“Fiction is strongest when it launches a moral question. When it goes out and seeks to answer. To create an architecture in which the book can try to answer a moral question. The questions that we couldn’t ask in life because the costs would be too much. Fiction and, in a sense, narrative art, gives us a vicarious opportunity to see these questions play out at no true cost to our own. I treated my own life that way. And the lives of my family. I was very protective of them. I wouldn’t dare to ask them these questions, and so I’ll ask these questions to the holograms.“
– Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
Poet and author Ocean Vuong joins us this week following the re-release of his debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. We discuss reckoning with one’s work from a distance (5:08), why he wrote an autobiographical novel (6:30), the cage of American masculinity (11:00), how he’s stayed the course, creatively, amidst oppressive systems (19:56), and what it means to be a first-generation writer (22:43). On the back-half, we wrestle with the grief of his mother’s passing and the tragic shootings in Atlanta (27:30), and the collective uncertainty of 2021 (42:38). Then, before we go, a tribute to his late mother and a song by Nina Simone (49:32).
- Get your copy of Ocean’s debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous & his poetry book, Night Sky With Exit Wounds.
- Follow Ocean on Instagram.
- Listen to Nina Simone’s “I Shall Be Released.”
- Check out the upcoming virtual press tour for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.
- Learn more about Ocean on his personal website.
- Illustrations by: Krishna Shenoi.