Garlanded with near-universal, well-deserved praise, Nam Le's The Boat is as strong a debut story collection as you're likely to read, strong enough to bring a smile to Michiko Kakutani's face. In case you've been living in a cave for last month or two, here's just a sampling of what she had to say:
He conveys what it might be like to be a young American woman visiting Tehran and comparing her own life of romantic disappointments and career satisfactions to that of an Iranian friend, who has chosen to commit herself to a life of politics and dissent (“Tehran Calling”). He conveys what it might be like to be an Australian teenager, preparing to face off against a thuggish rival’s claims to a girl, even as he tries to cope with his ailing mother’s impending death (“Halflead Bay”). And in the two stories that bookend this collection, he conveys what it might be like to have the Vietnam War as an inescapable fact of daily life, infecting every relationship and warping the trajectory of one’s life. In “The Boat” he does so directly with devastating results; in “Love and Honor” he does so elliptically, creating a haunting marvel of a story that says as much about familial dreams and burdens as it does about the wages of history.
There's no shortage of raves to be found, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Australian, but don't believe us, go look for yourself. Then see what all the fuss is about by dropping us a line, subject line "ROCKIN' THE BOAT" and please, please, please include your full mailing address. Also, new rule as of today: rather than a permanent ban on previous winners, we're limiting the window, so if you've won within the last six months, you're ineligible, otherwise have at it. Finally, we are all to aware several of you are waiting for your books - we swear this weekend is a Post Office weekend, and we're clearing all the backlog.
We'll take your entries until 10 p.m. PST at which time, the Random Number Generator has its way. Until then!
UPDATE: Congratulations to longtime reader and contest entrant Stephen Benzel of Louisville, KY.