The Boat by Nam Le Review at The Quarterly Conversation


We've just published a review of Nam Le's The Boat at The Quarterly Conversation.

The book was published in 2008, and a lot of ink has been spilled over it, but we wanted to run this review for three reasons: 1) it's a great review; 2) it offers some perspectives on The Boat that we haven't seen elsewhere, and 3) it discusses the book in the context of some of the other reviews out there.

Here's a graf from our review:

On the one hand, Le, like his character Nam, finds himself pulled
toward settings, dilemmas and consciousnesses that are extravagantly
outside his ken—other than the lesbian vampires, all those story topics
Nam’s friend mentions are to be found in The Boat. Le also deeply resents the subtle condescension that accompanies the assumption that he will simply mine his “background and life experience,”
which his instructors and two agents tell him will make him “stand
out,” especially since “[e]thnic literature’s hot. And important too.”
These soft Mephistophelean hints with their glints of patronizing envy
are rightly repellant to Nam. But on the other hand, what do you do if your family’s story is better than many—maybe any—you could fabricate?

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