On Such a Full Sea of Novels: An Interview with Chang-rae Lee By Noelle Brada-Williams Chang-rae Lee visited San Jose State in October 2015 as a guest of the Center for Literary Arts. The interview took place at the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies in front of a live audience. The Director of the Center for Literary Arts, Professor Cathleen Miller, introduced both Lee and the interviewer. AALDP: I kind of feel that this is my “Pope Moment” because I have been teaching your work since I started being a professor and now I kind of feel like John Boehner, now that you have come, I may have to resign. How many of you have read On Such a Full Sea? Let me sum it up quickly: It is his most recent novel, his 5th novel; it is the story of Fan, a diver in a fish farm in the not too distant future who leaves her enclave to find her missing boyfriend. In the process she travels across three different, distinct locations from her middle class factory town of B-mor, through the Counties, an anarchic realm without governmental services or protection from the dangers created by some environmental debacle, and on to the elite towns, the Charters, the cities for which Fan’s own town was built to provide healthy foods and supplies. I must say that I found your most recent book eerily believable. The extremes of wealth were certainly very resonant for those of us who live in Silicon Valley. Every time I pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV there seems to be something that reminds me of that book. Just last week a report came out that pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide and that it is predicted to double by 2050. Also this one passage was particularly resonant. You write: The settlements originally developed because the old-time towns and small cities were dying off because of crushing debts, as they couldn’t afford to run the schools and repave streets and fix sewers, the last intact services usually being the police. There were many opportunistic gangs and sundry marauders. But it didn’t take long for the inevitable turn, which is that the police forces took over the towns, the chiefs and their officers deposing (often violently) the mayors and the administrators; in fact, many of the settlements are now led by the descendants of those first strongmen, who generation after generation have exercised a martial level of control over the residents. This passage particularly came to mind when I saw the images of Ferguson come across my television screen last Fall when you saw these military weapons turned on the citizens of Ferguson. So my first
An interview with author Chang-rae Lee.
"On Such a Full Sea of Novels: An Interview with Chang-rae Lee,"
Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies:
Vol. 7, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/aaldp/vol7/iss1/3