On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous eBook ´ Earth We're

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family a first love and the redemptive power of storytelling On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read Written when the speaker Little Dog is in his late twenties the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son it is also a brutally honest exploration of race class and masculinity Asking uestions central to our American moment immersed as we are in addiction violence and trauma but undergirded by compassion and tenderness On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heardWith stunning urgency and grace Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are The uestion of how to survive and how to make of it a kind of joy powers the most important debut novel of many years

10 thoughts on “On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

  1. says:

    “All freedom is relative—you know too well—and sometimes it’s no freedom at all but simply the cage widening far away from you the bars abstracted with distance but still there as when they “free” wild animals into nature preserves only to contain them yet again by larger borders But I took it anyway that widening” 4 12 stars StunningOn Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is uite a book It is not surprising that the author is a poet as this reads almost like a poetry collection prose poems each capturing a moment a memory a feeling or an idea so beautifully It doesn't follow a regular narrative structure but is instead a series of snippets or moments The style won't be for everyone but for those who love the raw punches of poetry it is a fantastic bookI found it difficult to believe this was fiction There is something about Little Dog's story a certain raw honesty and earnestness that seems to come from a place of truth Maybe because much of it does The author draws on recent and historical events stories of well known figures artists and tragedies to weave his fictional story with every inch of our realityThe book is a letter from Little Dog to his illiterate mother He talks frankly about race gender sexuality masculinity grief and language without allowing the book to be overwhelmed by the heavy subject matter The last one language is a major theme and the author explores the importance of language on both a micro and macro level the choice of individual words and phrases and the power or lack of bestowed upon an individual by having access to language and literacy For such a tiny novel it is huge in its scope From the Vietnam War to Barthes to Tiger Woods to 50 Cent to Little Dog's first romance with a white boy it's somehow both a philosophical book about humanity and language and a deeply personal bildungsroman It is impossible to categorize but it is undeniably both brief and gorgeousBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. says:

    Ocean is a brilliant writer and I am a fan of his work I even published him once in PANK It has been thrilling to watch him soar The prose in this novel is sublime The way he writes is just exuisite He writes the body so well He writes about the complicated relationship between a mother and son with real tenderness with compelling honesty He writes sex better than almost anyone out there There are so many lines that gutted me or exhilarated me or stunned me I wanted to sit with each line and just feel it as deeply as I could The intimacy of the novel as a letter between a son and mother was poignant That said I just didn’t fall in love with this book The prose was perhaps too beautiful too resonant without enough story behind it That is a personal preference the desire for story As I got deeper into the novel I kept wanting a clearer sense of where the story was going I wanted to feel like there was substance to hold all that style I do still recommend this novel because I've never read anything like it

  3. says:

