Blood and Soap is a breakthrough collection of modern-day fables from a wildly inventive American writer whose fiction has been called "terse and edgy" (Booklist ) and "vividly imagined" (Kirkus Reviews ). Dinh's gift is for constructing, in the manner of Italo Calvino, simple narratives that quickly frame larger questions; with a poet's timing, the author builds his stories to the one or few climactic sentences that brand them with unforgettable meaning. In one tale, a Vietnamese boy's self-guided, haphazard study of English gives way to a meditation on the universality of language: "Everything seems chaotic at first, but nothing is chaotic. One can read anything: ants crawling on the ground; pimples on a face; trees in a forest." In another story, a man opens a newspaper and sees the photograph of a man he may have murdered, which he impulsively clips, only to feel that in doing so he unwittingly has sealed his crime: "As soon as I finished, I realized what I had done: by cutting my father's likeness out of the newspaper, I had removed him from the world." The collection crescendos in displays of raw creative power, as in "Eight Plots," a rapid-fire of three- and four-sentence summaries, and the brilliant, impressionistic "!"
Blood and Soap is an arresting collection from one of a small number of writers on the vanguard of American fiction.