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The Boat

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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  2,945 ratings  ·  472 reviews
A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.

In the magnificent opening story, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride a
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Knopf (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Emily
*sigh* Where do I even begin with what went wrong with this book. It started off so well. Certain scenes are so well described that I was really invested as a reader. However, I hate the way he ends each story... or rather, doesn't.

The first story felt like a good introduction chapter to a novel, except it's not a novel it was just a short story on its own. In turn it made the story have a horrible ending with a quick sum-up of what the character understood from the events in a few sentences.

I
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r Guevara
I have to admit, I am still ten pages from finishing this book, but I can't do it anymore! With the exception of the first story, this book bored me to tears. I give it two starts instead of one, because Le is a great writer. At fear of sounding like a literary agent, I will still say that I couldn't relate to any of these characters or their lives. And this is because the writer didn't make it easy for me to relate to them. Le is an excellent writer, but a horrilbe story teller. He never drew m ...more
Brendan
like Bon Iver's debut album of last year this book proves that sweet art will make its way when it's at it's least eager. a quiet, brilliant idyll. each story sent me on a one hour walk around the canyons. the first one and the last one were my favourites and 'halflead' could've been a winton short from 'the turning'. im officially jealous of this vietnamese australian master-craftsman.
Thomas
"Faulkner, you know," my friend said over the squeals, "he said we should write the old verities. Love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."

This quote is planted square in the middle of Nam Le's opening story, a metafictional conceit that allows the author to address the reader directly about how ethnicity and the immigrant experience can both confer a special status on an author while also becoming a crutch, hobbling his imagination.

That's precisely what I admire so much a
...more
Jason
Aug 21, 2008 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
These are quite simply some of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I am not typically an avid fan of short stories. I typically find them little more than character sketches (like E. Annie Proulx's Postcards) or short scenes that are surely a part of a greater whole but simply leave me with a literary hole. But Nam Le has done something amazing with most of his stories -- they smack of realism, the characters are full, the stories hold up on their own and are not just false starts of nove ...more
Nicholas Buzanski
The Boat is a breathtaking & heartbreaking work of literary genius. Each of Nam Le's stories are a world so completely real & realized that they feel like a living, breathing being. His understanding of human emotions know no boundaries of age, race, country or gender & is only overshadowed by the beauty & mastery of Le's writing. For those who do not read short stories, please do not let that stop you from picking up this book; each story is a novel in itself. The intensity of c ...more
Richard
Wow! Beautiful. Disturbing. I just read an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book and was particularly impressed by Le's ability to create characters that all convincingly inhabit so many different landscapes and cultures. I was expecting a more specific cultural tone or flavor from this book--but the stories and persepctives are radically different, and are able to stand alone as their own worlds, which to me signals an astounding stylistic range--clearly the writer could have stuck with just one ...more
kiko
Jan 13, 2015 kiko rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: work
It takes me four years to thoroughly finish this book.
I read the first story four years ago and love this author since then. People in the west tend to consider Le as an immigrant writer because of his unusual personal history. They consider all those exotic stories fantastic and people born and raised like this somehow have the duty to write about these things, people they'll never meet, lives they'll never live and burdens they'll never carry. It makes sense that people tend to be curious abo
...more
Benito
I had heard good things about this book and then picked up a copy at the home of a misguided amorosa and started reading. Straight away I thought damn, this cat can really write! The amorosa ended badly, though I did get a short story out of it, which I dictated into my Nokia later on the steps of the Newtown schule. Through all the regrets I still couldn't get Nam Le's beautiful prose out of my mind (everything happens for a reason perhaps?) so I finally bought it. Let's hope the majesty of the ...more
Gerund
THE first story in this debut collection by Australian writer Nam Le, 29, has the wonderfully bombastic title Love And Honor And Pity And Pride And Compassion And Sacrifice. A catalogue of the "old verities" Faulkner urged writers to write about, it suggests that all storytelling should go back to some fundamental, universal truth about the human condition.