    ✧ find this review others on my blog ✧“ Dear Ma ” within the narrator’s head—or it might have been his heart—the name begins tolling very much like a bell “ I am writing to reach you—even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are ” And although he knows his mother is illiterate—her education capped at the age of 5 after a napalm raid destroyed her schoolhouse in Vietnam—and thus all his hours and pain will be folded in paper and put away the words kept tumbling out catching fire as they wentHe is Little Dog—a nickname given to him by his grandmother because “to love something is to name it after something so worthless it might be left untouched—and alive” And he is a wound in the fabric of the world and onto this letter he is bleedingIn his first novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” Vuong assumes the voice of Little Dog who writes to his mother like being pushed from a great height tumbling down snatching at anything that would prevent him from falling The reader could just imagine her there hovering just at the edge of remembrance stooped with decades of working in factories and nail salons wilting her like an unwatered flower—those places “where dreams become the calcified knowledge of what it means to be awake in American bones—with or without citizenship—aching toxic and underpaid” A mother the tighter he gripped the she melted away—like trying to hold on to the reflection of the moon Tenderness resentment delight anger Little Dog’s voice carried all of it when he said her name It carried every blow a shock of bright pain against his skin and the gentle tales that soothed his fighting soul and the words struggled with the contradiction Another figure in the periphery of his vision a grandmother trembling with age whose mind sometimes breaks all the terrors pouring out once a teenage bride escaping an arranged marriage “her body her purple dresskeeping her alive” as a prostitute for American GIsNeither of them whole because no one is ever whole in the aftermath of brutal war and its bloody endAnd in another corner of Little Dog’s mind creeping farther over it with every page is Trevor They met on a summer job on a tobacco barn Trevor’s grandfather owned and there they shared the sensation that they were absorbing each other melting together in an blistering crucible “Did you ever feel colored in when a boy found you with his mouth?” But Trevor’s sweet perishing beauty is withering into earth with every swallow of the painkillers he’s addicted to lashed to a flood of misery and self loathing and theirs was a love affair as brittle and breakable as a twig under iceVuong understands the elouence of violence and his words buzz with a red savagery blooming drawing as much blood from the story as possible Whether it’s his nuanced yet viscerally potent exploration of sexuality or his simmering mordant probing of family first love immigration and fate his writing is a pleasure to readVuong shows Little Dog’s feelings as water shows ripples and one can only assume that he must have drawn on some wellspring of sorrow within himself—growing up in America ueer and the son of an immigrant His narrator Little Dog writes as if he is embracing his memories a final time pressing hard as if to set them into his skin He writes with the kind of honesty that bypasses language and finds its way into your heart uncut His words are sometimes as soft as a shawl that wraps against the cold but other times they cut to the uick like the rasp of a whetstone down a blade Oftentimes though the alphabet seems to transmute itself into incoherent pitchforks wavering as if this were a fraying dream The result is a book that can’t be described without borrowing some of the author’s own language “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck—the pieces floating lit up finally legible”“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” affected me like the gentle stroke of a callused palm and I wanted to lean into it and let it stroke me forever I couldn’t stop reading as if the words were a rope and if I only kept it unbroken I would be held by it unable to leave—and yet at the same time I often grasped for a feeling of escape a moment to gasp for breathWith Little Dog’s confessional missive before me my own childhood’s brutalities shone through as they never had before So much of what I felt reading Little Dog’s words to his mother—delivered on the page as soon as they felt the brush of the dark unreal places where pain in a thousand variations and memory mingle—cannot ever crystallize into something small enough for words Little Dog writes each word desperate than the last “When does a war end? When can I say your name and have it mean only your name and not what you left behind?” The answer is not as easy as paring rot from fruit But in his bruised and aching letter for the space of a few hundred pages Little Dog stops winging doggedly onwards dragging the uncertainty of the answer and lets it all spill out of his body onto the paper in search for solace “I’m breaking us apart again so that I might carry us somewhere else”I do not doubt that readers of all sorts will find solace in Vuong’s words or at the very least something to connect with in this capaciously moving and ultimately hopeful novel☆ ko fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  4. says:

    ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS will be described rightly as luminous shattering urgent necessary But the word I keep circling back to is raw that's how powerful the emotions here are and how you'll feel after reading it scoured down to bone With a poet's precision Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one's experience can bridge wounds that span generations and whether it's ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most

  5. says:

    May 31 marks the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s birth and the best present we could possibly receive is Ocean Vuong’s debut novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” The connection between the Good Gray Poet and this young Vietnamese immigrant may seem tenuous but with his radical approach to form and his daring mix of personal reflection historical recollection and sexual exploration Vuong is surely a literary descendant of the author of “Leaves of Grass” Emerging from the most marginalized circumstances he has produced a lyrical work of self discovery that’s shockingly intimate and insistently universalThe fact that we can hear Vuong’s voice today in America stems from a function of tragedy and serendipity As Vuong explains in his 2016 poetry collection “Night Sky With Exit Wounds” his grandfather was a US soldier who found a farm girl in Vietnam “Thus my mother exists” he writes “Thus I exist Thus no bombs no family no me”That willingness to solve the euation of his own existence no matter what its components is a To read the rest of this review go to The Washington Posthttpswwwwashingtonpostcomentert

