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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Hardcover)


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Product Description

Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original – poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born  a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard. 

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Author: Ocean Vuong

Hardcover  Published 4 June 2019  256 pages

Recommended and Reviewed by Noel

''This is a heartbreakingly beautiful book, written in prose that shimmers with a highly poetic sensibility, full of resonances, motifs and imagery. The first novel by multi-prize-winning poet Ocean Vuong, it tells of Little Dog, a young Vietnamese immigrant in America, who writes a letter to his mother Rose, still suffering from post-traumatic stress after the American War (as the Vietnamese call it), telling her about his pain, love, aspirations and sexuality – a letter she cannot even read with her non-existent English vocabulary.

This is a novel of memory, recovery, naming, creation and re-creation, as Little Dog tries to understand his own sense of otherness and belonging. Whether in relation to his family, country, lover, or self, he is trying to find his own voice and create an identity, with all the confusing intersections of being Asian in America, or being queer and Asian. But this isn’t examined in a purely cerebral way - the images are vivid and evocative, the language sensuous and muscular, and the sex exciting and revealing! The countless little acts of intimacy between Little Dog and his mother and grandmother – feeding, grooming, comforting - build up like a mosaic to reveal a larger picture of love and nurturing, even amidst hurt and dysfunction. With Trevor, the boy he smokes, shares drugs and has sex with, and comes to love, there is a yearning tenderness mixed with need and desire.

A mix of poem and novel, with spaces to breathe and wonder, Vuong’s writing is suffused with mono no aware (literally "the pathos of things"), a Japanese term for the exquisite sadness inspired by the ephemeral nature of beauty. This seems to echo in the title of the book (and a look at the author photo suggests he is suffused with it too!)''


“Vuong as a writer is daring. He goes where the hurt is, creating a novel saturated with yearning and ache…He transforms the emotional, the visceral, the individual into the political in an unforgettable–indeed, gorgeous–novel, a book that seeks to affect its readers as profoundly as Little Dog is affected, not only by his lover but also by the person who brought him into the world.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, TIME

“Vuong is masterly at creating indelible, impressionistic images…Vuong beautifully evokes [Trevor’s] seductive power over Little Dog: This is some of the most moving writing I’ve read about two boys experimenting together…The book is brilliant in the way it pays attention not to what our thoughts make us feel, but to what our feelings make us think. To what kinds of truth does feeling lead? Oscar Wilde famously quipped that sentimentalism is wanting to have an emotion without paying for it, but Little Dog has paid and paid, and the truths arrived at in this book are valuable precisely because they are steeped in feeling.”Justin Torres, The New York Times Book Review



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