A hypnotic sojourn of planetary proportions through the terrestrial contingencies of bodies, health, poverty, and salvation
Maldon is an adjunct literature instructor at a prestigious East Coast university, with a deteriorating heart condition and no insurance. She finds herself caught between the demands of her job and the needs of her body, triggering economic and emotional strains that cause her to fantasize about taking her own life. But Maldon, who has pledged to safeguard her mother ever since their arrival in the US on a refugee ship from postwar Vietnam, has vowed to forgo suicide for as long as her mother is living.
In time, her heart worsens rapidly, and she ventures cross-country to a place called Cloud for the operation that may save her life. In Cloud, Maldon is joined by old friend planet Neptune, who is hermaphroditic, peculiar, and has agreed to accompany Maldon through the operation.
Swimming with Dead Stars is a hallucinatory meditation on the stars and planets, the precariousness of our existence, the cruel inequities of labor and healthcare, chickens and ice cream, and the grace that comes from enduring the physical and psychic pain wrought by pernicious social forces that enslave us all.
Because her dissatisfaction is chronic, Maldon thirsts for her own death. Despite her determination and spectacular rhetoric, suicide continues to reject her for two reasons: the universe and her mother. Vi Khi Nao’s Swimming with Dead Stars is somber until you start laughing, hilarious until you weep, and every single sentence contains the enormity, volatility, and devotion of a poetic and plasmic sun. Its radiance will leave you salty with despair and woefully, regretlessly hot.
—Lily Hoang, author of A Bestiary
“Vi Khi Nao is an absurdist dreamer with a lacerating view of the world and its ills. Swimming with Dead Stars, a philosophical treatise on adjuncting, illness, and relationships, is ferocious and alive, like a monstrous field of technicolor flowers foaming at the mouth.”
—Patrick Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
"At first, when reading Swimming with Dead Stars you wonder why the book exists. By the end you wonder why you exist."
—Noah Cicero, author of Las Vegas Bootlegger: Empire of Self-Importance
“All of Vi Khi Nao’s books share a mythopoetic impulse and create together a world in which modes of being and art-making seem suddenly more recognizable in their elaborately evoked never-before-seen-ness. Nao reminds me of Antoine Volodine, not stylistically, but in her forging of genres that seem distinctly her own.”
—Joanna Ruocco, author of Dan
“Maldon is a very human character even as she is also celestial, mineral, elliptical in her orbit.”
—Sarah Blackman, author of Hex
PUB DATE: 2.22.22
INTERVIEW: Believer Magazine : KIM-ANH SCHREIBER
INTERVIEW: New York State Writers Institute : MORIAH HAMPTON
INTERVIEW: Tarpaulin Sky : CAT INGRID LEECHES
NEWS: Lambda Literary : Vi Khi Nao & Silas House Win 2022 Jim Duggins PhD Outstanding Mid-career Novelist Prize : MAI TRAN
EXCERPT: Acéphale and Autobiographical Philosophy in the 21st Century: SCHISM PRESS
Book cover design: Matthew Revert