Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Science of Flight by Yiyun Li - New Yorker Fiction

"The Science of Flight" is a touching portrait of a woman whose difficult past has created a desperate fear of intimacy coupled with a conflicting desire to have friends which drives her to invent stories to hide behind, to preserve her few weak relationships through and to dream with.

Zinchen was born out of wedlock to spite her father, kept by her grandmother to spite her daughter while being reproached her existance by all. Forbidden to exist, she secrets her self away into fragments of other peoples memories and assumptions about her to be snagged by the sharp edge debris of her memories.

The title, the study of flight, denotes the manner in which Zichen survives her past to build "a life of flight, of discarding the inessential and the essential alike, making use of the stolen pieces and memories, retreating to the lost moments of other people’s lives."

The word Flight in the title describes someone soaring, victory, leaving the nest, surpassing difficulty; yet it also has the more troubling meaning of fleeing, "to take flight", to escape. The title uses both positive and negative connotation of the word in that Zichen manages to escape to a better life in a another more prosperous country but she is always trying to escape her past, never landing, never still, never allowing herself to be herself. ♦

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