The Impossible, The Parallel, The Intimate: A Conversation with Eugene Lim
By Tobias Carroll On ·
Eugene Lim’s novels tread the line between the hypnotically familiar and the surreptitiously terrifying. His latest novel, The Strangers, follows multiple sets of twins through landscapes alternately recognizable and surreal. Underground film scenes, stand-up comedy, shipborne communities, and totalitarian states all appear, and yet the entire work remains even-tempered and cohesive. As the publisher of Ellipsis Press, Lim has ushered books from the likes of Norman Lock and Eugene Marten into the world. As an admirer of both The Strangers and his earlier novel Fog & Car, I was curious to learn more about Lim’s process, and so we checked in earlier this month via email…
First two paragraphs of The Strangers, which begin, “At night when I can’t sleep and at noon in the streets I don’t know who I am and could be anybody.“
Norman Lock writes about The Strangers in the latest issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction:
To place the storytelling act at the center of a novel is a risky strategy: the stories must fascinate. Lim’s stories do (except those few that he deliberately effaces as if to give a graphic representation of self-erasure). They have the exoticism, emotional authenticity, and intellectual depth to ensure that the reader will be enthralled. Lim’s knowledge of economic theory, political science, art history and practice, the minutiae and mechanisms of businesses large and small is sweeping. His verbal constructions exhibit lyrical and playful strains, indignation and sensuality, and a genuinely hip, idiomatic flair. Lim’s ambition to relate “grand narratives”—to tessellate them within a mysterious, comprehensive verbal construction and, in so doing, to recreate in his fictional universe the entire world and its archetypical figures—makes his novel an uncommon artifact. The Strangers in its complex self-referential, multi-layered structure, anecdotal mass, and restless inventiveness demands and rewards more than one reading.
Read the whole review here.
The Strangers by Eugene Lim
Praise for The Strangers
I’m happy to have a piece of fiction in the latest issue of The Brooklyn Rail. “Spooky Action at a Distance” is excerpted from a forthcoming novel called THE STRANGERS (Black Square Editions) about several sets of odd twins. Here’s how it starts:
It’s when the cop is punching my face that I make the decision. I decide to go look for my sister. My whole life I’d indulged in a stupid thrill, a very risky habit. In the middle of the night I’d sneak through the town and deface posters of the beloved president. Sometimes just a mustache over his beloved pudgy face. I kept it scatological or primitive. For fifteen years I’d done this and never got caught.
The cop is working me over pretty good. I’ve never taken a punch before. I worry about my brain and whether he’ll bust something inside me and I’ll die slowly as things that aren’t supposed to meet mix inside my sloshy guts. I’m a wet animal and I’m weeping like a child and very ashamed that I am and I’m scared.