On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong is a 30-year-old Vietnamese-American who has already won major prizes for his poetry, said Claire Lowdon in The Sunday Times. His debut novel seems likely to be an even bigger event. Highly autobiographical, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous tells the story of “Little Dog”, who emigrates from Vietnam to America as a young boy and grows up gay in a deprived neighbourhood of Connecticut, sharing a small flat with his violent mother (who works in a nail bar) and schizophrenic grandmother. This is a poetic, ambitious work whose dominant mode is a “high-stakes hyper-lyricism”. While no “polished masterpiece”, it contains some genuinely “startling” writing.
At the story’s heart is Little Dog’s teenage love affair with the gun-toting, 50 Cent-listening Trevor, said Tessa Hadley in The Guardian. Their “surpassingly passionate” relationship is captured with “frankness and precision”. Vuong is at his best when focusing on sensory specifics; however, elsewhere, he risks inhibiting the novel’s flow with too much “explicit commentary on the meaning of what’s happening”.