A debut novel chronicles a young Asian-American’s odyssey of frustration and redemption.
To say that David, the narrator of this story, is irked by a lot in life would be an understatement. Feeling as though “the Creator didn’t like me,” David details his coming-of-age in Los Angeles as he attempts to get rich, have sex, and otherwise attain the more tangible rewards in life. But those prizes, despite his best efforts, manage to remain out of reach. Beginning with his stalled pursuit of a girl named Jeannie Kim, who he winds up admitting “never considered me a real man,” David’s long story of embarrassment goes on to incorporate a number of adventures. From his time spent with a pyramid scheme to a stint in Mexico City, his experiences are varied, brutal, and not meant for the squeamish. A lover of movies and professional wrestling, David frequently embraces pop-culture references. When observing a fight at a nightclub in which he spends time as a struggling waiter, David sees a patron “doing the flying body press like Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat.” While such reflections may not be universally understood, they help to humanize the protagonist. David may be short, no friend to the environment (his pastor admonishes him as “the biggest litterbug I have ever seen!”), and downright pathetic, but he is, in the end, just as flawed as the rest of humanity. Though his thoughts delve deeply into the crude (“My schlong was like the Elven sword wielded by Frodo that turned blue whenever the Orcs were near,” he says of his penis), they are never outside the imagination of a man mystified and alienated by modern sexuality. Notable for informative tidbits (such as the concept of “booking” at Asian nightclubs), Oh’s tale also offers some episodes that drag. While much can be gleaned from David’s time as a nightclub waiter (including images of his business cards), readers may find their attentions wandering when the narrative turns to topics such as the markup price of whiskey. Though David’s eventual path to Christianity is long (and bumpy), the final pages of this vulgar, detailed, and amusing novel see a man who has come an extraordinary distance.
Far from a sanitized fable, this book delivers a highly nuanced and lurid account of one man’s surprisingly spiritual quest.