“Novels are delicate when they are being written, if also voracious. They move around my rooms, stripping half-finished poems of their lines, stealing ideas from unfinished essays, diaries, letters, and sometimes each other. Sometimes, by the time I get to them, one has taken a huge bite from the other.”
This collection of essays is part memoir, part writing advice. While I could spend a long time diving into how he explores his identities within this book as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, and an activist, in such an honest and raw manner, I want to touch on how he weaves writing into the narrative.
His essays on writing life and his education are rich with pieces of advice that will stick with me on my own writing journey. “The Writing Life” speaks of Chee’s time in class with Annie Dillard. “Talent isn’t enough, she has told us. Writing is work.”
The title essay contains vignettes as Chee talks of how to proceed through the fiction writing process. “This vision of the novel you are sure you can write sits in your life as a gift from any god might be willing to believe in. As suddenly real as any unexpected visitor. You must write it, you decide. It would be so easy.”
I loved this book for so many reasons, but mostly because we got the know the writer while also learning about how he writes at the same time. This book is a notable one for sure.