This search for the fundamental takes centrestage in a story that also serves a dual purpose as the introduction this collection by Le, the f
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Paul
Aug 17, 2008 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
I'll admit it. I sort of fell in love with this book's cover as soon as I sawl it on the New Fiction table at Bailey/Coy. I hemmed and hawed, picked it up and put it down, then finally let Michiko Kakutani and Mary Gaitskill convince me to fork over the $25. What I got from these stories, initially, was a really strong McSweeney's vibe. I couldn't quite put my finger on why this was, but the feeling was sustained, and eventually I figured it out. In the first story, Le writes about a writer stru ...more
Layne
This is a book for those who believe that well-constructed art is not just what's nice to look at, but that which effectively causes the observer to feel. It's an extraordinarily poignant collection of stories about far-flung places and times that starts with a memory of Vietnam, penetrates the dark world of Colombia's slums, and accompanies an adolescent boy in a remote Australian fishing village as he navigates the dichotomous journeys of losing his mother and experiencing his first love. It w ...more
Zim Dela Peña
Why did I give one star? But before I say anything with regards to the rating that I gave, I want to summarize this book by magnifying the things that I think signify each short story in it.

1. The Blazing Gasoline Drum for Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice
2. Grenade for Cartagena
3. The Concert Hall for Meeting Elise
4. Home for Halflead Bay
5. Letter & Planes for Hiroshima
6. Candle for Tehran Calling
7. Sharks for The Boat

If you want to know why did I choose the li
...more
Reema
great scenes and some muscular, resonant narrative building, but just couldn't get into this. i think i need more careful language than this offered, and i got irritated by the self-absorbed, "masculinist" voice in some pieces which left me looking for a foothold into the story. also, i just don't understand why the pieces needed to range all over the friggin' globe. i mean, what made this cohere as a collection? (i guess i need to muster the patience to read the whole thing through . . . .) see ...more
Vanessa
Beyond the opening story, this is a fairly forgettable collection. After the third story it became a chore to read and after the dreadful Halflead Bay it became a penance to even look at the thing.

The writer definitely has skill and - I believe - a bright future, but it seemed to me that he still is developing his talent. Despite not really enjoying this collection, I will keep an eye out for future work from him.
Clare Cannon
A novel made up of seven personal stories of immigrants from different times and places and religious backgrounds, all of which involve significant physical and moral suffering. The stories do not resolve, which leaves the reader in sombre - perhaps confused - contemplation. There is frequent bad language, and several of the stories have rough and graphic sensual description.
Jane
This was really quite an amazing book from a young first time author. He managed to capture the different cultural voices of his characters in his stories so well. Whilst sometimes confronting and depressing the stories were definately believable and clearly drawn from his own experiences as a migrant/boat person.
Mitchell
It’s well-known in the writing and publishing industry that the reading public is far more interested in buying novels than short story collections. When I worked in a bookstore in 2011, Nam Le’s The Boat was the only story anthology – not the only Australian story anthology, the only story anthology full stop – that I recall ever selling any copies of whatsoever. And it was three years old at the time! It’s a sad piece of anecdotal evidence for the popularity of the short story, but a very nice ...more
Rick
The seven stories in Boat, all interesting, almost all superb, a compelling and very impressive first collection by Nam Le, made me think of In Our Time and The Dubliners as I read. Not quite as perfect as The Dubliners, nor as fresh and startling as In Our Time, but a collection that even as you are reading it for the first time you know you will be reading it again and again. Le, born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, displays an interesting range w ...more
Ann
The last book of short stories I remember staying with me this way was Jhumpa Lahiri's _Interpreter of Maladies_ and only on a second read. And, in the same way I felt inclined to weigh her stories against one another, I do the same in looking at Le's book. While not all of the stories in Nam Le's book prove to me to be of equal caliber to one another, I appreciate the type and variety of character detail he has managed to achieve in several of the stories. His longer stories do this better than ...more
june rasul
Mar 19, 2009 june rasul is currently reading it
Recommended to june by: the new york times
I've never been fond of short stories - I never quite knew what the point was. Why not spin me a whole yarn?

