Magazine article World Literature Today

The Collective

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Collective

Article excerpt

Don Lee. The Collective. New York. W.W. Norton. 2012. isbn 9780393083217

Sylvia Plath did it with the oven door ajar. John Kennedy Toole did it with a garden hose. Hart Crane did it with the famous farewell, "Goodbye, everybody." The suicides of these thirty-somethings exemplify the tragic tendency of young writers and artists to torture themselves in isolation and self-despair for the sake of their craft. Accordingly, this is what thirty-eight-year-old writer Joshua Yoon was supposed to do as an Asian, an orphan, and an artist. It was the only explanation for someone who "had no reason to do it, and yet he had every reason to do it."

In The Collective, the fourth novel by Korean American author Don Lee, the self-inflicted fate of Joshua Yoon is merely the placeholder for a bildungsroman about three artists who meet in the freshman dorms of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1988. The three friends later live in an artists' cooperative in Cambridge, Massachusetts, originally the home of Joshua Yoon's deceased parents, and finally disperse along the U.S. coasts.

The Asian Artists Collective, or 3AC, is the constant for narcissistic and passionate Moor, beautiful and intricate Jessica Tsai, and literary romantic Eric Cho-the novel's contemporary Nick Carraway. …

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