Sara Chin’s Below the Line by Lawrence Chua

Part of the Editor's Choice series.

BOMB 64 Summer 1998
Bombcover 64 1024X1024
64 Sara Chin Homepage

Sara Chin. Photo by Stacey Lewis. Courtesy of City Lights Books.

Sara Chin’s work as a sound recordist on films has served her well as a writer. In her first collection of short stories, she shows a finely tuned ear for the details of experience. Alternating between short stories and even shorter glimpses of the world, Below the Line (City Lights) careens dangerously on the edge of breakdown: emotional, linguistic, familial, cultural. Her characters are imbued with the weird and lovely qualities of those living on this precipice. There is the nice old Chinese mother who drifts into the intricacies of the violent movies she adores, only to share the truly scary, lonely parts of her life with the hardened thugs and trigger-happy detectives that flicker through her head. There is the young filmmaker whose life is falling apart and whose lawyer brother sets her up with a paying gig videotaping last wills and testaments. There is the aging father who, on a sudden impulse for fresh tofu in the suburbs of Washington DC, circles the Beltway aimlessly and meets up with an old flame. In the deft hands of Chin, the domestic becomes unpredictable and sublime, like the instructions on a package of dried something or other found in the markets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. With sharp and penetrating humor, she opens ears and eyes to a world that will never be familiar again. I place her in the masterful company of short story writers like Rick Bass, Denis Johnson, and Mary Gaitskill. Like them, Chin reminds us that below the decibel level of perception, there is always the discordant harmony of life.

—Lawrence Chua


Below the Line was recently published by City Lights.

Already Dead by Denis Johnson
Related
Reimagining the State: Jonas Eika Interviewed by Sarah Neilson
Cover photo of Jonas Eika's After the Sun which is the title with swirly bright colors all around it.

A collection of short stories by the Danish author addressing global class crisis and inequality.

Announcing the Winner of BOMB’s 2021 Fiction Contest
Author photo of Edward Salem, who has a beard and short hair. He is wearing a shirt open at the color and is standing in front of a gray wooden fence.

Congrats to Edward Salem, the winner of this year’s Fiction Contest!

Pay Attention to the Humming: Ethan Rutherford Interviewed by Paul Yoon
Lime book cover with burgundy tree and blue leaves titled "Farthest South"

A story collection about parenting in a post-apocalyptic world.

Originally published in

BOMB 64, Summer 1998

Featuring interviews with Tracey Moffatt, Aharon Appelfeld, Eric Kraft, Maurice Berger, Patricia Williams, Richard Powers, Stellan Skarsgard, Jesus “Chucho” Valdes, and Lou Reed. 

Read the issue
Bombcover 64 1024X1024