Reviews

The Quiet Ones is the best contemporary book on the psychogeography of Manila I’ve read, a sharp, funny, deeply moving meditation on global capitalism—and its ancestor, coloniality—as filtered through the rise of the Filipino call center. A crime thriller, a historical reflection, a witty and contemporary take on gay urban life in Southeast Asia, a sociopolitical epic, it’s a must read on the very material lives behind what is sometimes called “immaterial” labor.”

Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart

“[The Quiet Ones] begins like a thriller: a man in an airport, a suspicious black bag, the police not far behind … But swiftly, the pretense of a crime story is discarded. What unfolds is a tale at once intimate and sprawling, in which the minutiae matter just as much as the most prominent plot points.”

Vincen Gregory Yu, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer [ Link ]

“But what really makes the book both so funny and heartbreaking are the lives of its many protagonists which are, in many ways, their own but not quite; lives that are connected but not in the sticky, sappy way we imagine them to be … it makes you laugh and cry and wonder why—and more importantly, how—you got the book’s depressing humor.”

Daniel Pineda, in The Philippine Star [ Link ]

“The thematic scope of the project, and the frustration that fuels it, make for—and this might come as a surprise—a fun book. The Quiet Ones is buzzing with wit, told in an acerbic voice that never yields, no matter what … Its genius is that it employs a voice mart and puncy enough to confront the cultural context it is attempting to illustrate.”

Jam Pascual, in Rogue [ Link ]

“Now, in my head, Gina Apostol has transcended from simply a favourite novelist into possibly a spectacular curator (recommender?) of promising authors, just like Bolaño, whose penchant for proclaiming the next great Latin American writers outside the West-canonised ‘Boom’ has led me to discovering the likes of Alejandro Zambra, Andrés Neuman, Wendy Guerra, and some others from the Bogotá39. In this case, it’s Glenn Diaz’s The Quiet Ones, a novel that has skillfully painted the grime of Metro Manila in the most Waze and Cartier-Bresson manner, the gloom of the BPO milieu, the infectious dregs of capitalism, and the prison called globalisation. Occasionally, though, the sprawling midsection appears like a chasm in which several short stories and novellas are strung together only to pull off a specific length—a taboo for the impatient. Most of the time, it poses as a sturdy bridge of vignettes excusing the absence of a perceptible plot, a central character even, which I like. The contact centre heist-crime thriller slant is simply an enticing opening bait; it’s more about real human beings—working-to-lower middle class and Filipino and naked to the bone and disenchanted and wanting—transparent to an extent you could plunge into their foibles and taste their innermost desires, and distinguish the moral nuances that separate characters from each other and even lump them together. Its most glaring strength is the glorious writing—bunny-hopping like Proust here and narrating like Flaubert there, murmuring like Yanagihara and complaining like DeLillo in some instances (it’s just me, surely)—and it makes you yearn for those days when Pacquiao was only a decorated sportsman and the Trumps were just TV personalities. Diaz is legit, but this doesn’t mean anything since I am just a mere reader. Basta.”

RM Topacio-Aplaon, author of Lila Ang Kulay ng Pamamaalam

“Naririto ang mga tauhang kumakatha ng mga relasyon upang maging salamin ang minamahal ng pag-unawa sa sariling halaga, at pagkatapos ay kinakalag ang mga relasyong iyon upang itampok ang lugmok na kondisyon ng mga damdamin sa gitna ng kontemporaneong realidad na pinaghaharian ng iba’t ibang anyo ng karahasan. May kani-kaniyang mumunting anyo ng paghihimagsik ang iba’t ibang tauhan––pagnanakaw, pagsisinungaling, pangangaliwa––subalit rebelyon ito ng mga sugatan na sa bandang huli’y gusto pang mabuhay. Dahil gusto lang naman nilang mabuhay. Gusto na lang nilang mabuhay. Gusto nilang mabuhay na lang, nang tahimik, hangga’t maaari, dahil ang pananahimik sa daigdig ay anyo rin ng himagsik laban sa ingay ng mabababaw na ilog ng pag-unlad.” 

Edgar Calabia Samar (Santinakpan) [Link]

“Glenn Diaz’s marvelous novel, The Quiet Ones: gritty call center noir, capitalist fables told in bristling second hand English, urban dystopia described in tender detail set in late 2000s Manila.”

Vicente L. Rafael, author of Contracting Colonialism