glimpses of the creative mind as one reads about other writer’s life such as Ayn Rand’s book. One would think that to be a good writer one must live an interesting life ala Hemingway. So one gets to imagine how creative writing works. It’s interesting to find the difference from each writer on the way a product is created. But it’s more like an intellectual understanding and not a skill learned from actual practice. One would expect that this skill can be nurtured from a creative writing class.

I guess one pursued the ‘classic’ writer’s path. After all there was no such thing as a creative writing course for people like Hemingway, Garcia Marquez and so on. Creative writing class seems to work for today’s writers. For instance, I breezed through a book by Julie Powell during the weekend called ‘Cleaving.’ It’s a good book, perhaps in need of editing, but I think she did a good job with her plots and use of words. She also attended a creative writing course as well as some classes on the theater. I am mostly self-taught; reading a multitude of books, watching lots of movies and living a life of modest travel and experience. Writing to me is a meager output in diaries and blogging; with no creative exercises or guidance from classroom instructors. This is what others would call a ‘dilettante’.

‘Ilustrado’ seems like an interesting book based on the reviews. It won the MAN Asian prize. The other author short listed from the Philippines is Alfred Yuson; who I find to be a very creative stylist based in his past works. He is more a poet than a writer in my opinion. ‘Ilustrado’ usually means the enlightened one or educated one. I think the writer is spot on using this title to depict the present social ills if that is what I think it’s about. I hope this book will start a trend that will increase and expose the work of Philippine writers. Aside from the writers from the naturally English speaking countries like England and North America, Indian writers have begun to be really famous like Salman Rushdie in recent years. Writers from former colonies like the Philippines still have to gain recognition and acceptance.

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