Read The Boat by Nam Le Online


'Nam Le is... a disturber of the peace.'Consider the subjects of his stories: a child assassin in Columbia ("Cartagena"), an ageing New York artist desperate for a reconciliation with his daughter ("Meeting Elise"), a boy's coming of age in a rough Victorian fishing town ("Halflead Boy"), before the first atomic bomb falls in Japan ("Hiroshima"), the suffocations of theocr'Nam Le is... a disturber of the peace.'Consider the subjects of his stories: a child assassin in Columbia ("Cartagena"), an ageing New York artist desperate for a reconciliation with his daughter ("Meeting Elise"), a boy's coming of age in a rough Victorian fishing town ("Halflead Boy"), before the first atomic bomb falls in Japan ("Hiroshima"), the suffocations of theocracy in Iran ("Tehran Calling"). This astonishing range is topped and tailed by accounts of the uneasy reunion of a young Vietnamese writer in America with his ex-soldier father, and by the title story - the escape of a group of exhausted refugees from the Vietcong in a wallowing boat.'One might be permitted to think, after all this high seriousness and intensity, Nam Le can't do funny. But this criminally talented 29-year-old can do that as well.'BARRY OAKLEY, Australian Literary Review...

Title : The Boat
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 13429060
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 315 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Boat Reviews

  • PattyMacDotComma
    2018-09-23 12:52

    5★I was delighted to find this book of well-written short stories by Aussie author Nam Le, who arrived here by boat as a refugee from Vietnam when he was only one. These eight stories are all quite different from each other and Le speaks in many voices from different countries, all believable: Vietnamese, Colombian, Japanese, Iranian, Australian. I think my favourite is the young Aussie lad in the fishing family with the sick mum. Football, a girl, bullies, a jetty, a struggling dad and younger brother. It’s all there. It’s a short story, but it’s all there. This one is reminiscent of Tim Winton.That to me is the beauty of a good short story. You are curious about what came before and what might follow, but it isn’t necessary to know.I don’t know if the first story is autobiographical or not, but Le got his Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, and the first story is about a son writing about his Vietnamese father, who has come to visit him at the University of Iowa at an inopportune time when he has writing deadlines to meet. He resents the interruption and the reminders of his father’s history.A friend says to just write about Vietnam. “Ethnic literature is hot.” His friends talk about exploiting the whole Vietnamese thing. He doesn’t want to, but as he pieces together his father’s story and understands the horrors of the massacre from which he escaped, he feels compelled.“…all I could do was think about my father and his excuses. Those tattered bodies on top of him. The ten hours he’d waited, mud filling his lungs, until nightfall.”He has trouble dealing with the contrast between his father’s experiences and his own life. It’s hard to look at this little old man and realise this was “the soldier” who’d raised him and punished him so harshly. I enjoyed his writing style. About young Colombians, a guy says, “They look younger than I remember. Only Pedro has grown—he looks like he has been seized by a fistful of hair and stretched up two inches.”About a father desperate to see his daughter who was taken from him as an infant, “The past’s a cold body of water for me and nowadays my bones ache after even a quick dip.”The Aussie boy is sitting by the shore “shivering. It was like the wind was greased, he thought, it slid right against you, leaving your skin slippery where it touched.”About swimming he thinks, “it was easy to forget, past the reef, that you were on the edge of the great continental shelf until a rip drifted you out and one of those cold currents snaked up from the depths and brushed its slightest fringe against your body. Then you remembered.”I haven’t even mentioned the bombs in Tehran or the people in Hiroshima or The Boat, a harrowing story that could also have been his. You’ll just have to read them.Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me a copy of these to review. I hope there will be more to follow from this talented writer.

  • ✨jamieson ✨
    2018-09-23 16:54

    dnf at page 205 (with 2 short stories to go)I read the first story in this collection for uni and I really liked it. I wanted to read more of Nam Le's short stories, because why wouldn't you when you really liked one. I can say for me the first short story, the one I'd already read, is the best one. It gripped me and piqued my interest and I've actually read it 3 or 4 times now. Really like itBut none of the other stories were really grabbing my interest. And the thing is, there's no doubt Nam Le is a good writer. His words are beautiful and he captures so many different people and puts down such an interesting take on them all. But something wasn't grabbing me. I was increasingly disengaged, and this is the year I've told myself I'm not going to force myself to finish things I'm not lovingThere will definitely be stories in here people will like. The second story (probably my favourite beside the first) follows Columbian spies, the third story Halfhead Bay follows an Australian surfer who's story is reminiscent of the ones Tim Winton writes. If you like Winton you'll like that one.It is unfortunate I wasn't finding something to grab me here. I think it was the characters - none of these short story characters really made me want to read on. But I don't think this is a bad collection, and I think Nam Le is a beautiful writer (someone mentioned he's a poetry writer? makes sense)So overall, this is good, but it wasn't for me.

