Cheuk, Leland. “The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong”, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, 2015).
An Immigrant Family
The chances of my ever reading this book were next to nothing until I read the endorsement by writer Michael Graves and the blurb by Michael Lowenthal. Both men are favorite writers of mine so if they had something good to say about a book, then it is something I need to read. They are both correct in what they have said and this book by Leland Cheuk is a treat.
We meet the Pongs, an American immigrant family who have played a special part in the way we live. We learn that they helped build the transcontinental railroads of the Victorian Age and that they were mistakenly interned with Japanese-Americans during World War II. It is possible that they co-invented the landmark video game that carries the family’s last name. The one thing all the generations of the Pong Family share is that the patriarch of the family is degenerate. Each new generation’s patriarch has had one thing in common: a penchant for degeneracy. Sulliver Pong was not supposed to be degenerate and when we meet him he is married and living in Copenhagen. He should have been able to escape what was going on in Bordirtoun, his toxic hometown. He needed to get away from his father, Saul, the mayor of that town.
Saul made an unexpected visit to his son and tries to lure him back and into the corrupt politics of the town. Sulliver begins to feel guilty about having run away from his mother. Going back, he is soon running for mayor against his father. The Pong family is totally dysfunctional and this fact and the way it is written about make for a black comedy. We see that the Pongs have had to deal with every kind of injustice against Asian Americans.
We find new literary heroes here and instead we get characters that have made bad choices and while the results may seem absurd to some, we learn a great deal about family and ethnicity. Everything about this book is good—the plot is fun, the writing is quite witty and the characters are those than we can relate to even in their complexities. This is my kind of humor and from laughing out loud to interior chuckles; this is a book that will stay with you for a long time.