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All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: A Novel Paperback – September 12, 2011
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That's the basis of Lan Samatha Chang's latest novel All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost.
The novels succeeds on many levels:
1) Mood and Tone: Reading this novel is almost like watching a movie where the colors are a dark-bluish. I simply felt the world around me stop as I read through each section.
2) Economy of Language. Chang delves into issues of achievement, doubt, worthiness, infidelity, guilt and betrayal with frighteningly simple language. This novel won't send you hunting for your dictionary.
Also, the writing is very visual. Often novelists stray from the story path to get on their soap boxes to talk about other issues NOT related to the story. Not Chang. She has a laser-beam focus on the story path from beginning to end.
3) Resonance: You may start to think about your own success after reading this novel, and who you allow to define whether your work is a success or failure.
This is a sparse, atmospheric novel that moves along at lightening speed. I will read again, and will recommend to others.
On the surface it is a story of esoteric academia but as you read you will witness relationships between flawed individuals, their struggles to define and achieve happiness, narcissism vs. the desire for intimacy, the damage caused by failed family relationships, the effort required to create art and so much more. This novel is heartbreaking.
I would suggest picking up another copy to share because you will want to keep yours for the bookshelf.
Kudos to the Rumpus Book Club because I would not have found this on my own.
Bernard lives frugally in a tiny rent-controlled Manhattan apartment, hardly interacting with others socially, save his friendship with Roman and Lucy Parry, another classmate. Lucy offers Roman words of encouragement when he is plagued by self-doubt, shielding his poems from the critical others in Miranda's seminar. Miranda is pivotal in this novel and these lives, touching each in unexpected ways as they fall into the rhythms of daily demands in the years after graduation. Roman remains the touchstone of this experience, the successful poet by which to measure the others, a prestigious prize upon graduation ushering him into a world he had only imagined. That same prize is at the root of his discontent, the gradual reshaping of his personal narrative. The world of poetry is insular, passionate, the debate between craft and talent endless. And for all the careless assumptions, the judgments made in haste, time inters the simple longings of youth under layers of memory and regret.Read more ›
Interestingly, though, I finished the book thinking nothing about Miranda and having experienced very little poetry.
Roman, the main character, dominates the book, as well of most of the relationships in his life. His complicated relationship with his teacher, Miranda, his relationships with the other poetry students, his friendship with Bernard...all are overpoweringly focused on Roman. Even what remains of his family depends solely on him.
"He understood now, viscerally, something he had only suspected as a child: that he was his family's aftermath. The most urgent betrayals, the great conflagration that had destroyed his family: all of it had taken place before he could remember, and the last traces were now burning out in the lightning synapses of Emily's winter dreams."
The problem with the book being so Roman focused is that he is a character that is so closed off - so inaccessible to the reader (at least this reader) that there is very little passion or fire to this book. I spent the first 1/8 of the book learning about the characters and then the remaining part of the book feeling as if the action taking place was all anti-climatic...with little idea what the climactic event might have been.
The women characters tell Roman at various times in his life that his poetry is guarded in such a way...that "there's something hidden about the poems. They draw attention and give nothing back.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A writer friend recommended this short novel to me. I was skeptical, as I’m not a huge fan of novels about graduate school, and this story opens with our main character, Roman, in... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Len Joy
This is a brilliant work both as mainstream fiction and as a so-called campus novel. The tone and style are evocative, the world authentic, and the characters' lives intersecting... Read morePublished on January 28, 2014 by Eric Duffy
This is a beautifully restrained yet rich meditation on choice, self-deception, envy, art, and the passage of time that reveals the complex interconnections of all these forces to... Read morePublished on April 24, 2012 by reality bites
However, not for the writing itself, but more for my identification with the literary world of graduate school. Read morePublished on October 19, 2011 by Lois Minsky
Never would I have thought a novel could draw me deeply into a tale of poets striving to create poetry, but this book did exactly that. Read morePublished on September 17, 2011 by meltingsnow
At one point in this novel, set at the renowned writing school in Bonneville, Miranda - the inscrutable and aloof poet and professor - assesses the poetry of her star student Roman... Read morePublished on May 18, 2011 by Jill I. Shtulman
I heard abut this novel on NPR it inmediately got my attention because of such wonderful title. Not only a beautiful story but so carefully written. an absolute pleaure to read.Published on March 20, 2011 by Eduardo
**Reviewed for [...]**
All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chan is a haunting, and creative novel about how there is so much more to people than what is... Read more
I received an early copy as a gift and what a wonderful gift it is. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. Read morePublished on November 23, 2010 by Granny