Oh, God, Your Babies Are So Delicious
In this first anthology of Vi Khi Nao's stories, the intelligence of cutting-edge fiction playfully twists around fruit, suburban disorders, grim butterflies, and intimate glimpses into the author's dark and fantastic imagination.
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Jul 18, 2014This book has a very generous title because yes, smack dab in its middle is a story about slicing and eating a little human. It (said story and the book) does not primarily ring with satire, rather it's just oddness. There's oddness in many ways (1) the center is a dark and incredibly bizarre oddness (2) another story outside the center is sweetly strange; such as one where a young boy neurotically longs for his parents to kiss in the morning as they just kissed the day before. I'd say it's an exploration of many-a-thing in an unusual light. And, perhaps, only the author knows what it's really about or truly why there's a story of prepping a baby's live body for edible consumption.
May 11, 2014PART I -- Like all the best tales of transformation – physical, verbal, intimately corporeal – the poems & stories in this collection leave the reader with a heightened awareness of the myriad possibilities of the phenomena in which we find ourselves, and of which we are joyfully, painfully, a part. I mean I don’t know if it’s something that you are conscious of. I mean I don’t like to think in terms of derivatives, authors whom which you may have taken or influences, but it does feel like Gertrude Stein. Declarative. Simple sentences. You also may make allude to other writers: Sebald. You have a quote from Sebald. Anne Carson. “Anne Cardaughter”. The “Three Hours” talks a lot about doorframe, which makes me think of Adrienne Rich’s The Fact of a Doorframe. I don’t know if that’s something you thought of, but the idea of this kind of sentence or the way in which sentences, I think, …Grammar is about time. Tenses. Just the very act of reading. The way in which words are sequential.... More > And sentences being units with periods, begins and ends, are very much indebted to an embedded inner sense of time and time does figure prominently than you think, thus the transformation, the way in which words can transform into other things. There is a lot of punning. You have a very heightened sense of language. You sort of pun, witty puns, and I can easily find any of them. They are throughout the whole book. You have these kinds of words that are transforming. Kind of similar, but obviously very different in meaning. You are sort of forcing them to sound like other words. And then there is that other kind of transformation. Quite often about the body. You certainly do a lot with that. That obese woman eating herself almost to death while her husband helplessly looks on. The man who believes he is losing parts of his body because his child is borne and he thinks there is some kind of finite way in which the child gains a limb and he has to lose one. Obviously memories. I mean, I suppose, you could say that it is true of most narrative, but I do find that there is a real heightened sense in these poems. One of the nice things about them is that it leaves you, it left me with this heightened sense of the body. Of the way, of the transformation. Of even the kind of grungy stuff, you know, excrement, and all of that. All of the ugliest things too that have that are a part of this canopy. This is the sense I get from it.< Less
May 11, 2014PART II -- I just love that these poems, a lot of these poems, are stuffed with life. I mean: “The False Morels” is fun. Again, it’s a pun on morals or morels. Morel being a fungus. Again, you are back to that; something that is parasitical on another body. What else. “On Flesh”…oh, yes, that’s the one about the mother. I like that. A lot. The one about the abused woman. I didn’t respond well to that. It seems to me, kind of like, okay. It didn’t have that. I know you were trying to narrate a particular place, a certain kind of life. You captured that, but I just think that in terms of the richness of it, of the reading, I found that some of these others. “Eugene’s Walker” was good. What else do I like? “The Kiss.” “The Kiss” made me think of Proust. Proust is always fretting about whether his mother is going to kiss him goodnight, but in this – yeah, in the first volume of Proust, but in this - it’s about a child’s awareness of the mother and father are no longer affectionate. And... More > what else do we have here: “The Baby.” “The Baby” of course. “Hermaphrodite in Iowa.” “Red Light Green Light” which is a kind of, or assumed as a vaguely incestuous happening or the possibility of something happening. I also like “The Washing Dishes.” “Washing Dishes” makes me think of something like Kafka. This sort of fable of someone who works at a lame kind of job. It’s written in this very official sounding language, which makes me think of the kind of language in which the students whose essays you are grading in which you have written in, it’s almost. It’s very noticeably elaborate and ornamental and obscure sense of vocabulary. What is nice about this collection is I just use that transformation thing which is a kind of rubric…I shouldn’t use the word “rubric”, but an umbrella term. What I did like about is the variety: you do have a lot of stuff. A lot of changes in voice. It’s never dull and it’s never monotonous. It’s always shifting and lots of surprises. Flashes of intimacy. You know you get into some really potentially painful kind of stuff, but it’s never...it’s always compelled…it’s sort of like eating chocolate. They are all different. That’s what I think.< Less
