Việt Thanh Nguyễn: The Sympathizer

A thrilling, entertaining, and exploiting picaresque narrated by a communist spy who is a Mỹ Lai (son of a Vietnamese mother and a Western priest). Although Nguyễn had left Vietnam when he was four, he masterfully captured many scenes that are relatable to Vietnamese Americans. As someone who rarely reads novel, I managed to get through the book because of Nguyễn’s playful, virtuous writing. My paperback copy is now filled with Post-It flags. Here’s a taste on cleavage:

While I was critical of many things when it came to so-called Western civilization, cleavage is not one of them. The Chinese might have invented gunpowder and the noodle, but the West had invented cleavage, with profound if under appreciated implications. A man gazing on semi-exposed breasts was not only engaging in simple lasciviousness, he was also meditating, even if unawares, on the visual embodiment of the verb “to cleave,” which meant both to cut apart and to put together. A woman’s cleavage perfectly illustrated this double and contradictory meaning, the breasts two separate entities with one identity. The double meaning was also present in how cleavage separated a woman from a man and yet drew him to her with irresistible force of sliding down a slippery slope. Men had no equivalent, except, perhaps, for the only kind of male cleavage most women truly cared for, the opening and closing of a well-stuffed billfold.

Bonjour Vietnam