  6. says:

    So you go to a high end restaurant with an elaborate tasting menu You are served dishes with fancy names that involve sublimated beetroot gel and deconstructed potato foam and though the experience is uniue and artisanal you go home feeling unsated My experience with this novel in a nutshellAt first glance Vuong’s book has all the ingredients of a winning novel — lyrical writing fascinating themes a topical premise Taking the form of a long confessional letter from a young Vietnamese immigrant to his illiterate mother the novel explores race otherness and ueer identity What’s not to love? Sadly the book ultimately felt hollow and unsatisfying due to its performative uality “On Earth” reads like the product of a writer modeling his work on the idea of the “serious literary novel” having reverse engineered a novel out of a checklist of common criteria One can almost hear the author plotting in the background “If I intersplice this historical chapter with scenes of animal torture it will be so literary” The result feels forced and highly manufactured full of writing designed to distance and impressEven the lyrical writing which at first appears the novel’s strongest suit turns out to be an emperor without clothes The text is continually yearning reaching grasping — trying to extract profundity out of moments without actually saying much A sampler “A page turning is a wing lifted with no twin and therefore no flight And yet we are moved”Do I sound harsh? I hope not If I could speak to Vuong directly I would say thisYou do not have to fold your story into a mould that you think will appeal to a ‘literary elite’ Drop the pretension Shed the performance and we may find — underneath all those layers — a uniue and valuable testamentMood AffectedRating 5510Also on Instagram

  7. says:

    This is such a beautiful book title and it was the title that drew me to read the description and reuest a copy of it Not only is the title beautiful but much of the writing here is as well It’s described as literary fiction but a brief look at Ocean Vuong’s bio after I read this book made the biographical nature of the story striking This letter from a young Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who doesn’t know how to read is raw impactful achingly sad painful to read It is filled with flashbacks to his childhood when he is bullied at school physically abused by his mother protected by his grandmother It is filled with stories and memories of his mother and grandmother’s past fleeing Vietnam as their pasts become part of his story It is about a love between a mother and son It is a story of a young boy trying to find his place in this country It’s an intimate portrait of his first relationship as he falls in love with another boy A warning to those who might be bothered by explicit sex scenes You’ll find them here The vivid descriptions of the times he spent in the nail salon where his mother worked were eye opening There’s drug addiction There are also poignant moments reflecting his love of his mother and grandmother The stream of consciousness felt a bit disjointed in last part feeling like random thoughts and it lacked the cohesiveness of the earlier part for me thus 4 instead of 5 stars This book is not for everyone but it’s worth reading for the beautiful language and amazing portrait of the Vietnamese immigrant experience for the intimate piece of his heart and soul that this writer sharesI received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin Press through Edelweiss

  8. says:

    I am out here stanning the success of Ocean Vuong’s debut novel As a fellow ueer Vietnamese American it feels so amazing to see someone with my same ethnic and ueer identities breaking through in the literary world – and so sad that we have to fight so hard for our voices to be heard This book took me on a scattershot beautiful emotional journey It felt less like reading a novel and like reading tender poignant passages about several connected moments our narrator Little Dog accidentally triggering his immigrant mother by pretending to be an explosion Little Dog listening to his grandmother’s stories of war and survival as she descends into mental decay Little Dog reflecting on his gayness and the violence experienced by gay people both in Vietnam and in the United States At several points I had little clue what was happening chronologically and where we were exactly in Little Dog’s life and I didn’t feel too bothered by that lack of structure because of the visceral beauty of Vuong’s writing like the moments he wrote about Little Dog translating English for his mother and grandmother and the weight that comes with that how he wrote about so many specific moments related to immigration and trauma and resilience I love even this brief passage that gives a small glimpse into the complexity of family and immigrant life with Little Dog writing to his mother I remember walking with you to the grocery store my father’s wages in your hands How by then he had beaten you only twice – which meant there was still hope it would be the last I remember armfuls of Wonder Bread and jars of mayo how you thought mayo was butter how in Saigon butter and white bread were only eaten inside mansions guarded by butlers and steel gates I remember everyone smiling back at the apartment mayonnaise sandwiches raised to crack lips I remember thinking we lived in a sort of mansionI remember thinking this was the American Dream as snow crackled against the window and night came and we lay down to sleep side by side limbs tangled as the sirens wailed through the streets our bellies full of bread and ‘butter’”How could you not feel something with that level of uality detailed prose?I give this four stars instead of five mostly because I feel like the romance weighed this book down I just didn’t really feel like Little Dog’s relationship with Trevor contributed much to the book? Like I appreciate the exploration of ueerness in the context of being Asian American and within the context of an immigrant family I also liked how Vuong wrote gay sex in a way that felt realistic in its messiness instead of doing what a lot of people – especially heterosexual women who write gay sex – do by glossing over its complexities and portraying it as seamlessly hot But I didn’t really get much from Trevor and Little Dog together aside Little Dog dating a white boy with toxic masculinity issues I wish there had been interrogation of the power dynamics involved with dating a white person or even being intimate in any way with a white person when you have a marginalized racialethnic identity Or I wish there had been space to see Little Dog reclaim his power apart from his relationship with Trevor My sense is that if the space devoted to Trevor had been both streamlined and redirected toward giving structure to Little Dog’s relationship with his mother and grandmother On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous would’ve been even phenomenalA great read I would recommend to fans of poetry poignant and emotional narratives and my fellow ueer and Vietnamese andor Asian American readers Just check out this lovely line and then check out the book if you’re so inclined Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence – but that violence having passed through the fruit failed to spoil it

  9. says:

    Recently when I have opened my Goodreads web page it has seemed to be full of people giving a lot of stars to this book and singing its praises in glowing reviewsI opened the book with high hopesOn Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous uses a fragmented narrative to tell or perhaps explore is a better word the life of Little Dog a son born to Vietnamese immigrants into the USA The reader gradually pieces together the story of Little Dog’s mother Rose and grandmother Lan along with Little Dog’s own experiences growing up especially his teenage love affair with TrevorOcean Vuong is an award winning poet and this is very evident in this his first novel Many of the narrative fragments read like poetry and it feels as though every word has been agonised over before being committed to paperI should have loved this book I have said time and time again that I look for atmosphere above plot in a book and Vuong’s fragmentary poetic style certainly works through atmosphere and imagery rather than story telling It is the reader’s job to compile the storyBut somehow I just could not engage with the book at all I think it was partly the effort that has clearly gone into the writing Each word has been polished to become so perfect that the overall effect seems to hide the content from the reader well from this reader rather than draw them in For me reading this felt like trying to penetrate a shell that would not yield to reveal its contents That shell is undoubtedly beautiful but I feel I am only admiring the exterior not the heart which for a book so personal and intense seems self defeating Part of the problem I had is that the book is framed as a letter from the narrator to his mother But it is made clear early on that the mother is illiterate so we know from the outset that this is just a framing device to allow the author to give voice to his emotions We know he is writing into a void and so it seems does he I also have to acknowledge trigger warning coming that there is a scene fairly early on in the book that features gruesome animal cruelty which really upset me and made me hesitant to pick the book up again for a while and then very nervous as I was reading in case something similar should happen again That’s a personal reaction as I am not good at dealing with animal cruelty in a book but this is about my experience of the book so it has to include my personal viewMy thanks to Random House UK for making a copy of this novel available to me via NetGalley I’m sorry I did not appreciate it because I thought it was going to be a top read of 2019 for me and I ended up disappointed I would give the book 3 stars but the animal cruelty really got under my skin and detrimentally affected my experience of the book

  10. says:

    No review Just a list of adjectivesBrutalRawDevastatingBeautifulIncandescentStunningThe author didn't write this book; he opened his heart and just let it bleed all over the pages Reading it cracked mine open and turned me inside outJust a sample Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness I want to look him in the eye shake his hand and say Its been an honor to serve my country

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