Only once before have I encountered a short story (non-academically) that sort of ... punched me in the gut - the first story in Julie Orringer's collection.

Nam Le's stories don't punch me in the gut that way, with the big ending I never saw coming, or whatever. They leave me with a heaviness, in a good way.

I must admit I start off every story wondering how he's going to convince me I'm
...more
Salvatore Leone
Wonderfully written short stories with settings from all over the world. Very good.
Margaret
Good God! This is such amazing writing, well-edited and incredibly expansive while remaining grounded. The best collection of short stories I have read since The Interpreter of Maladies.
Sidenote: I only picked this up because I was listening to Write On Radio on KFAI, and he was being interviewed. His insights into the craft and practice of writing as well as his thoughts on the author's role in fiction were totally fascinating, so much so that I went to his book reading that night! It was all v
...more
Karen Hogg
How diverse is this author? Reading Nam Le's collection of short stories is like reading a collation of various authors. The only disappointment about this book is that each short story comes to an end. The topics are diverse, from child soliders in columbia to teenagers in a small beachside town in Australia, and each story is good enough to be a novel in itself. A bit like having one tiny taste of great quality chocolate and you want a whole row! Love to read more from this author, he is a tru ...more
Sean Kennedy
Short stories aren't my favourite format - they either reel you in and disappoint or make you wish for more. I had heard nothing but great things about this collection, but when I read the first story, I knew I was going to struggle. The narrator, a fictional representation of the author, is having trouble writing until he cynically exploits the harrowing story if his father's imprisonment because 'ethnic' stuff sells. This whole book is about 'ethnic' stuff. What are the author's motives? Is he ...more
Karlan
This terrific book of short stories should win awards this year. The stories are so well written that I visualized all the characters and scenes without being aware of detailed descriptions. Although the author is originally Vietnamese, the stories are set in a variety of countries. Many have teens as major characters so it would be interesting to see what a mature teen thought of the collection.
Chad Patton
Nam Le is a great writer - or rather, he understands the beauty trapped within the written word. Unfortunately, I found his stories tedious and unsympathetic. It seems that Le believes a story can get by on being Ethnic rather than having a legitimately compelling plot. For the writing alone I give the novel 5 stars, but for how compelling each story is, I give 1 star.
Nathan Cheng
Inevitably, in every book that contains a volume of short stories, there will always be ones that you like and others that you dislike. 'The Boat' is one such book, however, despite this, each of the stories which appear fit together well enough to be collaboratively published as a novel. Of course, each story has its own contextual and charactery differences but the two primary themes - life and death - are prevalent throughout and are essentially what connects each of the stories together.

A ma
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Amy
A global collection of short stories spanning from Vietnam, the United States, Australia, and Iran. The author cleverly includes commentary about "ethnic writing" in his first story, and then proceeds to write expertly about a range of experiences that he cannot have firsthand knowledge of all. The characters are really great, and believably flawed.
Rebecca
The first story in this book, which is an autobiographical account of the writer at Iowa, is great. (And was previously published in Best American's NRR 07.) The titular story, positioned last, about Mai Lai, was also really great. Everything in between was wooden and plodding.
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Nam Le came to Australia from Vietnam with his parents, when he was less than a year old, as a boat refugee. He went to Melbourne Grammar School and the University of Melbourne, from where he graduated with a BA (Hons) and LLB (Hons). His Arts thesis supervisor was the Australian poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe. He worked as a corporate lawyer and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2003/20 ...more
More about Nam Le...
Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice The Best Australian Stories: A Ten-Year Collection Wordlines: Contemporary Australian Writing Noveller för världens barn 2011 Mästarnoveller

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“The thing is not to write what no one else has written but to write what only you could have written.'
I found this fragment in my old notebooks. The person who wrote that couldn't have known what would happen: how a voice hollows how words you once loved can wither on a page.”
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“You couldn't think of after, you only thought of now, and come to think of it, you didn't do that either -- you were left with pools of memory, each stranded from the next by time pulling forward like a tide.” 2 likes
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