  • Emily
    2018-09-21 15:36

    *sigh* Where do I even begin with what went wrong with this book. It started off so well. Certain scenes are so well described that I was really invested as a reader. However, I hate the way he ends each story... or rather, doesn't. The first story felt like a good introduction chapter to a novel, except it's not a novel it was just a short story on its own. In turn it made the story have a horrible ending with a quick sum-up of what the character understood from the events in a few sentences. It's an interesting book because it asks the question of whether or not anybody can write a story about a time, place, culture, language, etc that is not their own. I think it's possible because he does it decently in two/three of the stories. However, the rest were crap. I didn't believe them. They lacked a certain insight of someone who has lived that life or lived in that place or understood that culture. "Write what you know" should be plastered across his computer screen or above his typewriter. The stories were like the Hollywood version of certain stories. (No wonder certain critics were giving such high praise of it.) These stories were stories that were clearly imagined about other places and other times while the author rests comfortably in a pampered lifestyle thousands of miles from the actual locations.

  • rebeca
    2018-10-09 15:38

    I have to admit, I am still ten pages from finishing this book, but I can't do it anymore! With the exception of the first story, this book bored me to tears. I give it two starts instead of one, because Le is a great writer. At fear of sounding like a literary agent, I will still say that I couldn't relate to any of these characters or their lives. And this is because the writer didn't make it easy for me to relate to them. Le is an excellent writer, but a horrilbe story teller. He never drew me in for a second, and I'm not one to easily get bored with books. One of the writers quoted in the back of the book says "The Boat will be read as long as people read books." Good God! I hope not, which really is sad because this could've been a really good book, given Le's talent, but it comes off's no surprise his friends tell him he needs to write about his family's life in Vietnam instead of old, rich men in Manhattan. To get a taste of Le's talent without having to read the whole thing, read the New York Times book review and read the excerpt from the first story.

  • Thomas
    2018-10-04 16:55

    "Faulkner, you know," my friend said over the squeals, "he said we should write the old verities. Love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."This quote is planted square in the middle of Nam Le's opening story, a metafictional conceit that allows the author to address the reader directly about how ethnicity and the immigrant experience can both confer a special status on an author while also becoming a crutch, hobbling his imagination.That's precisely what I admire so much about this collection. Nam Le shows an impressive reach in the range of these stories. The most successful--the opening story, "Halfhead Bay", and "Meeting Elise" are grounded by sympathetic characters and some sizzling prose. The least successful don't fail because Nam Le wasn't "writing about what he knows" as some other reviews on this site have indicated. They fall flat from an overexposure to one too many writing workshops. Fearing melodrama, Le strips any emotional arc from stories like "Hiroshima" or "Tehran Calling." Characters are mired in their own ennui. Here the preachings of a literary culture that mistrusts redemption and epiphany and grace lead to stories that fail to move.Such blemishes in an otherwise stirring collection are just fine with this reader. "Write what you know" is one of the most wearisome cliches of the workshop. I'm glad that Le has chosen instead to reach for the Other, while still daring to explore his own complex heritage. The result makes for a rich stew of stories overall, one that introduces a writer who shows great promise.

  • Brendan
    2018-09-28 11:55

    like Bon Iver's debut album of last year this book proves that sweet art will make its way when it's at it's least eager. a quiet, brilliant idyll. each story sent me on a one hour walk around the canyons. the first one and the last one were my favourites and 'halflead' could've been a winton short from 'the turning'. im officially jealous of this vietnamese australian master-craftsman.

  • Jason
    2018-09-28 12:46

    These are quite simply some of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I am not typically an avid fan of short stories. I typically find them little more than character sketches (like E. Annie Proulx's Postcards) or short scenes that are surely a part of a greater whole but simply leave me with a literary hole. But Nam Le has done something amazing with most of his stories -- they smack of realism, the characters are full, the stories hold up on their own and are not just false starts of novels, and while many of these pieces cover difficult terrain (quite literally and figuratively) with the exception of one rather formulaic story (Hiroshima), I never felt these were cookie cutter, maudlin pieces. A wonderful (and quick) read!

