I really needed not to sleep at 7pm today so I went for an evening book reading by Australian Vietnamese author Nam Le. His first book, The Boat, has already won some pretty impressive reviews in America and Australia.
In any case, I went there without any prior knowledge of him or the book (was actually expecting long-haired Vietnamese girl), and I also got to the bookshop late given that both me and my Filipino “classmate”, Jaton, are equally hopeless with directions. There was a huge crowd and our view was blocked by bookshelves. But immediately, I was hooked to this guy’s recitations – firstly, because his Aussie accent just sounded so comforting (for some strange reason, I felt homesick for Melbourne) and secondly, he writes bloody damn well and is refreshingly different from the usual cookie cutter “ethnic”/minority literature.
I knew I wanted to get the book after hearing just one chapter. And when the crowd cleared at the end of the reading, I was surprised to see this rather dishy young man (turns out he’s my age) who’s immensely polite and friendly. I ask him what footie team he supports. For that moment, Nam loses that placid writer demeanor and snorts, “Of course it’s Collingwood, what else is there?” he says, exactly like the way Cami’s Michael (also Magpie fan) says it. And we talk a bit about life in Melbourne just like the way I used to do with random tram strangers. Which I thought was extremely down-to-earth of him considering he’s all set to becoming a great and famous writer.
His inscription: “To Melanie, fellow devotee of the greatest city in the world!”
An excerpt from his book can be found here: