In the magnificent opening story, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride a...more
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.
Confronting the Real
In the final story “The Boat” in Nam Le’s collection of the same name, Mai is adrift in a grossly over-crowded boat of refugees fleeing Vietnam. With no food, a dwindling water supply, scant shade and amidst inhuman (or all too human) squalor, Mai recalls her father’s return from a communist re-education camp in Vietnam. He could no longer see; it is unclear whether he was blind or simply unable to recognise his surroundings. He never spoke to her of his experience, but trapp...more
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
I enjoyed the last two stories, as well, yet found the other four s...more
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...more
The range of the...more
A collection of short stories that are well-crafted, if a little conspicuously so. As Le explains in his first piece, he's driven by a desire to be recognized for his writing, and not just his Vietnamese heritage, which an adviser suggested that he exploit to capture the attention of trend-conscious literary agents on the lookout for "immigrant" fiction. That piece, exploring the author's complex relationship with his father, who survived the aftermath of the Vietnam War after being on the...more
The first story is probably the highlight of the collection, and is the sort of piece that would (or should) be tau...more
Graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Le has written a collection of unique stories, each with their own tempo and heartbeat. The writing is lyrical and descriptive, taking time to slowly allow the reader a portal view into the background of each character. Le sho...more
We've all heard the advice to write about what you know. So I think what was most amazing to me was the diversity of the stories. Le...more
With this debut collection, Le has become the new literary darling. Every critic marveled at this powerful new voice in fiction, a young writer whose characters are so emotionally and psychologically rich that they simply transported reviewers to new worlds and eras. Le's remarkable range of characters, subjects, settings, and perspectives "beggars belief," says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Indeed, Le "puts his searching, observant voice wherever he likes"
Some of the stories ring truer than others. In a couple of cases...more
"Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test.
In "Meeting Elise" an agi...more
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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.”