Marina Nguyen lives in New York City where she works as a writer. Her father is from Argentina. Her mother is from Vietnam. She was raised in Virginia. This is her first novel.
Marina's florid and lyrical writing style is strongly influenced by nature, which she first became interested in as a child when she collected butterflies caught in her backyard with a gardening bucket. The themes of life, death, ephemeral beauty, violent struggle, and nuanced spirituality inform her characters as they seek meaning, love, and identity in their journeys across an elegantly torn world.
This is the first paragraph on Chapter 19 of Dead Animal People. Though there is a section of the book that addresses 9/11 directly, I feel this description of Irene McShooley, a protagonist born into the Vietnam War, captures the brutality that war imbues into all who experience it:
She was born of war. Toothless grandmother screams and broken cat legs. Rivers on fire and bloated corpses slumped along muddy banks like animals quietly stalking unsuspecting prey. Lungs stained with gasoline and maggot filled livestock parts flung against fence posts. The screams of rape carved by teeth into dank basement floors and the glowing curls of fire from hooches as spotted pigs screamed like bleeding children in the jungle shadows. Tuyen Luong – Irene – was born into this, and war was in her soul, her being, the way other children are born with a talent for the piano or an allergy to peanuts. Irene was born haunted, and haunted people never belong entirely to themselves. From birth they belong to the past. And without permission from the past, they can never move on.
I was taught, like most people, that stealing is bad. I learned this from my parents. Now that I’m an adult, I just can’t understand how a writer could steal from other writers. After all, this is a difficult profession fraught with obstacles and challenges that no other job entails.
If we don’t have each other, who else is going to encourage us, support us and show us empathy? Even if honor isn’t enough to prevent a writer from stealing words, ideas and the muse from others, how stupid can you be to think you won’t get caught. I’m sorry, Jonah Lehrer, but you should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t try to rationalize this as caving into pressure.
We all—every writer out there—feels that pressure and most of us decide to handle it by buckling down and focusing on our craft and the assignment at hand. Whether it is a novel, news article or poem, every writer out there knows that the key to being a professional is knowing how to handle stress and soul-crushing disappointment. You suck it up and move on. You don’t take from others and claim it as your own.
Despite the many ways traditional publishing has disappointed both writers and readers, it’s simply wonderful to see people–New Yorkers in particular–connect so deeply with the books while commuting. Love this website.
“His insights were naked and powerful, his life heartfelt and poignant. Boldly insecure and damned funny, Rakoff connected with people because he was honest about being sad. For Rakoff, being unhappy was OK, even normal. For many of us, this unwelcome truth was beaten out of us as children and replaced with Santa Claus.”
Have a favorite Nora Ehpron quote? Leave it in the comment section. : (
“The desire to get married, which – I regret to say, I believe is basic and primal in women – is followed almost immediately by an equally basic and primal urge – which is to be single again.” – Nora Ephron
“Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy.” – Nora Ephron
“I don’t care who you are. When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.” – Nore Ephron
“I am continually fascinated at the difficulty intelligent people have in distinguishing what is controversial from what is merely offensive.” – Nora Ephron
No one enjoys being disrespected, which is why authors who self publish need to stand up for themselves. As we all know respect isn’t given; it’s earned. And self-published writers have done enough to earn the respect of everyone in the publishing community, from readers to industry CEOs. What have self-published writers done to deserve this status? Plenty. Let’s start with having enough gumption, creativity and basic common fucking sense to see where technology is heading and embrace the reality that the ways readers interact with books is changing. You didn’t need to be a genius ten years ago to realize that books and bookstores would be replaced by emerging technologies and digital content.
Nevertheless, the publishing industry sat there like an old set of encyclopedias. Instead of devising a strategy to exploit these new trends, publishing houses cowered together like teenagers in a bad horror movie and came up with the most unimaginative, crass and soul-crushing plan: to take no risks at all. Are you an author whose first book didn’t sell 40,000 copies? Fuck you. You have a great idea for a book but aren’t a celebrity? Fuck you, too. The publishing industry also invented the shady concept of “platform” which is a ruse meaning “have you done all of the work for us and can guarantee your book will sell so we don’t’ have to do anything? If so, sign here, Snooki.”
The publishing industry would like you to think there is a shortage of talented writers out there; how else could they explain not being able to find a novel worthy of this year’s Pulitzer Prize? Talented writers exits, but no one is really looking for them. Flipping through literary journals and attending the occasional writer’s conference to find talented writers is like going to the zoo to discover Africa. We all know, of course, that the problem the publishing industry has with finding good writers is that they get mixed in with all of the bad ones. Unfortunately, myopic literary agencies address this challenge by using interns new to New York City (can you say par-tay?) to weed through the queries. Those queries that make it to the next level must have an Ivy League graduate literary agent “fall in love” with it.
It’s no wonder no one fell in love with A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s about a planet they’ve only heard about and people they don’t understand. Which brings us back to self-published writers. Despite all of the change the publishing industry has encountered, one thing hasn’t: writers kept writing. It’s what they do. And when the book world fell apart, the writers didn’t. They kept writing. Even more, they learned to crop photos and self publish. So it’s time for self-published writers to come down from bell tower and demand the respect they deserve. They may have just saved books. If only John Kennedy Toole could have made it long enough to self publish. It could have saved his life.