Ocean Vuong on Salvaging the Texts of Our Ancestors
The Author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous on
A Phone Call From Paul Podcast
In this week’s episode of A Phone Call From Paul, Ocean Vuong takes the call from Paul Holdengraber to discuss his book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out now from Penguin Press.
From the episode:
Ocean Vuong: I think it’s so important to continue to collaborate with tradition and history because every participant in the epic has this opportunity to salvage new ways of thinking through the old texts. Our DNA contains those of our ancestors, and yet we are living in the present because of them, the idiosyncratically new versions of the old. I think what happens with the Greek texts, particularly how it is “canonized” within the canonical, is that many Greek people would perhaps argue […] that this is our literature that has been appropriated into the large western canon. Perhaps [they’d] want to take it back. What does it mean?
I think a canon is a strong rubric to work against and work with, and it allows us to add new dimensions to make it richer.
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Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds and the New York Times bestselling novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. A recipient of the 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he is also the winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have been featured in The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.