Author: Ocean Vuong Published: June 2019 Pages: 246 Rating: 5 stars
“I am thinking of beauty again, how some things are hunted because we have deemed them beautiful. If, relative to the history of our planet, an individual life is so short, a blink of an eye, as they say, then to be gorgeous, even from the day you’re born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly. (…) To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.”
There are no befitting words to express how beautiful this book is.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is an extension of Ocean Vuong’s award-winning poetry, a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. This debut piece of autofiction is an attempt to reach out and love more.
From the first page, Vuong captivated me with not only his precise, divine prose but also with his ability to invoke such deep emotions. Not a word is wasted, each sentence filled with tender imagery which is an absolute treat for the senses. Much of the story is deeply personal and painful. This book is an immigrant story, a queer story, a coming of age story. It asks so many questions: what does it mean to be free? What does it mean to love? There are questions surrounding addiction, violence and trauma. Vuong fixates on the minutiae of this complicated thing we call life and guides his readers into a world filled with heartbreak.
I’m a quick reader; I can make my way through chunks of texts in no time at all. However, with this book, I wanted to absorb every word. I wanted to feel every emotion he exposes in a stream of consciousness that exudes a raw honesty. I almost felt that I wasn’t reading a book but witnessing the heart-breaking scenes that he recounts play out before my eyes.
This book is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling. The structure sails back and forth giving us various snapshots and images of the protagonist’s life and their family’s history. And yet it doesn’t once feel disjointed. His prose is so elegant that there is a fluidity that weaves everything together so perfectly.
This is literary fiction in its purest form. It is writers with such sheer talent like Ocean Vuong who are crucial for articulating the stories we so need to hear. I loved this book. Every word is as gorgeous as the title suggests and I’m in utter awe.
Thank you Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I highly recommend reading this interview Vuong did with The New York Times for more of an insight into his intentions for this book!
You can find more about the book here on Goodreads.
Purchase the book here. Do it.
Thanks for reading!