LFTW Reviewed in Magill’s Literary Annual
15 June 2011
Long for This World is a featured title in Salem Press’s Magill’s Literary Annual 2011, just released. This means that an in-depth essay-review has been commissioned and published in the Annual. From Salem Press’s description:
Each year, Magill’s Literary Annual critically evaluates 200 major examples of serious literature, both fiction and nonfiction, published during the previous calendar year.
The philosophy behind our selection process is to cover works that are likely to be of interest to general readers, that represent the major literary genres, that reflect publishing trends, that are written by authors being taught in literature programs, and that will stand the test of time.
These reviews are about four pages long – much more detailed and thorough than most magazine and journal reviews. Here are some highlights from the essay-review, written by C. L. Chua:
Sonya Chung’s Long for This World is a most promising debut novel of ambitious spatial scope and intriguing psychological depth. For Chung’s “world” is nothing less than the whole contemporary, jet-spanned globe as well as the exquisitely wrought, infinite spaces of her protagonists’ interior psyches. Indeed, the novel’s characters, locales, and events form a transnational, extended-family saga, involving a host of personages leading varied lives in different cultures on several continents, all of which is narrated through a polyphony of narrative viewpoints.
The length of such a complex book could have easily rivaled that of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1875-1877; English translation, 1886), to which Chung nods at one point in her novel, but Chung seems to be applying a principle of imagism in order to keep her narrative compact. She hints at this principle in the coda of her novel when her first-person narrator, Jane, an internationally acclaimed photojournalist, mounts an exhibit of her work significantly entitled “Accidental Family.”
Chung’s structures her narrative through the presentation of verbal snapshots of time, place, and persons, allowing the snapshots to relate a story through imagistic juxtaposition or contrast, by zooming in to elaborate with details or zooming out for a holistic perception. Chung’s narrative, then, is not linear; its events are not linked causally but casually, almost accidentally, and the reader is drawn into constructing the links between Chung’s images of moments in a contingent existence. Chung’s verbal images are themselves gems of brilliant clarity and sharp focus—whether they be of the delicate minutiae of the preparation of a Korean meal, the visceral fear of a woman confronting a snarling dog, or the skin-scouring details of a Korean bath house […]
Sonya Chung’s Long for This World is a strikingly accomplished novel of a new talent. Rich with brilliant verbal images, complex family relationships spanning multiple generations on two continents, and sharply realized characters both flawed and admirable, Chung’s novel is a disturbing photo album that interrogates its viewer about a highly contingent contemporary existence in which it is just as easy to feel that things happen for no reason as to feel that they do happen for a reason.
Nice cover image, eh?
Authors included this year are Martin Amis, Louise Erdrich, Chang-rae Lee, Steig Larsson, Alexander McCall Smith, Sue Miller, Kenzaburo Oe, Scott Turow, Michael Lewis, Sam Lipsyte, David Remnick, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Robert Stone, Ian McEwan, Patti Smith, Anne Carson, Rebecca Skloot, among others.