Sunday, September 3, 2023

Sung J. Woo

Sung J. Woo’s short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, PEN/Guernica, and Vox. He has written four novels, Deep Roots (2023), Skin Deep (2020), Love Love (2015), and Everything Asian (2009), which won the 2010 Asian Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award. In 2022, his Modern Love essay from The New York Times was adapted by Amazon Studios for episodic television. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

Recently I asked Woo about what he was reading. His reply:
The book I'm "reading" right now is Robert A. Caro's The Path to Power, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1. I'm wrapping quotes around the word "reading" because I'm listening to the book on audiobook, or more accurately, book on tape that's been converted over to mp3s (what a convoluted world we live in!). They really are conversions, as I'm told over and over again that the book is continued on the other side of the cassette or on the next cassette.

Previous to this aural undertaking, I listened to all 66 hours of The Power Broker, Caro's first book about Robert Moses. It took me about six months to get through it, and what I'll never forget is the weird feeling I got near the end, when Moses' power was waning and I was filled with sadness. Looking back, I believe it was a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Let me explain: Moses was not a great guy. In fact, even though he did amazing things for the state of New York, building countless bridges and highways in record time, he was also a terrible racist and a power-mongering monster. And yet, when I saw him getting older and slowly losing his grip on the city and its surroundings, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. All credit to Caro for painting such a nuanced, complicated portrait of a man.

I've just started listening to the first LBJ book (2 hours into a 36 hours), and it's every bit as riveting already as The Power Broker. I love how Caro goes all the way, way back to LBJ's roots, to the land itself, the deceptive Hill Country of Texas. No wonder that growing up, LBJ's nickname was Bull -- not because of the steer, but of bullshit. What a tangled web he wove into the fabric of America and the world.
Visit Sung J. Woo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Asian.

My Book, The Movie: Skin Deep.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

The Page 69 Test: Skin Deep.

My Book, The Movie: Deep Roots.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Roots.

--Marshal Zeringue