The Boat (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
The most outstanding feature of the Vietnamese Australian writer Nam Le’s first book, The Boat, is the remarkable variety of the seven short stories in the collection. Only the first and the last story deal with Vietnam. The others cover a wide range of locales, taking the reader to Colombia, New York City, Australia, Japan, and Iran. They span six decades from the end of World War II to the early twenty-first century. Each story tells a fresh tale, and Le masterfully presents central characters who have to meet an existential challenge.
“Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” introduces Le’s readers to his convictions and self-understanding as a writer. Cleverly mixing the autobiographical and the fictitious, the central character is named Nam Le like the author himself. The character Le is given many of the author’s characteristics, but the author adds strong fictional deviations. By doing so, Le challenges the reader not to fall into the trap of reading his fiction as a mere exploration of his personal experience.
Like his author from 2004 to 2005, Le is a Vietnamese Australian ex-lawyer who has become a fellow at the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop that has nurtured many contemporary literary talents. As Le is facing a final deadline to write a story, he is visited by his estranged father from Australia. Now Le tries any trick to overcome his writer’s block, and he uses an old typewriter...
(The entire section is 1840 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 104, no. 17 (May 1, 2008): 69.
Entertainment Weekly, May 16, 2008, p. 70.
Esquire 149, no. 6 (June, 2008): 44.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 7 (April 1, 2008): 325.
Library Journal 133, no. 8 (May 1, 2008): 62.
The New York Review of Books 55, no. 18 (November 20, 2008): 38-40.
The New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2008, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 3 (March 31, 2008): 37.
The Times Literary Supplement, October 10, 2008, p. 21.
The Washington Post, July 16, 2008, p. C8.
(The entire section is 51 words.)