The Collective: A Novel
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“Heartbreaking, sexy, and frequently funny.”―Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
In 1988, Eric Cho, an aspiring writer, arrives at Macalester College. On his first day he meets a beautiful fledgling painter, Jessica Tsai, and another would-be novelist, the larger-than-life Joshua Yoon. Brilliant, bawdy, generous, and manipulative, Joshua alters the course of their lives, rallying them together when they face an adolescent act of racism. As adults in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three friends reunite as the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective―together negotiating the demands of art, love, commerce, and idealism until another racially tinged controversy hits the headlines, this time with far greater consequences. Long after the 3AC has disbanded, Eric reflects on these events as he tries to make sense of Joshua’s recent suicide.
With wit, humor, and compassion, The Collective explores the dream of becoming an artist, and questions whether the reality is worth the sacrifice.
freshman, I had not even known a master’s of fine arts in creative writing existed. As mediocre as Walden was, it had one redeeming attribute, an affiliation with a literary journal called Palaver, where I signed on as an intern my first semester. It was edited by my principal workshop teacher, Evan Paviromo, a British-Italian scholar, bon vivant, and wastrel. He was a charismatic, towering presence at six-foot-five, beefy verging on portly, with thick brown hair he kept long and swept back,
She looked to Joshua. “You know, I’m pretty workshopped out at this point,” Joshua said. “But you guys can meet here if you want.” “What about you, Eric?” she asked. Everyone turned to me and waited. “I don’t know,” I said. “I might be workshopped out as well.” “Come on,” Esther said, “it’d be a gas.” “Let me think about it.” In the kitchen, as Jessica and I were cleaning up, she said to me, “You know, a writers’ group might be good for you.” “How so?” I didn’t want to have any more to do
evening, raised his hand without warning. “Could I come up and speak?” he asked. Tim squinted at him, disconcerted. “Well, this is a little unorthodox, but I suppose it’d be all right.” Joshua rose out of his chair, and I grabbed his arm. “Don’t do this,” I said. “Don’t worry, this will be great,” he said, and walked to the head of the room. “What’s he up to?” Mirielle whispered. “Nothing good, I’m sure,” I told her. At the podium, he said, “My name is Joshua.” “Hi, Joshua,” everyone said.
gin, threw in the lime, and topped it off with club soda. “You sure?” Despite the wind, it was hot, and I was sweating. We had left Harvard Square at six-thirty a.m., and it had taken us nine hours to travel to this spot. For the first time in three weeks, I really wanted a drink. I looked to Mirielle, who shrugged. “Go ahead,” she said. “Gin rickeys were Fitzgerald’s drink,” Joshua told me. “You know what I could really use?” I said. “A swim.” We changed into bathing suits and walked down
“No kidding.” “He said Billy was a smart kid, but kind of antisocial. The sort of kid who goes to cocktail parties and sits in a corner with a book.” “I didn’t know elementary kids went to cocktail parties back then.” “Astonishing, isn’t it?” she said. “A different era. They started them young.” Her prospective suitor excused himself and retreated into the crowd. “Do you think it was something I said?” she asked me. “How have you been, Didi?” I moved in with her less than a year later.