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The Boatby Nam Le
Synopses & Reviews
Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice
My father arrived on a rainy morning. I was dreaming about a poem, the dull thluck thluck of a typewriter's keys punching out the letters. It was a good poem--perhaps the best I'd ever written. When I woke up, he was standing outside my bedroom door, smiling ambiguously. He wore black trousers and a wet, wrinkled parachute jacket that looked like it had just been pulled out of a washing machine. Framed by the bedroom doorway, he appeared even smaller, gaunter, than I remembered. Still groggy with dream, I lifted my face toward the alarm clock.
What time is it?
Hello, Son, he said in Vietnamese. I knocked for a long time. Then the door just opened.
The fields are glass, I thought. Then tum-ti-ti, a dactyl, end line, then the words excuse and alloy in the line after. Come on, I thought.
It's raining heavily, he said. They changed my flight in Los Angeles.
Why didn't you ring?
I tried, he said equably. No answer. I turn the ringer off when I sleep, I said. Sorry.
He continued smiling at me, significantly, as if waiting for an announcement.
I was dreaming.
He used to wake me, when I was young, by standing over me and smacking my cheekslightly. I hated it--the wetness, the sourness of his hands.
Come on, he said, picking up a large Adidas duffel and a rolled bundle that looked like a sleeping bag. 'A day lived, a sea of knowledge earned. He had a habit of speaking in Vietnamese proverbs. I had long since learned to ignore it. He had flown from Sydney, Australia. Thirty-three hours all up--transiting in Auckland, Los Angeles, and Denver--before
touching down in Iowa. I hadn't seen him in three years.
You'll sleep in my room.
Very fancy, he said, as he led me through my own apartment. You even have a piano. He gave me an almost rueful smile. I knew you'd never really quit. Something moved behind his face and I found myself back on a heightened stool with my fingers chasing the metronome, ahead an
The seven stories in Nam Le's masterful collection The Boat take us across the globe, from the slums of Colombia to Iowa City; from the streets of Tehran to a foundering vessel in the SouthChina Sea. They guide us to the heart of what it means to be human - and herald the arrival of a remarkable new writer.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
Nam Le was born in Vietnam, and raised in Australia. His work has appeared in Zoetrope, A Public Space, One Story, Conjunctions, and the Pushcart Prize and Best American Nonrequired Reading anthologies. Currently the fiction editor of the Harvard Review, he divides his time between Australia and the United States.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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