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Pamela: A Novel is Pamela Lu’s take on Asian American identity in the age of “poststructural” uncertainties; the book possesses an engaging darkly comic narrative voice. Indeed, she clearly pokes fun at lofty theoretical discourse that is the mainstay of academia (especially in the humanities and social sciences), while still investigating the problematic ways in which late-capitalist subjects attempt to find meaning in an increasingly chaotic landscape. Scholars and academics will really appreciate this book simply because they are one of its intended audiences, as she employs promiscuous terms such as diaspora and displacement as a way to interrogate various characters’ obsession with high theory as it clashes with everyday life and pop culture. Because my current work is so wound up in critical studies engaging the aftermath of 9/11, I wondered about how to approach the clearly solipsistic characters and their often randomly apolitical musings about love and life. All characters are only notated through initials (for instance, the narrator’s friends are called, C, L, R, etc) , but their individual identities become difficult to parse out because Lu employ’s a fierce stream of consciousness technique that never allows to reader to fall into a lengthy narrative trajectory. A characteristic passage appears here: “So we found it natural, if not imperative, to be assaulted and overwhelmed by memories which were not our own but which we nevertheless carried as though they had actually happened to us. In this sense, the history of our lives was always the history of someone else. We were forever displacing ourselves in the chain of events without knowing who exactly was doing the displacing, and our lifetime goal, if we desired success in the conventional sense, consisted not in getting to know ourselves, but in getting to know ourselves less” (33). While this statement seems interesting, what Lu does as a manner of course throughout the novel is to leave such statements primarily abstract. She does not provide that which perhaps the conventional reader might want, which is an example by which she can investigate this claim on memory, history, and displacement. As such, I don’t have many points at which I can say, such and such happened; I only have fragments and impressions (eg of the section set in Orange County at the “Anti-Mall,” a location I have eaten at myself!) and these tiny fragments and impressions are perhaps what Lu intends.


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A Veritable Literary Feast

July 2017

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