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Paperback Edinburgh Book

ISBN: 0544916123

ISBN13: 9780544916128


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Book Overview

From the best-selling author of How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee's award-winning debut is One of the great queer novels . . . of our time.--Brandon Taylor, GQTwelve-year-old Fee is a shy Korean-American boy growing up in Maine whose powerful soprano voice wins him a place as section leader of the first sopranos in his local boys choir. But when, on a retreat, Fee discovers how the director treats the boys he makes section leader,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

An Ingeniously Conceived Modern Myth

Alexander Chee's first novel is the tale of a demon fox who is finally captured. Aphias Zee or Fee is an American of Korean and Scottish descent. In early age Fee's grandfather tells him the tale of Lady Tammamo, a fox who fell in love and, after being ridiculed by the community after her husband's death, engulfed herself and her husband's body in flames. He believes himself to be a fox in the shape of a man. Greek mythology informs his destiny as well, subtly setting the stage upon which the events of his life play. Yet, above the decorous theatre is a profoundly human story of Fee's experience growing up in Maine and, along with eleven other boys, suffering sexual abuse at the hands of a Boys Chorus instructor named Big Eric. Sex and suicide surround Fee through his entire adolescence and teenage years. He learns somehow to survive with the elements of creation and death orbiting him constantly, but it is an empty sort of existence for him. Passion is expended on lovers he doesn't care for. The guilt of his former instructor attaches itself to him as he discovers quickly that he is a homosexual himself. His natural desire is tragically intertwined with the other's perversity. His first love, Peter, becomes for him a distorted mirror image of all he is not: blonde, straight and freed by death. Thus, he embarks on an endless struggle to merge with this image, to fall into it, be devoured and emerge cleansed by flame. Despite surviving (barely) through college, making close friends and finding a lover, Bridely, who he marries in a commitment ceremony, Fee is unable to escape from his past and the conception of his own destiny militated by his demon fox spirit. He is paired finally with a spectre from the past and the mirror image he longed to meld into.The first most striking quality of Chee's unique prose style is his use of metaphor. With a lyrical intensity, the world is shaped by Fee's subjective understand of what surrounds him. Like the best of Eudora Welty's stories, the author uses metaphor to beautifully invoke experience with hyper-intensive feeling. The most emotionally unsettling moments of the book are captured with startling imagery. These moments not only convey the essential elements of the story, but also distort the world in a way to disturb and inspire your conscious interpretation of it. The understanding of desire and love are wildly twisted to unsettle and force you to think of the nature of their meaning. You are pushed to re-evaluate your own experience: "Do you remember what it was like, to be young? You do. Was there any innocence? No. Things were exactly what they looked like. If anyone tries for innocence, it's the adult, moving forward, forgetting." The structure of the novel impresses the need for these contemplations all the more. The first person, present tense of the narration impresses a sense of immediacy relevant for the dramatization of the characters' consciousness. Noticeably, the quotation marks of speech ar

Artfully written and hurriedly devoured

Creeping toward the uncomfortable, Edinburgh exposes the taboo of pedophilia. This is a story of defeat, numbness, loss, love, revenge, and pinching reality. The events in the character's lives are stories we may have picked up along the way from friends or family, nothing too astonishing not to believe. A great book that makes you feel privileged to have read, like your now part of something larger.

A difficult review to write

This is a wonderful, very intense novel, that left me quite stunned at the end of it, which is why this could be a difficult review to write. Chee?s writing is not always the easiest to read, but it has great power and truth. He hauntingly conveys the horror of Fee?s situation both as it occurs, and the residual impact on the next twenty years of his life. Chee introduces characters sparingly, and nobody appears for no good reason. This is not a light book, understandably, but if you have been interested enough by what you have read above to be reading this, then I recommend this novel to you. Go ahead and take the risk, Edinburgh will reward your efforts. Finally, the above review from Publishers Weekly is incorrect, as it is not Fee who "embarks on a bizarre journey to find his identity, exploring his bisexuality while dabbling in drugs until he finally learns that his own absent father is also an imprisoned pedophile." It is another very important character that goes on that journey.

