Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: Waylaid

The title has a dual meaning that can make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

Ed Lin's Waylaid focuses on the life of a vulgar, yet intelligent adolescent who is forced to live and work at a sleazy motel at the Jersey Shore, because his parents own it. The unnamed narrator has an obsession with sex and getting laid at an early age. He's exposed to these thoughts by the Bennys (city dwellers from the North Jersey/New York area) and the johns that frequently rent the hourly rooms at the motel.

Fortunately, Waylaid goes deeper into the narrator's life (as Samuel R. Delany once told a class, "Hell is having to read other people's pornography."). Lin deals with the concept of being "other"--the narrator is the American-born son of Chinese immigrants. While his parents still embrace their Chinese heritage while assimilating into society, their son is very Americanized (he doesn't even eat Chinese food). One of the challenges they face is that they are the only Chinese family in the town. To complicate matters, the narrator has to cope with being the kid whose parents own the sleazy motel. All of this means that he has next to no social life outside of school.

The narrator, like many adolescents, resents his parents for controlling his life. He also brushes aside almost any adult who shows him kindness--he tolerates talking with them, but hates to listen to what they have to say.

Lin writes about racism toward Asians, but he doesn't include a serious tone when writing about it. Most it comes off as being comedic--it sounds so unbelievably ignorant that some might laugh at the characters' stupidity.

This novella (it's only 168 pages) lives up to Lin's description of it being his "dirty book." If it wasn't for his humor and bizarre situations (it is the Jersey Shore after all), this would be trash. If you can get past the profanity of the adolescent narrator, this is an amusing read.

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