This publication, as with all endeavors one deems worthy, began with aspirations. When we first conceptualized this publication, Editor at Large, Patricio “Jojo” Abinales and I had been long-time readers of The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review and The London Review of Books—publications established to provide public intellectuals venues to grapple with ideas that shape society. We believed Filipinos and those interested in the Philippines deserved something similar. We believed somebody needed to circumvent self-enclosed literary cabals and raise the level of criticism in the Philippines. We also believed that other writers—journalists, academics, and fictionists—would share our vision. The Manila Review (MR) began with these simple beliefs. And these beliefs have so far been proven correct. You are reading MR today because some of the most influential names in Philippine letters have decided to make this project their own. You are also reading MR because prospective readers contributed funds to make this publication a reality.
A review publication should do more than tell readers which books, films, artworks, plays, and TV shows are good or bad. My favorite ones have something to say about the social milieu from which cultural texts emerge. In this way, they become living records of intellectual trends in a given society. I cannot tell if we have achieved this. But I do know all the editors explicitly or implicitly worked on this issue with a common framework in mind. Since we began work in January, we committed to produce a publication that stood for the following:
Representing plural views. Despite the strong political positions some editors have articulated in public, this publication aims to represent a plurality of views on politics and culture. We editors have not always agreed with our contributors, and we have not necessarily agreed with each other. But disagreement nuances arguments, and enables the rethinking of positions, so we continue to welcome it.
Intergenerational dialogue. An older writer who does not engage new ideas from younger colleagues is an old hack; an overly precocious upstart who cannot take advice from old hands is a brat. The articles in this issue are products of conversations between boomers, gen-Xers, and millennials. The results of these conversations have been interesting. What happens when a young fictionist (our Literary Editor Miguel Syjuco) asks a seasoned literary critic (Caroline Hau) to review the book review genre? What happens when a “serious” political journalist (Criselda Yabes) commissions a “light” piece from a young author about chick lit (Emmanuel Natola’s review of Astigirl)? These questions are only rhetorical because I’d like you to find out.
Academic depth balanced by journalistic clarity. It’s a common belief that academics produce obtuse treatises, while journalists make these intelligible to the broader public. There is a symbiosis here, but this dichotomy, which assumes a division of labor, can be restricting. Journalists can be as original as academics, and academics can be as clear as journalists. In the space between the exegetical academic and the concise journalist, you find the public intellectual. It’s this space we try to occupy.
Of course, all these principles are informed by a commitment to intellectual rigor. We made as few compromises as possible. Let us know if we were able to make The Manila Review work.