“Few literary heroes are more ubiquitous and enduring to multiple generations of Asians around the world than Monkey of the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en.
Considered one of the Four Classic Novels of Chinese literature, the sprawling, picaresque fable has been adapted into countless films, TV shows, stage plays and children’s books in Asia. Monkey King: Journey to the West, a new translation from Penguin Classics, serves as a solid primer for Western neophytes.”
Read the rest of the review at the San Francisco Chronicle.
‘Nights When Nothing Happened’ Is Quietly Lovely — Maybe A Little Too Quiet
“One of the epigraphs in Simon Han’s debut novel Nights When Nothing Happened is a line from “Epistle,” a Li-Young Lee poem: “Before it all gets wiped away, let me say, there is wisdom in the slender hour which arrives between two shadows.” Nights When Nothing Happened is very much about the private, shadowy parts of ordinary lives, but Han’s evocative writing is anything but ordinary.”
Read the rest over at NPR.
Susie Yang’s ‘White Ivy’ is an entertaining character study of a social climber with a secret
“From “The Great Gatsby” to “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” novels about social climbing and high society never seem to go out of style. Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth” is a classic of this prolific category, and Susie Yang’s debut novel, “White Ivy,” so echoes Wharton’s best-known book that even the protagonist’s name, Ivy Lin, sounds like Lily Bart.”
Read the rest over at The Washington Post.
Review: ‘Son of Good Fortune’ finds comedy in Filipino Americans’ life on the margins
With the Supreme Court recently upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides a path to legal status for qualified undocumented immigrants, Lysley Tenorio’s funny and poignant second novel, “The Son of Good Fortune,” couldn’t come at a better time. Concerning an undocumented Filipino American family living in Colma, the book portrays the murky ethics of America’s treatment of the illegal immigrant.
Excel is a 19-year-old TNT, tago ng tago, Tagalog for “hiding and hiding.” His mother, Maxima, gave birth on the plane to the U.S. Neither American nor Filipino, Excel is a true nowhere man. “I’m not really here,” he says to his girlfriend, Sab.
Both Excel and Maxima are denied a path to legal status and live a life on the margins. Hotels and passports are foreign to them, and acronyms like TSA require Googling to be decoded. Maxima, a former actress in bad Filipino action movies, is relegated to scamming lonely white men online, while Excel works under the table at a spy-themed pizza joint named The Pie Who Loved Me, whose tyrant owner whimsically decides when and when not to pay Excel. Stifled and lovesick, Excel follows Sab to Hello City, a desert artist community, where his life only gets more complicated, driving him back to Maxima for help.
Read the rest of the review here.
Which comic writer would you say had the most influence on No Good Very Bad Asian?
I’d say Artie Lange, whose memoir Too Fat to Fish really moved me and inspired Sirius Lee. Lange’s not my favourite comedian, but his life story of growing up in a working class family, rising to success, and then falling prey to the excesses that a comedian’s life offers transcended the typical celebrity memoir. As a reader, you really feel that psychic and emotional void he can’t fill no matter how many laughs he gets, no matter how famous he becomes. That’s what I tried to get at with Sirius.
It’s been said that some countries, like Italy and Germany, don’t really recognise the genre of the comic novel. Would you say it’s harder to publish comic novels in America?
Is that right? I’m no expert on Italian or German novels but Gabrielle Tergit’s novel Käsebier Takes Berlin was quite hilarious to me. Any character named Cheese Beer is going to make me laugh. I also find wit in Ferrante’s and Starnone’s novels. I’d say it’s hard to publish any novel in America, and if one wanted to, they could point to almost any type of novel and find it hard to publish. That said, comedic novels are often seen as less literary than their dour counterparts.
Read the rest of the interview here.