I'm adjusting back to daily life after the holiday & funeral & such. I read Nam Le's it-book debut collection The Boat on the flight. It had a few stories that knocked me out & a few that I enjoyed & one that I couldn't finish.
The first story, despite being a autobiographical story about someone in MFA-school at Iowa, which should make me dismiss it, is pretty damn wonderful. You can read it here. It also introduces Le's commitment to what Faulkner referred to as "Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," which is the title of the story. These were the themes Faulkner thought one should write about. It sets up the elements of melodrama that are pretty important to the book. It's hard for me to engage fiction that narrows in on the most dramatic events of a character's life. It seems like cheating somehow. Le pulls it off about half the time in this collection. While I recognize that this is because I was raised on Lish's children, I usually find it hard to trust the melodrama.
By doing the globe-hopping that has made this book a critics' favorite, Le avoids the typical forms of middle class melodrama, instead connecting internationally through people's responses to the extremes. In "Tehran Calling" for instance (a story whose Clash reference never pays off, thankfully/sadly), an american lawyer whose heart is broken goes to meet her best friend, whom she barely really knows, in preparation for a political rally in Iran. Yet the story avoids the easy fish out of water scenes & focuses on the mixtures of sincerity, betrayal & miscommunication at the heart of these relationships.
In other news, Peter Gizzi is reading in Boulder on Thursday & that is something to look forward to.
I'm reading in Pittsburgh on Friday. Do you all know anyone who likes me in Pittsburgh?