Saturday, December 26, 2020

"Nights When Nothing Happened"

Simon Han was born in Tianjin, China, and raised in various cities in Texas. His stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Texas Observer, Guernica, The Iowa Review, Electric Literature, and LitHub. The recipient of several fiction awards and arts fellowships, he lives in Carrollton, Texas.

Han applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Nights When Nothing Happened, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Patty watched the outline of the man. How heavy his chest looked, how hard it seemed for a big-bodied person to breathe. The first time they had had sex, months after their wedding and a whole year after she’d spent the night at his studio, she’d assured him that it was okay, stilled him when he vibrated with indecision. One year, she thought as her eyes adjusted to her husband. One year had felt long enough to fall not only in love but through it. And to come out on the other side with a child. How time warped her former self, turned her inexplicable.
The test works—sort of. On one hand, what the page is setting up is a departure from the rest of the book, which is largely about a family who chooses not to engage in acts of intimacy. Here, Patty and Liang, the parents at the center of the novel, are about to have sex. But it’s also the first time they’ve had sex in over a year. And in the hours leading up to this moment, Patty was doing everything she could to delay coming home from the office—driving into standstill Dallas traffic, then falling asleep in her car in a parking lot. True to the book’s interests, the moment she’s about to share with her husband will be complicated and messy, and readers will probably have different reactions to it due to its ambiguity. We might see love between the two, we might see desperate longing, we might see an unsettling negotiation of power and control, which may bring up questions of consent. With Nights When Nothing Happened, I wanted to pull the veil off the neat depictions of suburban Asian Americans that prevail in the popular imagination. Patty’s family isn’t a tight, monolithic unit—it’s full of contradictions. And on this page, Patty is also beginning to realize the contradictions that exist within herself.
Visit Simon Han's website.

--Marshal Zeringue