Sunday, September 25, 2022

Tammy Nguyen | O

Tammy Nguyen
New York City, USA: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2022
143 pp., 4.75 x 9", softcover
Edition of 750

Released last week, O is a poetic story of the artist and writer returning to Vietnam, to visit the Phong Nha Karst cave, in the Quảng Bình province. The 7,729 metres long cave contains 14 grottoes, and a 13,969 metre underground river. 

A wind that carved mountains whistles through a young girl’s teeth in San Francisco. Nguyen has written an "anti-allegory" of the cave, using the titular O as a thread that runs through the text - as a vocal refrain, a bowl, an echo, the mouth of a cave, and a story without a centre. 

Available for $27.00 US, from the publisher, here

"Tammy Nguyen’s O should be filed under “Unclassifiable.” It is a memoir about her uncle, a pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force who chose David as his American name because he defeated Goliath: a recounting of all the procedures the author went through because she was born with a genetic disorder that caused her to be missing two front teeth; an introduction to Vietnam’s manmade and natural landmarks, including the Ho Chi Minh Trail and a series of caves at least 400 million years old; a guide to real estate investment opportunities on a manmade island near Singapore, where the real estate agent claims there is “no climate change”: a compressed history and status accounting of wealthy Vietnamese families who lived in San Francisco; a report on the author’s visit to a small factory in New York that makes dentures and implants; an updated disquisition on Plato’s Cave; a primer on porcelain; a dream in which all the previous narratives meet. O is a major addition to diasporic literature. Already an accomplished artist, who has exhibited internationally, Nguyen proves herself to be an equally powerful and engaging writer. O belongs on a shelf with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée and Sophia Al-Maria’s The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir."
- John Yau

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