Yiyun Li’s “The Science of Flight”
The New Yorker Fiction: 20 Under 40
August 30, 2010 issue

Yiyun Li’s The Vagrants was one of my favourite novels of 2009. Simply tremendous.

And I had to give myself a stern talking-to before embarking on “The Science of Flight” because I knew it could not be a repeat of that stunning novel.

But no matter. Because even though this short story is different, indeed, it is just as remarkable in its own way.

One of the elements that so impressed me about The Vagrants was the way that the lives of characters and the scope of scenes overlapped and interconnected.

Not in a predictable way — nothing about that novel felt formulaic to me — but in a very subtle, often heartbreakingly tenuous, manner.

Ironically, what stands out vividly for me about “The Science of Flight” is the sense of disconnection.

Zichen is a very isolated character, literally and figuratively. She is defined, in many ways, by what she lacks, more so than what she possesses, and losses permeate the tale.

Nonetheless, the powerful moments in the story are rooted, ironically, in the near-connections, in the subtle collisions of meaning.

Her Q&A states that she is currently working on a novel of leave-taking. I definitely want to read that. Meantime, her second collection of stories has been published recently (Gold Boy, Emerald Girl) so I’ll seek that out while I wait for the full-length book.

Have you read Yiyun Li‘s fiction? Are you planning to?

Companion Reads: Pasha Malla’s “Pet Therapy” in The Withdrawal Method (2009)