Wrack and Ruin

( 2 )


An exhilarating comic satire with the quirky energy of The Wonder Boys and Sideways.
Lyndon Song, a renowned sculptor, has fled New York City to become a Brussels sprouts farmer in the small California town of Rosarita Bay. Lyndon has a brother, Woody, an indicted financier turned movie producer, and Woody has a plan, involving a golf-course resort on Lyndon's land and an aging kung-fu diva from Hong Kong with a mean kick and a meaner drinking ...

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Wrack and Ruin: A Novel

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An exhilarating comic satire with the quirky energy of The Wonder Boys and Sideways.
Lyndon Song, a renowned sculptor, has fled New York City to become a Brussels sprouts farmer in the small California town of Rosarita Bay. Lyndon has a brother, Woody, an indicted financier turned movie producer, and Woody has a plan, involving a golf-course resort on Lyndon's land and an aging kung-fu diva from Hong Kong with a mean kick and a meaner drinking problem.
A dreadlocked buddy with an artificial leg, a small plot of exceptionally lush marijuana, two field biologists studying western snowy plovers, a disgraced museum curator, and Lyndon's great love, the impulsive mayor of Rosarita Bay-these are only some of the complications in Lyndon and Woody's lives over one madcap Labor Day weekend.
Hilarious and philosophical, this many-hued novel about the landscape of contemporary "multicultural" America is critically acclaimed Don Lee's best book yet.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“Wrack and Ruin has an accidental elegance that is un-selfconscious and refreshing.”
Steve Amick
Brilliant farce conveys a sense of the characters' agony, and that is true here. But there are also moments of gentle joy, and the author's affection for this little corner of the world can be infectious. Despite the calamitous-sounding title, this is ultimately the story of a man coping with flux by repositioning himself rather than letting himself be ruined. As richly satisfying as his first two books were (his other novel, Country of Origin, won both an Edgar and an American Book Award), Lee has outdone himself here. His prose moves and sparkles. He gives his characters a depth and thoroughness not commonly achieved by practitioners of the comic novel, a label that seems almost a disservice to a book as thoughtful as this one. Lee shows us, right from the outset, that these are people we're going to care about, even if we do enjoy watching them flounder.
—The Washington Post
Lisa Dierbeck
Playful and lighthearted, Wrack and Ruin has an accidental elegance that is un-self-conscious and refreshing. The deceptively straightforward storytelling conceals considerable craftsmanship.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

The trick to reading Don Lee's wonderfully silly second novel (after Country of Originand a story collection, Yellow) is to take nothing seriously, even when you should. The book concerns the eccentric sculptor-turned-brussels sprout farmer, Lyndon Song, and his estranged brother, Woody, an uptight Hollywood producer. Lyndon's refusal to sell his farmland to a golf course developer results in an unwelcome visit from his brother, who has been secretly hired by the developer. The author has corralled an array of misfits and minor characters-Lyndon's friend Juju, a philosophizing surfer with a prosthetic limb, and Yi Ling Ling, a has-been kung fu film star-to season the backdrop of the brothers' misadventures and muster up some drama and didactic spiritualism. The novel's best sections are lighthearted in their delivery, but hint at deeper substance and self-reflection. At times the author starts pulling too adamantly at readers' heartstrings, but before long he's back to slathering on the sarcasm. This novel thrives on unlikely unions, unseemly humor and happy endings while maintaining a constant examination of family and identity, in keeping with the themes of the author's previous book. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Lee's second novel (after Country of Origin) returns to the fictional town of Rosarita Bay, CA, a bucolic location outside of San Francisco that also was the setting for Yellow, his short story collection. The book's central character, Lyndon Song, is a brooding Brussels sprouts farmer who was once an internationally acclaimed sculptor. The bastion of solitude Lyndon has created for himself is disrupted horribly when his brother Woody, a Hollywood movie producer, visits on Labor Day weekend. Woody's ostentatious ways and questionable ethics clash, as always, with Lyndon's quiet lifestyle; their coming together results in trips to the ER, crazy traffic chases, and multiple brushes with the law as Lyndon attempts to prevent developers from taking his land away. Lee's novel tries to be a wacky, madcap Carl Hiaasen kind of page-turner while occasionally taking a break for some philosophical introspection. Though sometimes fun, it's not that successful; the wackiness seems to take away from rather than complement its meditations. Recommended for large regional fiction collections.
—Kevin Greczek

Kirkus Reviews
Lee (Country of Origin, 2004, etc.) whimsically examines the intertwining of some rather fey lives over a Labor Day weekend in a small California community. The title is both apposite and ironic, for Lyndon Song's life seems to be heading south. Living in Rosarita Bay, Lyndon is a refugee from his former life as a successful sculptor in New York City. He has now opted for a more Arcadian lifestyle as a Brussels sprout farmer-and on the side he grows an impressive crop of marijuana. Family matters also grow thick when Lyndon's brother Woody decides to visit. Woody is a formerly hot movie producer whose specialty is taking Asian action movies and "translating" them into English, but his recent projects have been derailed. The brothers haven't seen one another for 16 years, and Lyndon would be perfectly happy to keep Woody away for another 16. Lee tries to harmonize multiple strands of the narrative, as Woody tries to lure Yi Ling Ling, an aging and out-of-control kung-fu actress, into his project. Meanwhile, Lyndon continues to fight off two powerful forces, both economic (a powerful developer wants his farm) and personal (Lyndon's former lover, the current mayor of Rosarita Bay, is angry with him and keeps slashing his tires). Lyndon finds himself attracted to Laura D'az-McClatchey, a masseuse who eases his tense muscles, but who also, we find out later, is a former museum curator interested in his work. Lyndon would like to keep his life intact, for it's at least pleasant if not perfect, but over the weekend everything threatens to spin out of control (see title); an anarchic energy emerges that infects and unites both Lyndon and Woody. Subplots propagate like bunnies, as Woody tries totrack down why an old acquaintance committed suicide. (Woody also gets involved with two lesbian environmentalists studying snowy plovers.)Over-the-top complications sometimes get in the way of Lee's wry commentary on contemporary life. Agent: Maria Massie/Inkwell Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393334753
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/20/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 333
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Don Lee has received an American Book Award, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, an O. Henry Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Fred R. Brown Literary Award. His stories have appeared in The Kenyon Review, GQ, The Southern Review, American Short Fiction, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. For nineteen years, he was the principal editor of the literary journal Ploughshares. He is currently the director of the MFA program in creative writing at Temple University.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Wrack and Ruin by Don Lee

    I adored this book. It had me laughing in public places and snickering into my coffee. All the characters had real flaws but Lee was fair--everyone was flawed. And what's more, I liked them the better for it. Lyndon Song, ex-New York sculptor and brussel sprouts-farmer extraordinaire, and his failed financier brother Woody, make a madcap pair amongst the other odd personages of Rosarita Bay, California.

    Lee was much more fluent in this work than in his earlier work, Country of Origin, and it seemed he was having a better time as well. The action and personalities seemed so very Californian to me, and since I live on the east coast, it felt like a trip away. A television series that gives me that same "quirky California" feel is Six Feet Under.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2009

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