Starred Library Journal Review of Skin Deep

Check out the nice review of Skin Deep from Library Journal!

Despite her Asian features, her father really is Irish, her mother Norwegian. Her name is Siobhan O’Brien, never mind everyone’s surprise when trying to gauge the incongruity between her face and that moniker. Short answer: Siobhan is a Korean-born, upstate New York–raised transracial adoptee. At 40, she’s just inherited a private investigation agency since her boss of two years has suddenly dropped dead (of natural causes). The business has enough banked to last three months, or she could sell and net a comfy $20,000-ish. Inexperience aside, she chooses to stay open, and her first case turns out to be a doozy: to reunite her late best friend’s younger sister with her missing teenage daughter, Siobhan will need to infiltrate a radical womyn’s group at a nearby college, agree to trespassing, check into a yoga center, get poisoned by mushrooms, avoid a multinational billionaire’s posse, and, in between, maybe even risk falling in love.

VERDICT: With just the right mix of clever twists, endearing charm, looming threats, and contemporary issues (identity, privilege, cultural appropriation, the ugliest parts of the beauty trade), literary novelist Woo (Love Love) debuts quite the absorbing new mystery series, hopefully with multiple volumes to come.

Reviewed by Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC , Jun 12, 2020

Library Journal – https://www.libraryjournal.com/?reviewDetail=skin-deep

11/2/2018 7:30pm: The Washing Society/Loads of Prose

Attention, friends and strangers who happen to live in the vicinity of NYC!  I’ll be at the Anthology Film Archives on Friday, 11/2 at 7:30pm, to take in the screening of the film The Washing Society and afterwards, I’ll be doing a reading in support of Emily Rubin‘s Loads of Prose.  My story is titled “The Best of the Vest,” and if you want to know what it’s about, come on by!

Here’s a trailer for the movie.

The Washing Society (trailer) by Lizzie Olesker and Lynne Sachs – 2018 from Lynne Sachs on Vimeo.

And here’s all the info you need for the event.

THE WASHING SOCIETY/LOADS OF PROSE
Screenings and Readings
Thursday and Friday November 1, 2 at 7:30

ANTHOLOGY FILM ARCHIVES
32 2nd Ave NYC NY 10003
212-505-5181
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org

The Washing Society
by Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs
2018, 45 min, digital

Film Notes

SPECIAL SCREENINGS: ARTISTS & SPECIAL GUESTS IN PERSON!

Featuring laundry workers Wing Ho, Lula Holloway, and Margarita Lopez, and actors Ching Valdes-Aran, Jasmine Holloway, and Veraalba Santa.

THE WASHING SOCIETY brings us into New York City laundromats and reveals the experiences of the people working there. Filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker collaborate to observe and investigate the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat, and the continual labor that happens there. The intersection of history, immigration, and underpaid work is woven into the film’s observational moments and interviews, along with the uniquely public/private exchange of dirt, lint, stains, and money. The juxtaposition of narrative and documentary elements creates a dream-like, yet hyper-real portrayal of a day in the life of a laundry worker, both past and present.

Screening with:
Lizzie Olesker & Lynne Sachs DESPERTAR: NYC LAUNDRY WORKERS RISE UP (2018, 5 min, digital)

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Thurs, Nov 1:
Historian Tera Hunter, whose book TO ‘JOY MY FREEDOM depicts the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses in Atlanta, and Mahoma Lopez and Rosanna Rodriguez (Co-Directors, Laundry Workers Center), will join us to discuss justice in the workplace.

Fri, Nov 2:
‘Loads of Prose,’ a reading series staged in laundromats, presents authors Emily Rubin (STALINA, 2011), Sung J Woo (LOVE LOVE 2015, EVERYTHING ASIAN, 2009), and Christine Lewis (Organizer, Domestic Workers United), who will read their stories of hidden labor and the challenges of our changing neighborhoods, where infrastructures are crumbling due to the visceral and economic demands of gentrification.

And here’s a bit of lovely trivia — I watched the film Private Life this afternoon, written and directed by the always wonderful Tamara Jenkins.  It’s currently playing on Netflix, and how cool is it that the Anthology Film Archives is featured in the film!  Check out the screencap.

Private Life (2018)

Active Adverbs

Whenever things don’t go well on the writing front — that is, I find myself doing anything but writing when I’m supposed to be doing exactly that — I pick up my copy of The Collected Stories of Richard Yates.  He’s been my corrective for quite some time.

He’s a deceptively simple writer, a master of the unfettered prose.  And I swear, every time I read him again, I pick up something new.  Like here, a passage from the first story in the collection, “Doctor Jack-o’-Lantern.”  The story is about a new kid in class and his teacher, who thinks she’s helping him out, except she’s accomplishing exactly the opposite.

The last children to leave would see him still seated apologetically at his desk, holding his paper bag, and anyone who happened to straggle back later for a forgotten hat or sweater would surprise him in the middle of his meal — perhaps shielding a hard-boiled egg from view or wiping mayonnaise from his mouth with a furtive hand. It was a situation that Miss Price did not improve by walking up to him while the room was still half full of children and sitting prettily on the edge of the desk beside his, making it clear that she was cutting her own lunch hour short in order to be with him.

Adverbs are bad, we are told.  And yet, “seated apologetically at his desk” and “sitting prettily on the edge of the desk” — these adverbs are so active, so alive, that I think no, you absolutely can and should use adverbs, just like this.  Sparingly, strategically deployed.

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

I did not know who Andrew Sean Greer was until I heard he’d won this year’s Pulitzer prize for fiction, and I continued to not know him and his sixth novel Less until I heard him read an excerpt in the New Yorker Radio Hour.  That was it; I was sold.  That short story was about Arthur Less, a nonfamous writer invited to Turin, Italy, by a minor literary prize, and it ran from one hilarious moment to the next.  Greer is one of these incredibly blessed people who just write funny.  Like how he describes the airplane lunch: “Tuscan chicken (whose ravishing name reveals itself, like an internet lover, to be mere chicken and mashed potatoes)”.

There are two things about Less that bear mentioning on a craft level (because they are absolutely crafty in the best sense of the word):

1) Greer sprinkles flashbacks judiciously throughout this novel, and he’s quite deft in the way he sneaks them in.  Example: in the last chapter, there’s this part: “…he sees a few people waiting on the dock, and among them — he recognizes her through her clear umbrella — is his mother.”  It’s not his mother, of course; rather, it’s a woman who is wearing a very similar scarf.  But this moment of misrecognition gives the reader the perfect way into this memory.

2) This novel is narrated by an unnamed character, one who acts in an omniscient manner about 95% of the time, but then there are these startling confessional first-person moments.  It’s so smart — Greer gets to have his cake and eat it, too, because he has the flexibility to play god and go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, and yet he also preserves the closeness of the first-person narrator when he wants to deliver an extra helping of heart.

This is just a wonderful novel, gentle and loving and funny and sad.  Unlike many literary novels, things actually happen in this book, lots of things, tons of things.  It is, after all, a travelogue of sorts, with Less jumping from country to country, continent to continent, to avoid his former lover’s wedding and his impending 50th birthday, so there’s serious propulsion in the narrative.

The writer Greer reminded me most was another favorite of mine, Brian Morton.  Fans of Starting Out in the Evening or A Window Across the River will find a great friend in Less.  I can’t wait to read the rest of Greer’s fiction.