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"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous" is the only book that I can give the very pretentious title of "required reading" to. It is the easiest book to recommend to anybody. The cover calls it a novel, which it technically is, but at the same time it's so much more. Vuong is an accomplished poet, and this shows in his first foray into novels. The prose is gorgeous and flowing, and at times it gets weird in all the best ways. Every word of this novel feels like it was selected, intentionally, the way you would expect in poetry more than prose. This is my favorite book, and if you read it, I bet it will be one of yours, too.
I recognize that his prose is poetic, and I also recognize that I am not able to read about so much pain. I managed to complete the first third or so of the book, but at Part II I stopped reading. In flipping through the coming pages, I could tell that it was going to be too much of a lot of things for me to read through it. Beautifully written, no doubt, but just too much for me.
Heartrendingly beautiful book that shows how "gorgeous" our brief lives can be despite hardship, struggle, and even despite ugliness. This is not a typical novel. It doesn't tell a linear story. It build through the accumulation of memory, imagery, and metaphor. Take your time with this. You'll want to savor each short section. Worth reading and rereading.
Written in poetic prose as a letter to his illerate mother, this Vietnamese immigrant who comes to America as a boy explores his life as an immigrant, as a gay boy/man, the oxycotin travesty that claims the life of his first lover, tries to understand the lives and choices of his mother and grandmother in the wake of the war. Heartbreaking, thoughtful and worth the read.
A son bares his soul to his mother in a letter knowing she will not read being illiterate. Raw, haunting, mesmerizing and beautiful!
Rec by Emily Cook Dec 2019
gave to Nico with Denali's recommendation Sept 2019
Complete review available under Summary
Incredibly vivid, moving prose that bounces between narratives, defying time and place. Vuong has crafted a world so colorful and lucid that it's difficult to pull away from. The author's poetic background truly shines in this novel, whose dynamic narrator makes it easy to forget that you're reading fiction. 'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous' ranges between the lighthearted (the narrator's childhood wonder of the world, the beginnings of a summer romance with another boy on a tobacco farm) to the intensely heavy and tragic (the utter devastation of the war in Vietnam and the lasting effects on those escaped, the gripping loss of the American opioid crisis). Definitely ought to be lauded as one of the best books of 2019.
A difficult read and written in prose style as a letter to his illiterate mother. Poet Vuong reflects on his Vietnamese and American ethnicity while recognizing his emotionally damaged upbringing. Although this is a short novel, I could only read it in short portions because of abrupt flashbacks describing household violence and his mother’s erratic behavior with his own ensuing confusion and sadness. Sometimes the best poetry and prose are creations from pain and experience.
Beautifully written, compelling story of a son trying to work out the unknown mysteries of his mother's life.
More than briefly gorgeous. So wonderfully detailed that I'd be surprised if the character's experiences didn't resonate with what Ocean Vuong has experienced himself.
Yes, it's prose... oh but what poetry! Almost a love letter from a misfit son to a misfit mother...cannot wait for more from this writer!
In short, goodness. Exactly what you expect of Ocean Vuong, which is saturated, stunning writing, and a story that will make you both joyful and devastated. It took me about six months to read Ocean Vuong's first book, of poetry. He writes in a way that leaves me almost exhausted after only a few lines, because they're so loaded and saturated. I could read just a line of his poetry and roll it around my mouth for a week. So when Ocean Vuong writes prose, you read it. But I have to read it faster, because not only are the lines beautiful and loaded and heavy, but also they're driven by character and plot. It's almost overwhelming. But good. So good. This is a small novel, but it's not for the faint of heart, as it follows an immigrant family in the wake of war. Definitely one I'll be buying so I can underline and think around.