MANILA—When Filipino-American author Jia Tolentino, who has been dubbed as the voice of the millennial generation, began writing her book, "Trick Mirror," the reason was mostly because she was frustrated, she says. She was struggling to accept the results of the 2016 US elections, which Donald Trump won, and she was admittedly feeling "unsure," "anxious," and "horrible" about everything.
"One way to take all those feelings and make them productive is to write a book," she recalls to Karmina Constantino, the host of ANC's "Talkback," in an interview this past week. "The things in this book, I wanted to figure them out for myself."
A couple of years on and "Trick Mirror" is a New York Times best-seller, praised for pretty much what Tolentino is known for in her work in the US as the former editor at Jezebel and a staff writer at the New Yorker — her beguiling wit, sharp eye, and fearlessness.
Whether it be in her observations of scammer culture that led to a financial crisis in the US and Trump's rise to power, or the time she found herself questioning the precariousness of this world through her experience in joining a reality show, it is as if Tolentino, in her critically acclaimed book, gives the problems of a delusional society obsessed with the "self" a lucid shape.
According to Tolentino, the rise of the Internet has given people nowadays a platform for limitless self-expression. And while no doubt that that can be a good thing, its dark reflection, other than encouraging pompous levels of self-importance, is that far too many peddlers of misinformation take advantage of this, only to be worryingly amplified because they sell.
She explains that Trump is the type of person this environment fuels. "So much of our lives revolve around tech companies that can only make money if they inflame our emotions and the end result is a super adversarial liar," Tolentino says.
Tolentino, who was born in Canada to Filipino parents, was in the country for a book signing.
Asked about her secret to writing, she says: "I do try really, really hard not to waste anyone's time."
She adds: "I don't think I'm writing anything particularly new, but I am good at picking up on things that a lot of people are thinking and just saying them clearly. I never think that I have original thoughts, but I think I'm good at being clear."
She also reminds other writers to avoid complacency: "The thing about writing is, no matter if you did it well in the past, every time you sit down to write, you could be horrible."
"Once writers start believing that they're good, that they're always going to be good, that's when you start writing badly."