Book Review: Angela Veronica Wong’s HOW TO SURVIVE A HOTEL FIRE

Wong‘s first full-length, a chunky and beautiful thing composed of sections, is a rhymic dynamo that lulls and startles. Now let me explain. Wong creates these sort of formulas and rhythms of speech very organically and naturally, making the sentence-level writing do most of the work, and the accumulation of images and thoughts exist just under the surface. These sentences, after you begin to get lulled into their schematics, will suddenly pop like a bottle rocket and force you to snap back to some other state of mind.

Though some of these formulaic results are dull compared to the starkness of the others, the gems are wide awake and ready to work. Wong’s sentence-level play is so strikingly beautiful and simple and provokative that I’m running out of words for it all. So here’s an example: “opening: the edges: of fabric braiding into itself / and how making the bed requires: uncurling: like / a piece of parchment a declaration an admission”.

There are enough surprises embedded into this collection to warrant a good handful of re-reads, which is exactly what I plan to do. This book is a mass of fairy-tale-like punches that expose accidental self-reflection in a mess of descriptions about a slowly burning world of social intricacies and accidents. It’s a beatiful mass. And mess.

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