  • Declan Melia
    2018-10-11 14:34

    The second collection of short stories I've read since records began. The first was Borges' Labyrinths, which is a completely different kettle of fish so lets consider this the first. If you like short story collections as I do then this book should be at the top of your to read list. Each of the eight stories are at once remarkably different, absorbing and completely transportive. Le is an Australian of Vietnamese heritage living in New York and this collection is suitably cosmopolitan. In addition to stories set in the countries just mentioned we have stories set in Tehran, Hiroshima and Cartagena, Columbia. As an author, Le is a citizen of the world.Some of the reviews below are hostile because they feel that Le is not a good storyteller; that the narrative arc lacks a satisfying conclusion. But I think this criticism slightly misses the point, each story is a snapshot of a life. A brief trespass into someones life over a few days, (or in the case of 'Hiroshima', hours or minutes) of someones unique and complex experience in this world over time and space. Le takes us there and I for one loved the experience. The characters are often a little one dimensional and, in nearly all cases, similar but I think Le is writing about places and situations and the effect they have on people rather than the people themselves. \The reason for this similarity is almost certainly that L very much puts himself into the characters he writes. But that's one of the reason this worked so well, the protagonist and the reader are observers in these worlds, we're on the inside looking out. Of course, not being a novel, the endings to these stories can be sometimes be abrupt, I often felt the characters and setting disappear in front of me just as I was getting to know them. But that just seems to be the nature of the beast when it comes to short fiction, and if you can accept that, The Boat is about as good as it gets.

  • Calum
    2018-09-27 17:55

    No, I haven't finished this book in the traditional sense, but for now I think I'm done with it. Before going any further I want to say that the author is good. In fact Very good. Many times I found myself wishing I could write with such depth, such empathy. The first three stories in this collection I really enjoyed. The latter three for some reason lost my interest. Anyway, the issue is not with the author but with me. I didn't have the patience to appreciate it.I hope one day to do Nam Le justice but for now I'm moving right along. So many books, so little time

  • Vivian
    2018-09-21 13:45

    2.5Theres no denying it - Nam Le is an incredible writer. His poetry background is blatantly obvious in the prose. Its just a shame none of these stories left any impact on me. The concepts and ideas are interesting but I really struggled at times to stay engaged. Also had a bit of an issue with his female characters throughout - found them particularly one-dimensional.

  • James Barker
    2018-10-03 16:58

    7 stories. 7 decades. The US. Colombia. Japan. Iran. Vietnam. Somewhere in the mix the voices break, voices merge… this Aussie writer of Vietnamese origin needs to narrow his horizons.The stories are book-ended by the two that are concerned with the Vietnamese condition during and after the War. They have varying levels of success, although the first ('Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice' - a quote from Faulkner) wins out in its consideration of what should be utilised creatively from our genes (should an Aussie-Vietnamese only write an 'ethnic' story?) The final and title story, 'The Boat,' tells a survival tale based on the experiences of an over-crowded junk filled with Vietnamese Boat People. Its power lies in evidencing how quickly death becomes ordinary to the people surrounded by it. Halflead Bay is perhaps my favourite of the collection. An unsteady mix of coming-of-age school yarn and mother-illness-misery it may have touched me because my own mother, like the Mom in the story, battled Multiple Sclerosis. As a commentary on power and powerlessness it is starkly successful but there are still moments when you are aware this is clearly the result of an imaginative exercise rather than something fully lived through. Some thing there- some thing untouchable- doesn't hold true. The best fiction doesn't pull you up like this. Similarly, the Colombian favela-sited yarn, Cartagena, seems the product of watching 'City of God' and a heap of documentaries. It is ambitious writing but it is also vicarious. When it comes to the 1945-set 'Hiroshima' and the post-Revolution 'Tehran Calling' the author really is pushing his luck. I couldn't help but wonder if he had read, and been inspired by, 'Persepolis.' Seven years on from the publication of this slender volume of short stories Nam Le has published nothing. I am hoping for a novel at some point. Despite some reservations regarding this first work, I would most probably read it.

  • Zim
    2018-10-14 16:49

    Why did I give one star? But before I say anything with regards to the rating that I gave, I want to summarize this book by magnifying the things that I think signify each short story in it.1. The Blazing Gasoline Drum for Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice2. Grenade for Cartagena3. The Concert Hall for Meeting Elise4. Home for Halflead Bay5. Letter & Planes for Hiroshima6. Candle for Tehran Calling 7. Sharks for The BoatIf you want to know why did I choose the listed things above to represent each story in the book, then just pm me. So going back to why did I give one star... it's because of the feeling that I got after reading this book. The feeling of nothing-makes-sense 'cause the style of writing is truly good yet the contents seem out of my world. I tried my best to relate myself to each character and it feels like I'm not welcome to each character's world. The book all in all is okay because some stories are okay but some are okay at first and then drastic at the end yet some manage to give me headache haha! Just saying. I can compare this book to a beautiful cupcake that's so good on the outside yet so bland on the inside.