A stunning debut by a thoroughly unique talent

There is a joy in discovering new novels by fresh young writers that compares favorably with the elation of returning to the works of the masters. Alexander Chee has burst onto the scene with a novel unique in language, in mode of storytellng, in nuances of imagery that the oft overused adjective "stunning" feels to be the only appropriate descriptor. Known only to this reader from his contribution to the touching anthology LOSS WITHIN LOSS, Chee emerges here in his debut novel EDINBURGH as fully groomed storyteller, wordsmith, poet, and excavator of the human plight. His ability to wrap a tough story in the atmospheric language that adroitly mirrors the onomatopoeia of the Asian language patterns while enchanting us with the beauty of Korean mythology and anthropomorphism takes what could be a loathsome tragedy and creates a sensitive coming of age and rites of passage tale.The story is well documented on this site by the editorial and customer reviews and that is adequate to inform you of what lies between the covers of this seemingly short novel. But the story seems only a matrix to explore, with the metaphors of air/earth/fire/water that Chee so consumately weaves in this poetic tapestry, a young man's journey through the abyss and height of self discovery, of sexuality, of ancestral imprints, to the eventual knowledge of his pace in the cosmos.Consider even the chosen title EDINBURGH: in the state of Maine (and in the state of youth) the main character enters a safe haven library whose ceiling is a fresco of that city in Scotland struck by the Great Plague and whose library contents contain the centuries old last words of a man dying from that disaster. Chee takes that particular moment to let us envision the past and the future of a young man on the journey to self discovery. How perceptions and memories of childhood eventually inform our sense of adult self, how the choices of repetition of pain and old habits can lead to self destruction or, conquering them, foster a spiritual state of grace and resolved peace - these are the gentle lines of thought that tie this wondrously written book tighly together. Reading EDINBURGH is an ultimate joy, like hearing a new piece of music on its opening performance. Chee appears securely destined to be a very important voice in American literature over the next decades. Read him now, at the beginning, and grow. This is a stunning book.

Beautifully written, sensitively told

This beautifully written novel's subject matter will probably alienate some readers, but I urge you to read this entire review before deciding whether this book is for you.Twelve year old Aphias Zhe, nicknamed Fee, has a crystalline soprano voice, and so when he auditions for a boys choir, he is immediately accepted. What Fee knows intuitively becomes concrete as the choir director, Big Eric, takes Fee and a few other boys on an outing in the woods: Big Eric is a pedophile who preys on the young boys' vulnerability. Where others cannot, Fee sees right through to the man and his preference for fair-headed boys like Fee's best friend, Peter. Fee, who is part Korean, part Scottish, is not a favorite; he watches mainly from a distance, knowing the danger Big Eric poses but unwilling to articulate it. He hopes that the false front Big Eric has constructed will never crumble for, if it does, Fee fears he will also be revealed for what he is. When the choir director is caught, the wake of his crime crushes his victims, even those who live to adulthood.As Fee grows up, he appears to recover, but inside he wants to die. He is gay, not because of the choir director's crime but in spite of it. Fee wants love, tenderness, someone who can rival the affection he felt for Peter, and not the predatory sex Big Eric sought. Yet, Fee continues to be haunted by what happened. When as an adult he meets a blonde boy who reminds him of Peter and who, despite his young age, has a connection to what happened long ago, Fee must confront his demons.While at times overly lyrical, the novel is a delicate coming-of-age story. Chee has a remarkable command of images and language which add rich layers to what could have been a simple plot. The emotion he infuses in his words makes Fee's pain and quest for love universal. If you think only gay men will enjoy this, think again. As a heterosexual woman, I found myself engrossed in this novel and its characters. Ultimately, EDINBURGH is about truth, self, and the yearning for a place in the world.

Edinburgh Mentions in Our Blog

Edinburgh in Diversity in Asian American Lit
Diversity in Asian American Lit
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 01, 2020
Twenty years ago, Asian American authorship reflected a largely East Asian, traditional perspective. As we embark on Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, we celebrate the diverse spectrum of cultures reflected in this vast and varied population of people.
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