cover image Songs on Endless Repeat: Essays and Outtakes

Songs on Endless Repeat: Essays and Outtakes

Anthony Veasna So. Ecco, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-304996-3

This magnificent posthumous collection by So (Afterparties), who died in 2020, brings together the short story writer’s essays and excerpts from his unfinished novel. In “Journey to a Land Free of White People,” So discusses his ambivalence about the film Crazy Rich Asians, recounting the “tenderness I felt watching” a set of “wildly different” Asian characters represented on screen while criticizing the film’s ending as a facile reconciliation of the “cultural contradictions” between the female protagonist’s Asian American upbringing and her boyfriend’s Singaporean family. “Baby Yeah,” the compendium’s most intimate essay, is a visceral meditation on So’s struggle to cope with the suicide of a close friend from his creative writing program: “What is remembering other than revitalizing a corpse that will return to its grave?” Chapters from Straight Thru Cambotown, the novel So was working on at the time of his death, focus on a Cambodian neighborhood in Los Angeles County shaken by the sudden death of Ming Peou, a pillar of the community and organizer of its unofficial bank. So’s distinctive voice blends mordant cultural criticism with a striking combination of humor, compassion, and insight. This is a bittersweet testament to an astounding talent. (Dec.)