  • Nicholas Buzanski
    2018-10-10 11:45

    The Boat is a breathtaking & heartbreaking work of literary genius. Each of Nam Le's stories are a world so completely real & realized that they feel like a living, breathing being. His understanding of human emotions know no boundaries of age, race, country or gender & is only overshadowed by the beauty & mastery of Le's writing. For those who do not read short stories, please do not let that stop you from picking up this book; each story is a novel in itself. The intensity of character & place is so visceral & immediate that you would never know that there is not a continuous narrative from one story to the next. If that is not enough to persuade you then I will say the narrative is held together by history & tragedy, by beauty & perseverance & could be a novel is its own right. Read this book, you will thank me for it later.

  • Richard
    2018-09-22 11:47

    Wow! Beautiful. Disturbing. I just read an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book and was particularly impressed by Le's ability to create characters that all convincingly inhabit so many different landscapes and cultures. I was expecting a more specific cultural tone or flavor from this book--but the stories and persepctives are radically different, and are able to stand alone as their own worlds, which to me signals an astounding stylistic range--clearly the writer could have stuck with just one of these modes and been successful. But the stories also cohere as a collection, bound by the same deeply feeling, fiercely compassionate subjectivity, whose great skill is to manifest in such distinct--and distinctive--voices. I'm bowled by this book.

  • Gerund
    2018-10-02 10:31

    THE first story in this debut collection by Australian writer Nam Le, 29, has the wonderfully bombastic title Love And Honor And Pity And Pride And Compassion And Sacrifice. A catalogue of the "old verities" Faulkner urged writers to write about, it suggests that all storytelling should go back to some fundamental, universal truth about the human condition.This search for the fundamental takes centrestage in a story that also serves a dual purpose as the introduction this collection by Le, the fiction editor of the Harvard Review.An apparently somewhat-autobiographical story -- the narrator is a Vietnamese-Australian writer named Nam who is at the Iowa Writer's Workshop -- it opens with the narrator being, three days before his final story of the semester is due, devoid of inspiration.In a dig at the expectations readers -- particularly American readers -- have about stories written by non- white or "ethnic" writers, a friend of his alter-ego helpfully comments: "How can you have writer's block? Just write a story about Vietnam." This stereotype of the immigrant writer being feted more for his or her exotic background than for writing skill -- as another friend hilariously puts it "You can't tell if the language is spare beause the author intended it that way, or because he didn't have the vocab" -- is one his fictional alter ego has no interest in perpetuating. However, when his father visits from Australia and stirs up memories the writer has of hearing about the infamous My Lai massacre, which his father survived, he decides out of desperatin to start a story with the self-mocking working title “Ethnic Story.”But although we do learn about his father's horrific experiences in snatches, ultimately this first story explores how a father-and-son relationship is shaped by those very verities Faulkner spoke of, in its own uniquely complex and savage way.Similarly, in the stories that follow, characters find themselves teetering on the edge of potential catastrophe, and in this limbo are forced to confront their relationships with those around them. Meanwhile, the settings of these stories is best described by the same friend from the first story: “You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing. But instead, you choose to write about lesbian vampires and Colombian assassins and Hiroshima orphans — and New York painters with hemorrhoids." Indeed, the collection contains all these elements (except, a litle disappointingly, the lesbian vampires). The seven stories in this book all take place in vastly different worlds, going from an Iowa university town to the slums of Colombia, artistic New York, coastal Australia, World War II Japan, Islamic Iran and, finally, a boat of Vietnamese refugees (who share their ethnicity with the author, yet patently inhabit a different world).All this travelling outside of the writer's own experience does smack a bit of a precocious creative writing student showing off his virtuosity. For example, the weakest story, Hiroshima, reads like a fastidiously-compiled list of Japanese references -- tree spirits, paper doors and siblings being referred to as Big Brother and Big Sister -- without ever really succeeding in bringing the reader into the mind of the narrator, a child who has been evacuated to a school in the hills of the city, just before the atomic bomb is dropped.But most of the time, the writer pulls it off. He has a knack of bringing the reader under the skin of his characters, subtly exposing the universal urges which make them tick. At the same time, he does not ignore the influence a particular society or situation can have on the characters of its people. In the story Tehran Calling, an American woman visits her western-educated Iranian friend who has returned to her homeland to help organise political dissent against the oppressive government. Half-sceptical of the atrocities her friend claims are happening there -- "any place reprehended by an administration itself so reprehensible couldn't be all that bad" -- she decides to go as a kind of escape while recovering from the end of an unhealthy romantic relationship.The break-up is at once painful and a source of guilt, lying as it does in stark contrast with the life-and-death situation her friend finds herself in. "I'm sorry that my problems -- that they were never as impressive as yours," she says to her friend at one point, feeling that she is owed some small sympathy even as she acknowledges the pettiness of her own problems.It is testament to the writer's skill that her absorption with her own problems, which are admittedly petty in the larger scheme of things, still engages the reader's symphathy as she stumbles her way to a kind of catharsis. It doesn't matter where you are from, the writer seems to be saying; in our own ways, we are all adrift in uncertain seas.

