Have a look at the review I just posted of this book by Vietnamese-American Author Linh Dinh.
I was surprised to find this title in the small English language section of the used books chain store near Hiroshima University. I wonder if it had been assigned for a class. Previous owner’s marginalia gave hints about their English reading level. Without getting too personal, a big part of the reason I was drawn to this book is that I recognized the author from the Carrboro International Poetry Festival (back in 2005 was it?) organized by Patrick Herron in the heyday of the Lucifer Poetics Group in North Carolina. The serendipity of reconnecting with this author’s work after more than a decade, having moved from the U.S. to Asia myself, felt somehow congruent to this novel’s particular sweeping historic and moral (satirical) power.
It is a novel that manages to capture the aftermath of the Vietnam War– the poverty, cultural and political upheaval, sweat, shrimp paste, inter-generational drama, and prostitution. The author does a great job of drawing out these gamey bits of sinew and collagen from the main loaf. A nod to the allure of dog meat, a pathetic ex-pat’s headache-inducing English “lessons,” the rightful owner of a wad of cash at the bottom of a jar of shrimp paste, the where-is-she-now moment with the Trang Bang napalm girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc (parenthetically demystified), the disdain for the embrace of superstition, and the embrace of superstition. It’s a hypnotic novel in all of its grotesque particulars. But it is gorgeous as well in its depicting an overarching transgressive humanity that extends across national borders and backward and forward in time.