Some Things Truly Are Gorgeous


Saniyah Shah

Ocean Vuong offers an introspective, jarring story in his first novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong, explores the very depth of being. In this fiction narrative heavily based on personal experiences, Vuong constructs a poignant, tragic, horrifying, and inspiring vision of what it means to be a son, an immigrant, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Vuong’s prose and phrasing is the most impressive aspect to this book. His lyricism as a poet bleeds through in his descriptions of the simplest things, the color gray or blue, and the most complex, heart-wrenching ones, such as in a passage concerning the Vietnam War. Often working multiple storylines at once, Vuong draws an incredibly intricate web throughout the entire novel, constantly calling back to previous metaphors and turned phrases while introducing new ones.

Though he travels between many time periods and plots, his writing never feels unintentionally disjoint or tedious. The line of thought and point made is multi-faceted and so he writes it as such, but the order in which he addresses each aspect is purposeful in its chaos. Scenes, plots, and characters are puzzle pieces that he only introduces when relevant, but always revisits on a grander scale.

The depth of his metaphors and connections reveals the thorough research poured into the book. This is often displayed in the detail of his chosen metaphors, such as those that concern animals, as well as his understanding of the Vietnam War. It is this level of conceptualization that provides the book with its weight. Often while reading, I would forget that Vuong had fictionalized his experiences because the protagonist’s circumstances felt so alarmingly realistic and sobering. Vuong does not cut back on the horror of the characters’ experiences, and this serves to reinforce the story and its message.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-evoking, sobering, and eloquent read. However, be warned that the book contains some scenes of very mature sexual content and also addresses mature topics throughout the whole book. Additionally, I would not recommend it to someone who is stressed out, emotionally taxed, or under a lot of pressure, because the book takes its toll. Please read it in a positive state of mind!