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A collection of stories--including "Displacement," "Disturbing the Universe," and the title story--explores the themes of cultural legacy, alienation, and dispossession from an Asian-American perspective
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A debut collection of 11 stories from Asian-American Louie chronicling the displaced lives of Asian immigrants and of first- generation American-born children: mainly taut and energetic pieces, a worthy (if more prosaic) companion to recent similar chronicles by Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and others. ``Displacement'' (chosen for the Best American Short Stories 1989) concerns Mrs. Chow, 35, who immigrates to the US and goes to work (along with Mr. Chow) for a widow who, stroke-ridden, turns vile and spiteful. As in most stories here, Louie works by stringing together instances until he reaches a summarizing image: here, it's an image of Mrs. Chow descending from a roller coaster to stare at a glamorous American woman on a billboard. Beginning to accept her fate, she realizes, staring past the billboard to the ocean, that ``the land on the other side wouldn't come into view.'' Likewise, the title piece, about a son and his mother who has no English, takes the two in a rented car to another son's house, where the narrator and his mother watch wrestling on TV: ``The world she knows has been radically altered, a paradigm shift has taken place, she must relearn the earth is round, not flat.'' With such a formula, Louie moves as well to a female point of view in ``Inheritance,'' where the narrator comes of age after appearing on Dan Rather's show in support of a protest against a bombing of an abortion clinic; and the author spices the formula with fabulism in ``Disturbing the Universe,'' where peasants, criminals, and scholars at a labor camp near the Great Wall participate in the invention of baseball. These quirky Asian-Americans try to Americanize each other with names like Edsel and Bagel--and Louie trenchantly dramatizes their often surreal attempts to adapt to a new culture while not forgetting the old ways. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
In this notable debut collection of 11 stories, Louie paces off the perimeters of alienation as he portrays a series of characters emotionally imprisoned and isolated, many by their attitudes toward their Asian backgrounds. The protagonist of "Displacement" (included in The Best American Short Stories 1989 ) is Mrs. Chow, a formerly aristocratic immigrant to America who now must work as nursemaid to a disagreeable old lady. In "Bottle of Beaujolais," a story involving an otter in the window of a sushi bar, the narrator who is his keeper muses about controlling the otter's environment: "I was the north wind, the cumulonimbus, the offshore breeze, the ozone layer." Later, he succumbs to an obsession with an unknown woman who frequently passes the restaurant window, and the results are chaotic and surreal. The title story is a powerful portrait of a family splintered by generational differences of culture and sexual orientation. The narrator works for a company that makes almost magical-sounding flavors and fragrances. When he rages over his mother's simpleminded pleasure in watching Johnny Carson although she speaks no English after 40 years in America, he concludes, "What I need is a spray that smells of mankind's worst fears, something on the order of canned Hiroshima, a mist of organic putrefaction, that I'll spritz whenever the audience laughs. That'll teach her." Louie transmutes rage and bitterness into an impressive matrix of plot and character conveyed in biting prose.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Knopf, 1991. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0394589572