THE INCORPORATION OF ERIC CHUNG by Steven C. Lo

THE INCORPORATION OF ERIC CHUNG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this odd and often charming first novel, Lo splices together two stories--one a tale of a Taiwanese student's culture shock in the US; the other an account of his later strange experiences in the maze of American big business. As we learn from a series of flashbacks, Eric Chung arrived in Los Angeles in 1972, with $400 and a ticket to Lubbock, Texas, where he eventually attended graduate school at Texas Tech. With a Candide-like nalvet‚ and a barely functional English vocabulary, Eric soon learned that ""everything in this country is upside down."" Fortunately, Victor Liu, an older student, took all his fellow countrymen under his wing, teaching them his tricks for survival--which included filing penmes into the size of dimes (for vending machines) and reusing uncancelled stamps. He also helped them get jobs off-campus (and off the books), and introduced them to porno flicks--all of this along the way to ""the big payoff: a real American job with a real American future."" Years later, in the present time of this self-mocking memoir, Eric seems to have found his payoff--he's President of Coldwell Electronics International, Inc., a company financed by a wealthy Texan hoping to score big on exclusive electronic imports from mainland China. The truth is much sadder--the company is the brainchild of a manic schemer whose contacts with the Chinese are more imagined than real. After six unprofitable years, old man Coldwell finally pulls the plug, leaving Eric (with his impressive-sounding title) to clean up the mess. Baptized by fire in the ways of American management, Eric realizes how little he really knows about his adopted country after 15 years. With gentle good humor, Lo captures the wildly disparate emotions of an immigrant both depressed and exhilarated by his new country. The other story--of corporate shenanigans--suffers from peculiar syntax and a confusing overall narrative design.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Algonquin