I met Lily Hoang in Buffalo, New York, at a gathering of writers that followed the proceedings of the &Now Conference in 2009. It felt like a magical time: I had just released my first book; Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas was but a month old; earlier that year, Matt Bell had published his first chapbooks (How the Broken Lead the Blind and The Collectors); Elizabeth Ellen from Short Flight/Long Drive Books was there, hanging out with Kendra Grant Malone; Ryan Call was there, too, long before we knew he’d win a Whiting Award; and Lily Hoang was handing out to all of us copies of Changing, the novel that would later win the Pen/Beyond Margins Award. We all knew each other already, or at least we kind of did. We read each other’s blogs and commented on them. We tallied links on our blogs’ sidebars, the old Blogger Blogroll, tying us together in our digital web. It was partly due to the chaos of our many blogs coexisting that Blake Butler and Gene Morgan created HTMLGiant, so that the site might stand in as a gathering place for all of us. But for these brief three days we were all, physically, together.
Since then, it seems that whenever we’re at a conference of some kind, like AWP, Lily Hoang and I end up hanging out, just talking, cruising the book fair. I always want to know what Lily’s working on, because no matter what I can be sure it’s going to be as magical as that first weekend when we met.
That first book of Lily’s that I read, Changing, is magic itself. A “translation” of the I Ching, although Lily does not speak Chinese, it moves from section to section (organized into hexagrams), telling and retelling the stories of Little Girl, of Jack and Jill as Jack and Jill and not as Jack nor Jill but as Little Red Riding Hood and as no one you might recognize other than the characters themselves. And it is so much more. An incantation.
That probably sums up Lily Hoang’s writing: incantations. Incantatory. Canciones.
And Lily was generous enough to present to us a batch of new songs.
Lily has long been a practitioner of and advocate for the tropes commonly found in fairy tales in use in contemporary literature. But she also just has fun with language, as when “a violet umbrella neons.” In these stories (especially in from Homely but Comely) we see her playing with the form and convention of fiction itself, or, as the academics like to call it, metafiction. Perhaps what’s most important that I point out about Lily Hoang’s work for readers of Atticus Review, is that hers is exactly the kind of fiction I’m always looking for: It sits in some no-man’s land between poetry and fiction, myth and reality, fiction and nonfiction. The attention to language use and originality supersedes any notion of traditional narrative. Additionally, these are simply amazingly engaging texts. I adhere to that Jamesian ideal that all we can hold fiction to be is that it be interesting. Lily Hoang has proved to be that and more not only in her fiction, but as a person, as every chance I’ve had to spend time with her has proved to be immensely interesting.
In This Issue:
Photo By: eltpics