  • January
    2018-09-16 16:43

    It takes me four years to thoroughly finish this book. I read the first story four years ago and love this author since then. People in the west tend to consider Le as an immigrant writer because of his unusual personal history. They consider all those exotic stories fantastic and people born and raised like this somehow have the duty to write about these things, people they'll never meet, lives they'll never live and burdens they'll never carry. It makes sense that people tend to be curious about these things so far away from their lives, but somehow I consider this as a bad taste of reading. Writers like Le, and Junot Diaz, Mohsin Hamid shouldn't just be treated as some immigrant writer. They've lived in US or UK for enough time to write stories just like those local writers. They don't need some exotic marketing angle, surely not some stupid labels such as Vietnamese Australian author.After reading this book for such a long time, now I love the Halflead Bay more than the Love and Honor one. The latter one shows some smart attitude to those readers who are expecting Le to write about his own story. It looks like a true story, yet all of these things are made up. Halflead Bay, just like the story Le wrote in 2012, The Yarra, is about Australian's life, and that's the real life Le has lived since he went to Australia after he was born. He's spent almost all his life in Australia and the West, it seems stupid to put some Asian-immigrant label on him. Halflead Bay is also one of the earliest stories Le has ever written. It's a story about Australian teenager and his family. Not like other stories in this book that are mostly made up by collecting materials in a researching way, this Australian story is much closer to Le's normal life and has a lot of brilliant also frustrated moments. It's also the longest story in this book. Other stories in this book happened in different places, such as Tehran, New York and Hiroshima. They are quite well written by this young author. He uses the same method of collecting materials in the law firm to write these stories, which is smart, and made all these things more real, but somehow these characters are not that connected to readers. We can see how these people end up like this in their lives, but it's just not that easy to share the feelings with them. And maybe Le's put too much effort on making things real, these stories end in a hurry, some words haven't been said, some feelings haven't been showed and some people haven't been forgiven. The feelings just hang in the middle of nowhere that readers may not feel the same at all.But I still love Le's first work, and consider him one of the smartest writers at his age.

  • Rick
    2018-09-30 14:57

    The seven stories in Boat, all interesting, almost all superb, a compelling and very impressive first collection by Nam Le, made me think of In Our Time and The Dubliners as I read. Not quite as perfect as The Dubliners, nor as fresh and startling as In Our Time, but a collection that even as you are reading it for the first time you know you will be reading it again and again. Le, born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, displays an interesting range with stories that appear autobiographical (“Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” and perhaps “Halfhead Bay”) and others that are anything but—a story about a teenage Colombian hit man, another about a self-involved, cantankerous elderly New York artist meeting his 18-year-old estranged daughter for the first time in 17 years, another about an elementary school-age Japanese girl living in Hiroshima in 1945, and a story about a Portland, Oregon, lawyer who visits a friend in Tehran who is involved in political demonstrations. The final story, the title story, is about two women and a young boy fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. All the stories contain hard, even at times brutal lessons, for their characters, but are also quietly heroic and imbued with that Faulknerian sense of humanity’s capacity to nonetheless prevail in the face of life’s harshest realities. Le is not just talented but gifted with a capacity to inhabit the skin and history, personal and cultural, of each of his characters. The final stories in the book seemed to wander a bit before they fully grab your attention, instances perhaps of Le’s reach exceeding his grasp by just a little, though he ends up making them all work, if not so immediately and fully as the collection’s first four stories. He likes to take narrative risks and has the talent and judgment to reward the reader by delivering surprising insight with each risk. I look forward to his future work with great eagerness.

