My Book World
Novel: Essays. Boston: Houghton, 2018.
This collection of essays is a staggering one. In the way that fiction writers link short stories, Chee links essays to explicate how he works as a fiction writer. His metaphors are simple yet profound. His advice is wrenched from the heart, and yet at no time does he allow sentimentality to interfere with his message. The entire collection—like a group of short stories, like a novel—possesses a narrative arc that is subtle, inching readers toward the climax, easing into a quiet denouement. The book seems nonlinear, but Chee glides readers from a few youthful months spent in Mexico becoming fluent in Spanish, to his older youth in college with Annie Dillard as a professor, to his maturation into an astute, caring professor of creative writing, to the publication of his first novel and how it explores and ultimately exposes the biggest secret of his life.
The Publishing Triangle, a long-established organization for LGBTQ writers based in New York, recently awarded this work the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction. I hope, as a tour de force, it will win even more accolades in the coming months or years. Chee is a remarkable writer, and anyone who takes a seminar from him ought to feel fortunate.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-41 Nevada