May 11, 2014PART III -- It’s not a question of improvement. Some pieces appeal to me better than others. The heavy lady who is eating popcorn. It didn’t work for me. It didn’t take me anywhere particularly, I guess. It didn’t have a pithiness or the density of some of the other stuff. But that’s just me. As far as improvement, I might be interested. I am sorry: Are you Vietnamese? This is an awkward thing to say because I don’t want to suggest that you become an ethnic writer or you talking about you being Vietnamese, but it is sort of interesting to think about. You do that one with the story about the mother. Allusions here and there. Vietnamese words and so forth. You might explore that a little. Maybe you do that in other books. I think that would be kind of interesting. I was intrigued by that. And maybe some of the memories you had of that time of your life. And your relationship to that culture. But then again, I don’t know if it’s a place you want to go. I am speaking as an outsider. For... More > me, it’s interesting. This one about the handsome man. I don’t know. That again made me think. That also has that kind of deliberate flatness. I think about the fat woman story. He keeps on reiterating that he is a handsome man and I think of handsome as a pun as something to do with hands, but also ... that’s a bit more of a miracle..a little more fanciful than the lady who is eating popcorn. But I am trying to think. The one about the man who thinks his child is taking parts from him. Then it’s just become about the mechanical thing. Why is the man be with the lawnmower? Why did he have it? Sometimes in work like this. Sometimes they have dream logic or internal logic. Organic unity on certain level. People might be curious why you chose that. I think you have to make it more apparent to the reader. That’s all I could think of. I read it once. I mean I read a couple of pieces a couple of time. But I have to read it again and maybe in context with your other work.< Less
May 11, 2014PART IV -- I like “Monique’s Face.” “The False Morels.” “On Flesh.” This I like this a lot. I forgot about this one: “When You Let Your Hair Down, Christine.” That’s really nice. It’s very poignant. It has an actual sharpness and poignant that the others don’t have so much. I like that. But that – I am not saying that the other should have that but I was struck by its poignant of that particular one. So. It’s all too often that one of the criticisms of contemporary writing is that it seems to like be afraid of emotions or beauty that it seems like of like courageous poem and the intimacy of that. “Hermaphrodite in Iowa.” That one was interesting. So, yeah, I would read the other ones. All of which are available on Lulu. Prose poems. That a genre that I haven’t investigated a lot. Prose poems. My tendency is to want to read these as poems. As prose poems. But I am not really sure if that makes any sense because I didn’t really have a sense of what a prose poem is. I guess I just want... More > to see them as prose poems. Maybe because. I guess probably you know why, a natural reflex. Experimental fiction tends cognitively to read as poetry for a lot of people. I am not particularly drawn to the accessible. Actually I am fascinated by the very notion of accessibility. I have always wondered about that. It’s always a word people use in reference to art. I hear people say this all the time. Even with music, which really fascinates me. What does it mean to have an accessible piece of music? I hear people say: I would not go to a concert or listen to music of John Cage or I don’t know or some postmodern or modernist composer. His work is not accessible. I have absolutely no idea. I kind of know what they are saying, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think they are trying to say…When people find something inaccessible what they’re really saying (it’s not a word they might use)…what is really being said in that word is: this does not conform to my preconception of what something should be. Though if I were to listen to a piece of music that is completely dissonance or it seems to be a compilation of random sounds like John Cage or people like that then it doesn’t fit into this mold that I have created or abided from a culture…that is what I mean when I say that inaccessible. For an example, looking at a problem and saying that or if you never have seen something before it throws off your cognitive apparatus.< Less
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- Vi Khi Nao (Standard Copyright License)
- First Edition
- January 26, 2014
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