  • Paul
    2018-10-15 10:44

    I'll admit it. I sort of fell in love with this book's cover as soon as I sawl it on the New Fiction table at Bailey/Coy. I hemmed and hawed, picked it up and put it down, then finally let Michiko Kakutani and Mary Gaitskill convince me to fork over the $25. What I got from these stories, initially, was a really strong McSweeney's vibe. I couldn't quite put my finger on why this was, but the feeling was sustained, and eventually I figured it out. In the first story, Le writes about a writer struggling to write a story for a Iowa workshop. The writer is Vietnamese, like Le, but he doesn't want to write about Vietnamese people, since he feels like this'll be an "Ethnic lit is really hot right now" copout. In the remainder of the stories save one, he writes about anything but Vietnam. The jacket's flap says it all: "stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea." And so what it was, I realized, what was giving me that McSweeney's vibe, was the feeling of reading something that was just slightly less than authentic. And I mean just slightly. The italicized jargon -- of which there's a lot -- doesn't really call itself out as having been researched, and none of the stories feel underdeveloped, but I just couldn't let myself fall completely into the narratives. I thought the stories were good, just not great.Brief sidenote, check out this sentence: '"The child has the sickness," a voice said without a second thought.' What? A voice said without a second thought? I have no idea what that means, and I'm actually not sure it makes sense.Anyway, I'd love to read a novel by this guy, since I think the discipline of sticking to one subject might do him well. I just hope he'll embrace his ethnicity, though, so that he can write about pathos and human interaction, rather than trying to prove how un-Vietnamese he is by writing about Colombians and Iranians. Good young writer to keep an eye on.

  • Jennifer
    2018-10-02 13:37

    I feel like I should have enjoyed these stories much more than I did. There's no denying that Le is a talented writer able to distill a time, place and situation down to essentials but something put me off of this collection. It begins with a meta piece about a Vietnamese American writer in the Iowa program who needs to finish his workshop story and since "ethnic literature" is popular decides to write his father's story. In other words, a story about writing a story. The actual story tells both a bit of the father's story and also the son's struggle to deal with the father. It's well-written and there's a lot to think about but I couldn't connect with it. Then, as if to fly in the face of the value of personal "ethnic stories" Le proceeds to tell one tale after the next where the protagonists are as far from his demographic as possible: a South American teen assassin assigned to kill his best friend, an older famous American painter estranged from his daughter, a teenage Australian boy whose mother is dying, a Japanese girl sent to the country for safety during WWII, a woman visiting her friend in Iran. The main theme seems to be the divide between the people who we should be closest to and the pain this disconnection causes.Finally he caps it off with a story about Vietnamese refugees told from the perspective of a young woman. By the end he has proved that you do not need to be a certain ethnicity in order to tell its story and you know that while he may have Vietnamese ancestry it has nothing to do with the girl in the final story or his ability to tell it. I really respect that and am coming to admire the book more as I write this. However, I maintain that while he is able to clearly and accurately reflect many cultures this book is not particularly enjoyable to read.

  • Layne
    2018-10-12 18:47

    This is a book for those who believe that well-constructed art is not just what's nice to look at, but that which effectively causes the observer to feel. It's an extraordinarily poignant collection of stories about far-flung places and times that starts with a memory of Vietnam, penetrates the dark world of Colombia's slums, and accompanies an adolescent boy in a remote Australian fishing village as he navigates the dichotomous journeys of losing his mother and experiencing his first love. It wades through the glittering emotional wreckage of an ailing, estranged father in New York City, follows a child through the prelude to the bombing of Hiroshima in Japan, traces the steps of a woman's fight for equilibrium in Iran, and at last, in a poetically symmetrical terminus, returns to Vietnam, in a languishing vessel full of refugees searching desperately for escape.The book is difficult emotionally, with few likable characters, and yet the author conclusively transports the reader to each vastly different location and era, and straight to the core of each disparate mind, with a truly startling sense of reality. One continuously striking aspect of these stories is that they uniformly lack dénouement. Each one ends at its apex, leaving the reader mid-plunge and without the ballast of resolution. While this technique was at first frustrating for me, once I found my balance in it, I came to see it as a skillful illustration of the fact that life is about the journey, and the destination is meant for mystery.

