The Book That Changed Your Life: Philip Huynh
The Word Vancouver festival’s annual celebration of all things literary is getting set to present its 2019 edition, which will take over venues around town starting September 24, and end with a huge array of panels, talks, readings, and more at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch on September 29. At the heart of the fesitval is, as always, a wide-ranging roster of authors.
The Straight approached a group of these writers and asked them to describe their most their most significant experiences as readers. Which books fired up their desire to become authors themselves? Which ones resonated in a life-changing way?
Here’s what Richmond-based writer Philip Huynh told us. He’s the author of the acclaimed debut short-story collection The Forbidden Purple City. Huynh will be reading from his work at 11:30 a.m. on September 29, in the Peter Kaye Room at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
I’d say any book that has lodged itself in memory is life-changing, whether because of its arresting voice, vivid characters, or profound subject matter. By that measure I have read many life-changers, and always hope that the next one on my bed-stand would be just as so.
Some books, though, seem to land in my hands right when I need them. I discovered Adam Haslett’s story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here when I was in my 20s. I was practising law in New York City, at one of those large firms where there was a built-in cafeteria so you didn’t have to leave your office for dinner. I doubted I had time to be a lawyer and write fiction. But here was Haslett—another lawyer then!—who had published this book covering a breathtaking swath of voices and experiences—about inventors, orphans, psychiatrists, and their patients in settings from L.A. to the U.K.
While each story was a unique and microscopic examination of its characters’ emotional landscape, the collection in total had the breadth of any novel. Reading this book on the subway to work, I had hope that somehow I could write stories too.