Tag Archives: The Headmaster’s Wager

Vincent Lam’s “The Headmaster’s Wager”

Vincent Lam is a busy man. He is an emergency physician, which I can imagine leaves you little free time. Despite this, Lam is a writer. And I am told by many websites punctuated by a mysterious .ca suffix that he is a literary A-lister in his native Canada, due in large part to his award-winning 2006 debut short story collection Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures.

To that list of accomplishments he can add a novel, The Headmaster’s Wager, a long (so very, very long) tale of deceit, politics, and identity set in wartime Saigon. At the center of it all is Percival Chen (born Chen Pie Sou), a Chinese immigrant proud of his heritage and disdainful of his Vietnamese surroundings. Chen is the headmaster of a English academy in Saigon—useful to the Americans—and to his knowledge well-connected and shrewd enough to live a life beyond the privilege afforded to a regular school administrator.

But when the Vietnamese government mandates—by way of a rather intimidating letter delivered by government officials—that all schools must teach Vietnamese, including the English academy, the fallout tests both Chen’s contacts and his resolve. To make matters worse, Chen’s son, Dai Jai, made a powerful statement in school about the new policy (Dai Jai is eager to earn his father’s respect by way of casually dismissing Vietnamese culture and proclaiming the superiority of his own heritage, natch), and is soon smuggled to China (just in time for the Cultural Revolution!). Continue reading

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Our August Review Previewganza

Who likes August? For real. It’s hot all the time—so hot that cheese will melt in your fridge and your skin will stick to your subway seat. There are no paid holidays at any workplace in America. Severe thunderstorms go on vacation. The White Sox go into their annual tailspin. It’s a horrible time to be alive.

And by way of the Internet’s powers of inquisition, I found a handy-dandy guide to those awful thirty days, courtesy of that venerable American institution Holidayinsights.com. According to the good people at HI—especially my man “Dirty Dozen” Dave Poluyanskis in content creation, what up boyyyy!?—August is the following official (read: not official) months (listed in descending order of huh): National Catfish Month (delicious), National Eye Exam Month (I’ve had 20/20 my whole life; stop extorting me), National Golf Month (all right, whatever), National Picnic Month (sweaty potato salad), Peach Month (Earth’s worst fruit, but I can see it), Water Quality Month (WHERE IS THE CONCERN IN OCTOBER?!), Family Fun Month (…), Romance Awareness Month (cue twenty-four-hour loop of MTV’s “Undressed”), and my personal favorite: Admit You’re Happy Month (you love that sweater, faker).

So to keep you from participating in America’s annual mass suicide—the 2012 iteration being Friday August 24 at Danville’s David S. Palmer Arena—DBC’s going to roll out a whole bunch of reviews. Continue reading

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