Category: Truong, Monique

a vietnamese feast — The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

image found here
image found here

[CN: Colonialism, racism]

The sting of salt in the sea, or on the breeze. The salt in the kitchen, in sweat, in tears, seminal fluids. This fabulous debut novel was recommended to me by a college friend. She regretfully informed me that it’s a cis male-centered narrative, but its treatment of gay and colonial experience puts it leagues ahead of the normie material ive been going to lately, as far as that sort of thing goes (i definitely need more recs from her in the future; her reading palate is a lot more decolonized than mine).

i was enthusiastic bc it’s an historical novel that involves Vietnam and Gertrude Stein, or GertrudeStein as she goes in the text, and Paris in the 30s. It turned out to be an incredibly sumptuous weaving of good food, intense intimacy, loss and longing. It was the kind of prose where certain paragraphs could work on their own as a poem — the membranes between the words and their meanings become porous. Albert Camus once remarked on the novel as being philosophy conveyed thru images. In this book the nonlinear narrative and ruminative tone bring all of its themes into a congealed whole.

So a lot of this blog is gonna come off as raving, as THE BOOK OF SALT offered for me a lot of really exciting possibilities for contemporary historical fiction. It taps into frontier historical concepts, and its style moves away somewhat from transparent naturalism while not being an Ultra-Difficult PoMo text. It’s also great if you’re interested in a same-sex romance novel without any sex, yet exploding with eros. It’s in the language.