four hundred and fifteen

Read IN BED: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

By Matt Lennon

I raced through On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous during a few summer days when it was first published in 2019. I revisited it for a second time during lockdown, and, although I enjoyed letting the words wash over me the first time around, I’ve come to realise it’s a piece of work that requires sufficient space to truly ruminate on the prose.

Written by acclaimed poet Ocean Vuong as a letter from a son named ‘Little Dog’ to his illiterate mother, the book recounts a family’s history that began before he was born. While drawing a line from the terror of the Vietnam War to the legacy of trauma that lives within those who experienced it, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous manages to unfurl lightly and with the delicacy of a sail being set in a gentle breeze. It’s within this light touch that Vuong’s prodigious talent lies, giving him the ability to explore race, masculinity, addiction and violence through a poet’s lens.

As the story continues, themes of immigration and otherness experienced by the narrator's mother are paralleled by Little Dog’s own experience of growing up queer in small-town America. For me, it’s in these chapters that Vuong’s ability to conjure complex and richly nuanced characters is at its most clear-eyed; his use of words and images both brutal and intimate at the same time.

If you’re looking to while away an afternoon or evening at home On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a beautifully compelling place to start. Best of all, it’s available to purchase online at some of our favourite local bookstores below:

Books Kinokuniya
Potts Point Bookshop
The Bookshop Darlinghurst
Oscar & Friends