Rising-star author Anthony Veasna So who died at 28 has unfinished novel out

In the posthumously released collection Songs on Endless Repeat by the late Anthony Veasna So, the intersection of comedy and trauma takes centre stage. The dissertation topic within the book, exploring the epistemological ties between comedy and trauma, mirrors So’s own exploration of the fragmented nature of reality in his works. So, a rising literary star who tragically passed away at 28, showcased his talent in his debut collection Afterparties, vividly portraying the Cambodian community in Stockton, often survivors or descendants of the Khmer Rouge regime.

“So’s writing is nothing if not funny,” notes an LA Times article, emphasising the juxtaposition of humour and horror in his work. The new collection, Songs on Endless Repeat, compiles fragments of So’s unfinished novel, “Straight Thru Cambotown,” and various essays. It continues to display his keen ear for dialogue, pungent prose, and a compassionate connection with individuals across the diverse “Cambo proh racial complex spectrum.”

The narrative in the collection revolves around familial reunification triggered by a character’s death, causing shifts in the power structure within the tight-knit Cambodian community in Los Angeles County, known as “Cambotown.” Particularly compelling is the story of Darren and Vinny, two nephews grappling with their paths in life after the death of their aunt Peou. Darren, a graduate student at Stanford studying comedy, and Vinny, an underground rapper, exemplify the complexities of Cambodian identity and the impact of generational trauma.

So’s writing delves into the Cambodian experience with humour, irreverent wit, and an acute understanding of the dualities faced by Asian Americans. His essays, previously published in esteemed outlets, reflect his prowess not only as a novelist but also as a formidable critic. The alternating sections of fiction and nonfiction in the collection aim to create a dialogue between So’s two writing styles, revealing the fluidity with which he moved between modes.

Songs on Endless Repeat not only pays tribute to Anthony Veasna So’s literary prowess but also invites readers to explore the intricate interplay between comedy, trauma, and the multifaceted Cambodian American experience.

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