  • QuyAn
    2018-10-16 15:50

    Muốn mở đầu năm mới bằng một quyển 5 sao cơ :((. The boat không tệ nhưng truyện ngắn không phải sở thích của mình. Lại một sai lầm bắt nguồn từ ngộ nhận. Tải quyển này về mấy năm trước sau một bài báo về các tác giả gốc Việt đang lên, và từ đó tới lúc đọc xong truyện đầu tiên vẫn nghĩ nó là tiểu thuyết về thuyền nhân Việt Nam. Thì ra không phải, không hề, dù có tí tẹo liên quan. Đọc quyển này cứ cảm giác như người bị sốt cao hôn mê, đang bị ai đó rượt đuổi trong cơn mê sảng, phải đối mặt với đủ loại khó khăn từ bên ngoài đến vô vàn giọng nói trong đầu. Không thích cách dùng ngôi kể của tác giả này, đọc hơi bị loạn đầu không biết là ai đang nói cái gì. Nhưng được cái văn phong kiểu gọn gàng dứt khoát, rất giàu hình ảnh. Nội dung thì phải khâm phục là rất phong phú. Nếu như trong truyện đầu tiên nhân vật chính (có vẻ phảng phất cuộc đời tác giả) quay về với câu chuyện của người Việt sau bao nhiêu cố gắng vùng thoát, thì thực tế quyển sách chứng minh điều ngược lại. Mỗi truyện ngắn là một chân dung một thanh niên với phông nền quốc gia khác nhau, và những khắc khoải riêng của bối cảnh và thời đại mà họ trải qua. Có điều đoạn cuối lúc nào cũng có cảm giác hẫng hẫng, kiểu chưa tới ấy.

  • Reema
    2018-09-17 11:57

    great scenes and some muscular, resonant narrative building, but just couldn't get into this. i think i need more careful language than this offered, and i got irritated by the self-absorbed, "masculinist" voice in some pieces which left me looking for a foothold into the story. also, i just don't understand why the pieces needed to range all over the friggin' globe. i mean, what made this cohere as a collection? (i guess i need to muster the patience to read the whole thing through . . . .) seen less charitably, the range in setting felt like the author showing off about his range of travels/experiences. which would be ok, i guess, if there were some substantial philosophical reason for this. but in an age of globalization, i feel like the local has thereby become all the more important, if only to reveal the extent of globalization's infiltration into most of our daily lives. i could go on with this riff, but i'm gonna sound plain cranky. one final complaint, tho: i'm sick of reading books by men where the women are either young, potential love interests or aging/dying matriarchs. surely, there's room in "the boat" for as much variation in female characters as in cultural milieu.

  • Benito
    2018-09-22 10:41

    I had heard good things about this book and then picked up a copy at the home of a misguided amorosa and started reading. Straight away I thought damn, this cat can really write! The amorosa ended badly, though I did get a short story out of it, which I dictated into my Nokia later on the steps of the Newtown schule. Through all the regrets I still couldn't get Nam Le's beautiful prose out of my mind (everything happens for a reason perhaps?) so I finally bought it. Let's hope the majesty of the 10 pages I read in the ill-fated boudoir continues through the entire book. PS: And the did, largely... The long stories that book-end this collection, and which relate to Le's own life as the child of a Vietnamese refugee, are the most elegantly written. The other stories as very well written nonetheless also, however one fears these stories, set in South America, Palestine and Iran, may have been a stretch of the suspension of disbelief at times. Also Nam Le seems to have a fear of closure when it comes to these other tales - perhaps this impression occurs because we know the end of his Nam/Oz/US stories - i.e. he became a celebrated author.

  • Ann
    2018-10-05 15:46

    The last book of short stories I remember staying with me this way was Jhumpa Lahiri's _Interpreter of Maladies_ and only on a second read. And, in the same way I felt inclined to weigh her stories against one another, I do the same in looking at Le's book. While not all of the stories in Nam Le's book prove to me to be of equal caliber to one another, I appreciate the type and variety of character detail he has managed to achieve in several of the stories. His longer stories do this better than shorter ones, and I would have given it five stars up until I passed the center of the book, where I felt the short stories began to compromise character development for setting or historical cultural moments. In these stories, he takes the reader as a sort of tourist in foreign countries, and I was left feeling so much description when into feeling othered by these societies that I lost the sense of the protagonists themselves, their struggles, their changes. While this could be read as a testament to the scope of Le's writing, I found it to be an area where he should compromise less in the future. Still worth picking up.

  • Vanessa
    2018-10-02 13:40

    Beyond the opening story, this is a fairly forgettable collection. After the third story it became a chore to read and after the dreadful Halflead Bay it became a penance to even look at the thing. The writer definitely has skill and - I believe - a bright future, but it seemed to me that he still is developing his talent. Despite not really enjoying this collection, I will keep an eye out for future work from him.

