Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew this book would have an emotional wallop so I held off for a while. It's clear Ocean Vuong is drawing on his own experience in this novel, because it shares some of the sentiments and emotions I experienced in his poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

Oh how I love when a poet writes essays or novels. The language is powerful, the way some pieces are linear but others return to themes and core experiences is very moving. It starts out speaking to the violence in families, looks at language and belonging, moves to sexuality and connection (even when the other person is flawed,) all through the narration of "Little Dog" in a letter to his mama, one he doesn't believe she will ever read, so he can be honest.

I find some parallels with The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, in the sense that they both used fiction to explore their experiences leaving Vietnam and coming of age in America, but Nguyen's exploration is topical and political while Vuong explores the heart and mind. Both look at memory but the two novels are so very different.

The WaPo review by Ron Charles pointed me to the audio excerpt in SoundCloud read by the author. If your heart can take it, the audio sounds powerful, but I would have had to take even more time to listen because I find the emotional intensity a bit overwhelming. But, you know, more of that please.

I had a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley. It came out June 4, 2019.

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