“One of the funnest parts of writing my novel about a fictive famed standup comic was the creation of a parallel pop culture that mirrored and coexisted with the pop culture we knew and loved from the decade of the aughts. My protagonist Sirius Lee, a Chinese American, attends a predominantly white high school in Los Angeles that’s featured on a reality show similar to MTV’s Laguna Beach, which ran from 2004 to 2006 and was later spun off into The Hills, which would run for the rest of the decade. In this high school in “Guernica Beach,” Sirius meets the daughter of his eventual comedy mentor Johnny Razzmatazz, who I imagine as a cross between Andrew “Dice” Clay and Ozzy Osbourne. The show Johnny’s on is entitled The Family Razzmatazz, an obvious allusion to The Osbournes, which was a hit on MTV from 2002 to 2005.
Looking back on Laguna Beach and The Osbournes, it’s hard to believe that we watched these silly shows in large numbers.”
Read the rest at Necessary Fiction.
Writers of literary fiction are supposed to disdain celebrity memoirs. They’re sucking up all the big advances and lowering the bar of what’s supposed to be Literature, right?
But I’ve got a dirty reading secret. I love celebrity memoirs, particularly by standup comedians (and not just because I was doing research for No Good Very Bad Asian, my novel about a fictive famed standup comedian named Sirius Lee). The best standup memoirs can be so raw and honest, revealing uncomfortable truths about life that even the best fiction rarely addresses.
Here are some of my favorites, a mix of books that I read while researching No Good Very Bad Asian and recent entrees into the genre.
Read the rest of the list at Electric Literature.
“Whenever the topic of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry comes up, for a few moments, I mentally include Sirius Lee. And then I remember that he is only a fictional standup comedian, the protagonist of Leland Cheuk’s intimate novel No Good, Very Bad Asian. It’s such a vivid and engrossing portrait of a lovable, modern-day schmuck—a character who feels immediately iconic, like Holden Caulfield—that I was almost disappointed when I learned that Cheuk is not at all like Sirius Lee, although he did perform standup in bars while researching for this novel.
While Sirius Lee finds fame as a teenager and struggles with the fallout from that, Cheuk’s fiction didn’t get picked up by publishers until he was in his late 30s. His debut novel, The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, was published by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography in 2015; a story collection, Letters From Dinosaurs, followed soon after in 2016 from Thought Catalog Books. Before all that had happened, Cheuk survived a life-threatening diagnosis of MDS, receiving chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Over coffee in Brooklyn recently, Cheuk revealed how his manuscript-in-progress for No Good, Very Bad Asian took a different turn after his recovery. But it’s still funny as hell.
Cathy Erway: I don’t think I’ve encountered in literature an Asian American character who’s overweight, struggles with substance abuse, and is constantly screwing up in life. Have you?
Read the rest of the interview at Electric Literature.
So much Pierre had yet to do despite twenty-eight years on this planet.
The to-dos came to him in threes (usually after his morning bowel movement). He didn’t know why they interrupted whatever thought he was having at the time, or why they did so in that particular number, but he kept a list on his phone app, and decided he needed to complete each task.
He’d had acute myeloid leukemia. His doctor put his chances of surviving the stem cell transplant at 70%, his chances of finding a perfect match donor also 70%. Multiplied together, Pierre’s probability of survival at that moment was just 49%.
“Fifty-fifty. Isn’t that everyone’s odds every day?” Pierre asked.
The doctor chuckled and later apologized for doing so.
Two years later, Pierre was still here. He’d recovered and now had an unknown number of years to do everything he’d ever wanted to do with his life. The only problem: he’d never kept a bucket list, never even considered death until the doctor kept uttering phrases like “life-threatening condition” and “you can die from” blah-blah-blah (spoiler: just about anything and everything). But now the list was making itself, like a divine revelation.
Pierre packed a sizable backpack and set off to complete his first list.
- Make a black friend
- Fire a gun
- Learn to drive stick
Read the rest of the story at Maudlin House.