  • Clare Cannon
    2018-10-05 15:45

    A novel made up of seven personal stories of immigrants from different times and places and religious backgrounds, all of which involve significant physical and moral suffering. The stories do not resolve, which leaves the reader in sombre - perhaps confused - contemplation. There is frequent bad language, and several of the stories have rough and graphic sensual description.

  • Jane
    2018-09-15 18:36

    This was really quite an amazing book from a young first time author. He managed to capture the different cultural voices of his characters in his stories so well. Whilst sometimes confronting and depressing the stories were definately believable and clearly drawn from his own experiences as a migrant/boat person.

  • Daria Ravlic
    2018-09-17 14:39

    Osim prve priče "Ljubav i čast i sućut i ponos i suosjećanje i žrtva", koja je zaista odlična ali ujedno i autobiografska. Sve ostale priče krenu pa stanu, pa se pretvore u žvaku, pa se dugo žvačemo, pa opet nešto krene pa stane i tako u nedogled. Od čiste jedinice ju je spasila prva priča. Preznojila sam se dok sam knjigu pročitala.

  • Zara
    2018-10-06 15:44

    Some stories were 4 stars, but some weren't - and overall, I didn't want to keep picking this up. The last story, though, gutted me, and I've already had two nightmares revolving around "Hiroshima", so I guess that's something.

  • Mitchell
    2018-09-19 16:40

    It’s well-known in the writing and publishing industry that the reading public is far more interested in buying novels than short story collections. When I worked in a bookstore in 2011, Nam Le’s The Boat was the only story anthology – not the only Australian story anthology, the only story anthology full stop – that I recall ever selling any copies of whatsoever. And it was three years old at the time! It’s a sad piece of anecdotal evidence for the popularity of the short story, but a very nice one for Nam Le.The Boat won a raft of awards and is plastered with praise across front and back covers, coming from sources as lofty as Junot Diaz, Peter Carey, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post. And Le deserves it – his writing is instantly, irrefutably excellent, especially for somebody so young (he was 29 when The Boat was published, and most of the stories are from earlier than that.) Le has also received praise for the wide-ranging scope of his fiction, featuring stories ranging from a Colombian assassin to a New York art dealer to an American woman in Tehran. Those stories are bookended in The Boat by two which are clearly drawn from real life; “Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” in which a young Vietnamese-Australian writer hosts his father while at a writing workshop in Iowa, and “The Boat,” in which a boatload of Vietnamese refugees flee the country after the fall of Saigon, just as Le’s own parents did in the late 1970s, with Le himself a one-year-old baby.I was prepared to love Le for the fact that he didn’t simply write what he knows, but it’s ironic that “Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” clearly the book’s most autobiographical story, is also its best. From there it leaps straight into “Cartagena,” a story about a child assassin in Colombia, and while it feels authentic enough – laced with Latin slang and capturing what I imagine to be the filth and corruption and hopelessness of a Colombian metropolis – it felt somehow obvious; like writing a Mongolian story about a horse nomad or an Australian story about a jackaroo. Crime and corruption is all foreigners know about what is probably a large and complex nation, and crime and corruption is what Le gives us. Stereotype is too strong a word, because Le brings the same skill to “Cartagena” as he does to all his other stories; I believed in the characters, and the situation, and their reactions to it, but I could never shake the feeling that while I, as an Australian, found it to be believable, a Colombian would instantly recognise it as the work of an outsider.“Cartagena” is thankfully the worst example of that, because for the rest of the book Le is on firmer ground; “Meeting Elise” is set in New York; “Halfhead Bay” is a Wintonesque high school story in an Australian fishing town (which presents its own problems, but never mind); “Hiroshima” is fairly short and told from a child’s perspective in any case; and “Tehran Calling” is set in Iran but features an American protagonist.These are all good stories; perhaps not as great as the first one, but all worth reading. And in any case, I’d rather read an author who attempts to write about other places and cultures than someone like, well, Tim Winton, who is undoubtedly a brilliant author but ends up writing variations on a theme. Nam Le is well on the way to carving out a future for himself in the Australian literary pantheon alongside greats such as Winton and Carey and Keneally. It pleases me as a reader – partly because it can grow so tiresome, as a 20-something, to spend so long working your way through the 20th century canon – to identify a writer destined for great things, whom I can read from the very beginning of his career and watch develop. I can only imagine what Nam Le’s bibliography will look like when he and I are both in our 60s.(Although having said that, The Boat was published five and a half years ago and he’s done nothing since then and there are no hints of anything in the works, so who knows?)