I am a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.
March 31, 2024 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I liked the book, but wasn't aware that there was a series being made.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:43 AM on March 31

Oooh I didnt know either.

The book is absolutely brilliant.
posted by supermedusa at 9:38 AM on March 31

I'm surprised it didn't get canned after Nguyen came out in support of a Gaza cease-fire and was dropped like a hot potato from book-readings.
posted by warreng at 9:41 AM on March 31 [4 favorites]

I'll admit I'm alarmed by every plot synopsis kind of gently sliding off the plot, lol, but my library has it and I'm gonna check it out.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:27 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

kittens for breakfast read it for the prose alone. this guy can write!!! just absolutely crackling brilliant prose in there.
posted by supermedusa at 10:50 AM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Amazing book. Will give the show a watch.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 11:20 AM on March 31

Sounds like a lot of The Sympathizer lovers here..My modest descent: I like Viet Thanh Nguyen's stated politics and I thought the book had an engaging premise and was well written. I appreciated the ambition of the book and the effort to bring nuance to the intensely ideological space of reflections on the American War/Vietnam War, but I wasn't satisfied that the books' execution was able to meet the ambition. As I recall, I was especially disappointed by the storyline about torturing and raping the female agent, that I felt fell into dehumanizing and predictably gendered tropes. I was disappointed because I imagine Nguyen to have more nuanced and thoughtful gender politics than that. I can't imagine that a TV adaptation will bring nuance that the book lacked. But I am glad to live in a very different age of TV story telling than the one I grew up where such a story would never be adapted.
posted by latkes at 12:05 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Latkes, I've watched a lot of interviews with Nguyen, and I don't remember which one, but in one of them, he basically says that he wrote The Sympathizer most of the way through before he realized that he had written his protagonist as an alcoholic, insane, misogynist. The sequel, The Committed, in part, was written to also sort of "fix" and deal with the misogyny of the character.

The Committed also deals more overtly with the aftermath of French colonialism and also specifically with anti-Arab/Algerian racism.

I really liked both novels, but as I only finished both of them fairly recently, I don't know how successful he is with all of these complicated issues/threads. I love the writing and his thoughtfulness overall.

I'm still kind of iffy on the choice to make Robert Downey, Jr play a whole bunch of characters but we'll see how the show actually works.
posted by toastyk at 12:18 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

I sought the book out because so many people loved it (like I see here) but wow, I barely got through the first chapter. Different people like different things!
posted by stevil at 2:31 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Great book. Looking forward to this. Wish Downey wasn't connected.
posted by dobbs at 8:06 PM on March 31

Wish Downey wasn't connected.

His involvement is how I first heard about it, piqued my interest enough to watch the trailers and find out more info.
posted by cheshyre at 2:51 PM on April 1

I was pretty blown away by the book. Nguyen has been posting on social media about the making of the series (he's heavily involved) and it sounds like a really thoughtful project.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:33 PM on April 1

The Nation just published a profile of him and it contains a bit more about how the show is conceived: This April, an adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize–winning debut novel, The Sympathizer, will air on HBO. “That’s a feat, as far as I’m concerned,” Nguyen says of making “a seven-part miniseries that is extremely explicit about white supremacy and decolonization.”

A glowing review in The New York Times hailed the book for filling “a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light.” Nguyen responds in his memoir, as he has done elsewhere, with acid humor, quoting Arundhati Roy’s observation that there’s no such thing as “the voiceless,” only the “deliberately silenced” or “preferably unheard.” As he quips in the book, “Vietnamese people are not voiceless! They are really, really loud!”

During the Q&A session, one young woman, a Palestinian American, asked Nguyen about her own culpability: How could she oppose Israel’s settler violence while living in a country that had violently displaced Native Americans?

Nguyen recounted his own efforts to untangle this contradiction. Quoting Susan Sontag, he said victims want to feel their pain is unique, but that the challenge instead is to practice a “capacious grief”: the idea that one must transcend the particular pains and injustices of one’s own people to find empathy for those of others.

He elaborated on this idea during our conversation after the panel. “The work of dominant ideologies is to prevent people from seeing how their particular situation might in some way be related to somebody else. If people can’t see these connections, they’re trapped in their singular sorrows,” he says. “That’s not politically productive. But if you connect the singular sorrows, that becomes ever more radical.”

posted by toastyk at 7:58 AM on April 3

I went ahead and ordered the book, just arrived today.

This be the first novel I've read in 6 years.
posted by clavdivs at 2:27 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]

I made a Fanfare post for the premiere if anyone's interested.
posted by toastyk at 8:09 AM on April 17

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