Bibliolepsy, Gina Apostol's debut novel originally published in the Philippines in 1997, is a whirlwind anti-coming-of-age story about a young woman's sexual obsessions in the wake of the Philippines' political upheaval in the early to mid-'80s. In Primi Peregrino's search for love and sex, she has always turned to books. Even now, after a revolution determined to overthrow dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Primi can't stop herself from pursuing sexual relationships with a variety of writers. While Primi burrows into a world of words and sex, she can't completely escape her fragmented family: her radical, spirit guide sister; her sharp-eyed uncle; and her grandmother, the woman who gave her the Karma Sutra before she could read and who took her in after her parents' mysterious death.
Apostol's (Gun Dealers' Daughter) breathless prose is full of torsion and rhapsodic pleasure, making the act of reading itself feel like an erotic workout. As the story unfolds, from Primi's parents' death at sea the year Marcos took control to the moment Marcos finally topples, her unusual sexual obsession with books and their authors seems sane compared to the people around her, who engage with the world via their own fantasy-fueled endeavors. The lead-up to the novel's climax captures the dizzying pleasure of finding a fixation amidst a fall, and the kaleidoscopic conclusion transcends reality. Apostol thrusts Primi into a jumble of surreal encounters before finally letting her break surface, leaving her, and readers, gasping for air. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor