Viet Thanh Nguyen Packs Loads of Motion and Outrage Into ‘The Dedicated’

The overwriting on this novel solely not often bothered me. Extra usually I used to be reminded of George Balanchine’s remark that if his dancers didn’t often fall onstage, they weren’t actually going for it, and of John Coltrane’s emotionally overblown notes in “A Love Supreme.”

The second half of this e book is shaggy, shaggy, shaggy. If it’s not a complete breakdown, it’s one thing shut. The person of two minds turns into a drug seller. Because of the French Vietnamese girl he calls his aunt, who works in publishing, he has entry to left-wing French intellectuals, who’ve a robust style for his merchandise. Infecting France with Japanese medicine is his personal tidy type of payback.

It is a bookish novel. It’s the sort wherein a bouncer at a brothel reads Voltaire. The introduction of those French intellectuals, in addition to the narrator’s personal studying, permits him to brood over the revolutionary concepts of Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Marx, Sartre and others. In these writings, the operating canine of capitalism are walked on lengthy mental leashes.

Tragedy and comedy mix awkwardly on this novel’s second half. Nguyen might be very humorous. Overhearing his “aunt” have intercourse, for instance, he’s fairly positive she cries out “GOOAAAAALLLLLL!”

The narrator turns into concerned in gangland violence. Gangster movies, Morris Dickstein reminded us, are immigrant fables. Nguyen seems to take to coronary heart Robert Warshow’s remark that if the gangster movie tells us something, it’s that it’s harmful to be alone.

Nguyen consigns his characters to a sequence of frazzled, far-fetched eventualities. Mayhem feeds mayhem. There are a number of prolonged torture scenes within the again half of this e book that don’t work in any respect. (“You’ll be able to’t torture me,” the narrator says, in error. “I’ve lived via a re-education camp.”)

Nguyen doesn’t discover a tone for these scenes. They’re terrible of their method — there are rubber hoses and electrodes clamped onto nipples — however they’re onerous to take critically. There’s a daft James Bond high quality to them. The torturers fritter their time away, lengthy sufficient for the tortured to be rescued. Doorways are kicked open with a bang; weapons blaze. You sense the creator making an attempt to maintain the plot frantically spinning, slightly than elegantly extending his themes.

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