love like hate-linh dinh

that’s what this book is about. i have officially devoured through linh dinh’s prose. i’m a sucker for a writer with a sense of humour. i swoon extra for someone that can speak the viet kieu questionings and teach me sumthin’ sumthin’. yes, i did actually try to go to the mcdonald’s employee porn site, and wasn’t even mad when it wasn’t real, because it could’ve been-damn catfish. clever with a sense of history present, i appreciate the complication of gender roles that call everyone out-like when kanye ends golddigger by saying “and when he gets on, he’ll leave you for a white girl”. the truth hurts just that good.

Since people are flawed, a marriage must be flawed. Though it beats living alone, a marriage is always a misunderstanding between two dishonest people with selfish intentions, she thought, shuddering, sipping her beer. That’s why most of them end in divorce, murder suicide, or a suicide pact. Marriage is simply a justification for murder, she concluded. A good marriage, relatively speaking, is one that ends prematurely in a fatal traffic accident. All in all, I consider myself very lucky. Her own imperfect marriages she blamed on history. If history can kill and maim, then of course it can yield flawed husbands. A second here, an inch there, and each of us can be dead a hundred times over, so being badly married isn’t the worst thing. Having reached middle age, she also realized that in any male-dominated society, women are forced to marry down, not to their social inferiors, but to their inferiors period. She shuddered thinking about whom Hoa might marry in the future.” (170-1)


4 thoughts on “love like hate-linh dinh

  1. faith-full to palmela handerson:

    “He couldn’t help himself because they were always available. The coolest website, however, was Thousands of real McDonald’s workers worldwide posed on the Web with only parts of their uniforms on. Nothing gross or tacky, no ketchup or mustard smeared in unlikely places, no showers of pickles, just crew members disrobing into artistic poses. It was terribly exciting. Jaded could recognize Lakeesha and Tina from his very own McDonald’s. /Dang, you gurls are real fine, I’m loving it./ There were even gay and lesbian sections. It seemed like everyone and his grandmother were posing naked on the internet. Jaded envisioned a day, very soon, when one could google any name whatsoever and find nude photos of that person on the internet. Perhaps one should call it the idternet.” (15)

    “Unless you’re living in the best neighborhoods, Philadelphia is indeed everything David Lynch claims it is: a very sick, twisted, violent, fear-ridden, decadent and decaying place. Huyen was so shocked, she wanted to go back to Vietnam immediately. Only pride prevented her from doing so. Grays Ferry was sullen and desolate and everyone seemed paranoid. Saigon is often squalid but it is never desolate. Vietnam is a disaster, agreed, but it is a socialized disaster, whereas America is-for many people, natives or not-a solitary nightmare. If Americans weren’t so stoic and alienated, if they weren’t so cool, they wouldn’t be so quiet about their desperation.
    Huyen could handle poverty, but she had no aptitude for paranoia, the one skill you needed to survive in Philadelphia. In Saigon you dreaded being cheated or robbed, in Philadelphia you feared getting raped and killed. In the end, Philadelphia was worse than /Eraserhead/, because it didn’t last for 108 minutes but went on forever. As in Vietnam, Huyen sought comfort in American movies to escape from the real America she could see just outside her window. Every American home has its own inviolable domain, a fortress with the door never left open. The rest of the world could go to hell as long as there was enough beer in the fridge and a good game on TV. And utopia was already on the internet, why go outside if you didn’t have to? In the morning, Huyen kept the door locked, bolted and chained, and watched Jerry Springer-in his glasses and tweed suit the image of a college professor-to learn more about Americans and improve her colloquial English. In the afternoon, she took a bus to the YMCA to attend an ESL class. At night, the couple barely screwed in the land of bountiful screwing. His wife was so tense, Jaded went back to masturbating.” (18-19)

    “Western cunts prefer clit stimulators and vibrators to a real prick on a real man like myself. A clit stimulator has five speeds-vibrate, pulsate, surge, escalate and armageddon-whereas a real man only has two: desperate and dire. Westerners prefer sex toys so they can avoid playing mind games with each other. Conditioned by capitalism, they cannot share anything. They must hoard everything from their sins to their thoughts to their genitals. The sexual situation in the West is sorrowful nowadays, and that’s why a country like Vietnam is the answer.” (234-5)

  2. home again:

    “She learned about American precision. Huyen became aware that America was a country of straight lines and geometric exactness where everything must be quantified: your breasts, your income, your batting average. Life must be constantly measured to show that profits and progress were being made. She noticed a parallel between capitalism and Communism: Both loved to count, since both were materialistic. More wealth equaled more happiness, hence the constant need to take stock of everything. But Vietnamese were poor counters, she reflected. Their traditional units of measurements were inexact. They liked to fudge, round off numbers, manipulate scales, ignore rulers. Before the French arrived, they didn’t count the hours or tick off the seconds.” (21)

    “Nineteen sixty-three was a pretty good year to be a lowly commissioned officer, perhaps, but not so great if you were president of a country. In February, Iraq’s Abdul Karim Kassem was shot after a Baathist coup engineered by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In November, South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, originally installed by the CIA, was shot in a military coup engineered by the CIA. Among the plotters were future strongmen Saddam Hussein and Nguyen Van Thieu. John F. Kennedy was also shot in November. In knocking off a leader, a killer becomes in effect paterfamilias to an entire population. Unwittingly, many of us have been orphaned, then adopted, by the CIA, the world’s number-one deadbeat dad.” (61)

    “Like the Chinese, Mexicans, and southern Italians, Vietnamese are highly superstitious. They possess an unscientific mind set that allows them to believe just about anything…as long as there is enough poetry in it. To ward off an outbreak of thrush, a child’s first excrement-an odorless yellow slime resembling egg yolk-is smeared into his mouth right after birth. At one month, a boy’s scrotum is caressed upward with a warm hand, to prevent it from sagging. To tighten his nut sack, three pouches of uncooked rice are hung over a door, to be squeezed by those entering the room. For a girl, a heated betel leaf is rubbed on the vagina, to prevent it from flaring. A child with a drowned relative has to wear a brass anklet to ensure being “dragged” to a similar death later in life. Children under ten are discouraged from looking into mirrors, lest their souls, embodied within the reflected image, should play tricks with them.
    Innumerable superstitions guide you from the cradle to the grave.” (65)

    “To travel from Saigon to Hanoi is to go back in time. The navel of Vietnamese civilization, a place of ancestors, Hanoi is haunted by a thousand heroes, tyrants, and poets. It first became the capital in 1010. By contrast, Saigon is only three hundred years old. The main stage for much of Vietnamese history, Hanoi is also its dustbin. So much has happened there only to be ignored, distorted, or forgotten. Entire centuries reduced to hearsay and ashes. Perhaps one should call Hanoi a dumpster.” (116)

  3. waiting for superman:

    “During recess, all the teachers sold snacks to make money. The literature teacher offered sugarcane cubes and pineapple chunks in plastic bags. The history teacher pushed pudding. In the evening, he diversified by peddling balloons of cartoon figures, Barney and Mickey Mouse, etc., up and down the street. As an entrepreneur, he was superfriendly toward everyone, even Cun. However phony, the common courtesy encouraged and enforced by capitalism did make life more tolerable. Like all parents, Kim Lan gave Cun money to give to his teachers to bump his grades up. Cun hated them so much, however, he always kept these bribes for himself. In the spring of 1987 he quit school over Kim Lan’s weak objection. He decided he was going to spend the rest of his life sitting in his mother’s cafe. From now on he would live life as painlessly as possible. To pass the time, he sipped iced coffee and chewed on one toothpick after another.” (101)

    “They would never master English, no matter how hard they tried. Agents of bad English, they’d only be parodying and perverting it. They were like a virus running rampant inside the decadent English body. There was no vaccine and it was too late for a quarantine. As soon as they opened their mouths, these annihilators of English infected native speakers with their horrific pronunciations, spellings and grammar. With amusement, Sky often found himself babbling like a retard, just to be understood by his so-called students. Drugged by Hollywood films and armed with electronic dictionaries, these students were no more than assassins of English. As for that rarest of foreigners, countable on one hand, more likely one finger, who was capable of beavering forward in a passable English, all they were doing was injecting weird, foreign ideas into the Anglo mind, making it less Anglo. In sum, the corrosive influence of billions of bad English speakers will make the language unrecognizable and irrelevant.
    Take Latin: Even after being dead for fifteen hundred years, Latin-based words continued to be sloshed and gargled by billions of unclean mouths around the world.” (180-1)

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