Chang Rae Lee on mixing conventions in writing

Identity and language are central themes of Chang Rae Lee’s Native Speaker, which is structured as a thriller but relayed in a contemplative voice generally associated with more literary works. In this 2000 interview, he talks about the blend:

in no sense am I an experimental writer or an avant-garde writer, but I’ve always liked to mix conventions. The stories are conventional at one level, but the characters in them have a little self-consciousness of the conventions. Certainly, in Native Speaker, I was playing with the convention of a thriller or a spy story, but totally not interested in that type of story, or rather, I was interested to a mechanical extent, and then tried to go beyond it.

I don’t know. I think it just reflects who I am. I’m a fairly conventional guy, but I’m bored with myself a lot. And I get bored with the conventional stories, too. You know, I’m a real fan of Cheever and Beattie, but I could never tell those stories straight through because of who I am.


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