cover image I Was the President’s Mistress!!

I Was the President’s Mistress!!

Miguel Syjuco. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-17405-7

Syjuco (Ilustrado) structures his rambunctious, uninhibited satire as a series of recorded interviews by a journalist attempting to write the life story of a Filipino movie star who gets tied up in politics and scandals. Vita Nova was a mistress of the country’s conservative president, who is now under threat of impeachment. The novel alternates between long, chatty interviews with Vita, recorded over the course of several months during which her position in the complicated network of political power in Manila evolves to being tapped by a liberal candidate to run with him as vice president. She talks a lot about her many past lovers, some of whom are also heard from in interviews. There’s a senator, a warlord, a drug dealer, and an American Navy radar operator, among many others, all of whom have their own self-serving agendas that contrast comically with Vita’s. Their graphic descriptions of sexual encounters end up feeling a little indulgent on the part of the author, and the plot remains thin, but the characterizations are vivid and often captivating nonetheless. Those willing to go along for a wild ride ought to be entertained by this tale of dirty tricks and dirty deeds. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr.)