Book Reviews and Highlights

Sorry Please Thank You

Charles Yu

  • Asian American
  • Collections & Anthologies
  • Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Short Stories (single author)
  • Human beings do not live in the objective world alone… but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society.… The fact of the matter is that the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality.—Edward Sapir
  • Epigraph | Page: 22
  • #language #identity #humanity
  • Root canal is one fifty, give or take, depending on who’s doing it to you.
  • Sorry | Page: 3
  • #first-sentence
  • Workers follow the work, and the work is here. All of us ready to feel, to suffer. We’re in a growth industry.
  • Sorry | Page: 4
  • #work #capitalism
  • An industry was born. The business of bad feeling. For the right price, almost any part of life could be avoided.
  • Sorry | Page: 6
  • #work #industry #business #avoidance
  • A language of knowing something, a language of being an expert at something. A language of being something more than an hourly unit.
  • Sorry | Page: 9
  • #language
  • I always appreciated Deepak trying to help me understand. But it’s just a job, I would say. I never really understood why Deep thought so much of those programmers, either. In the end, we’re all brains for hire. Mental space for rent, moments as a commodity.
  • Sorry | Page: 9
  • #labor #work #commoditization
  • I mean, I’m renting my life out one day at a time, but I haven’t sold it yet. And I don’t plan to, either. I’m buying in, not selling out. I want to live, not exist, want to have a life, even if it is bits and pieces, even if it isn’t the greatest product out there, even if it’s more like a life- substitute. I’ll take it.
  • Sorry | Page: 15
  • #work #commoditization
  • I don’t want to sell my life. I’m not ready to do that yet. So I sell it bit by bit. Scrape by. Sell it by the hour. Pain, grief, terror, worse. Or just mild discomfort. Social anxiety. Boredom.
  • Sorry | Page: 16
  • A lot of the rich look mildly betrayed in the face of death, as if they are a little bit surprised that good style and a lot of money weren’t quite enough to protect them from the unpleasantness of it all.
  • Sorry | Page: 18
  • Kirthi’s father is still mortgaged, Sunil explains. Locked in. Sold his life. “Just like yours,” Sunil says. “Right?”
  • Sorry | Page: 22
  • My dad sold his life for a fixed annuity, indexed to inflation at three percent annually, and a seventy percent pension if he made it full term: forty years, age seventy, and he could stop, he could come back to us.
  • Sorry | Page: 28
  • “Time is money,” the video said. “And money is time. Create value out of the most valuable asset you own.”
  • Sorry | Page: 29
  • Whatever it is she let me have, she has taken it away. Whatever it is when two people agree to briefly occupy the same space, agree to allow their lives to overlap in some small area, some temporary region of the world, a region they create through love or convenience, or for us, something even more meager, whatever that was, it has collapsed, it has closed. She has collapsed our shared space. She has closed herself to me.
  • Sorry | Page: 29
  • Correct assumes there is some universal registrar, some recorder of your infinitesimal, momentary desires. Correct assumes that there is some perfect mind, speaking some ideal language, into some infallible translator. A perfect three- way dictionary: mind to word to world.
  • Sorry | Page: 44
  • This is what you have to ask yourself: Do you want to be good, or just seem good? Do you want to be good to yourself and others? Do you care about other people, always, sometimes, never? Or only when convenient? What kind of person do you want to be?
  • Sorry | Page: 48
  • You started life crying. Learned to talk so you could communicate your wants more effectively.
  • Sorry | Page: 49
  • A life without unfulfilled desire is not what you want. A life without unfulfilled desire is a life without desire.
  • Sorry | Page: 50
  • Have you ever thought about not wanting, just for a second? Have you ever thought about putting a question into this device, about what would happen if you asked about the world, instead of just asking for it?
  • Sorry | Page: 52
  • When are you going to start considering the possibility that you are exactly who you want to be?
  • Sorry | Page: 52
  • The fighting goes on in silence, this gorgeous ballet of carnage, and I start to wonder, did it matter? Did any of it ever matter? I tried. I gave it my best. That’s as much as anyone can say, right? So there. So that’s that.
  • Please | Page: 81
  • In a nutshell, cousins are your optional brothers and sisters. They are people to whom you owe nothing, who owe you nothing, but who can be important to you, if you wish.
  • Please | Page: 86
  • Cousins often care about you more than you will ever know, or could ever possibly guess. It is not at all uncommon to realize this very late in life.
  • Please | Page: 88
  • Our solid work in Depression has led to increasing market share in Dread. It is a step in the right direction, and although I know some of you may have doubts, I believe that we can collectively rise to the challenge.
  • Thank You | Page: 173
  • We’ll get to that, but first we have to talk about some other boring stuff, like money. So much money. So, so much. It’s crazy how much profit we make!
  • Thank You | Page: 174
  • Winning in the Depression/ Suicide space these days means keeping the machine running smoothly. With each new generation of the product, we crank up the engine a little: spreading the early word at physician conferences, getting the collateral out there, pens and squeeze toys and magnets and little foam footballs, legitimatization (i.e., commissioning the articles in JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine), and then postlaunch, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way to fill and finish, to keeping the distribution channels stuffed full, bursting with product, to the shelves of the pharmacy, to the medicine cabinet and nightstand, to the mouth, stomach, liver, bloodstream, brain, mind, and life/ day/ worldview of the end user, lifting off her soul the heavy wool blanket of melancholia.
  • Thank You | Page: 175
  • This is what you care about: bottom line. Which is this: Depression earned three forty- two a share last year, or just over nine and a half billion dollars for PharmaLife. Not depressing at all!
  • Thank You | Page: 176
  • PharmaLife, Inc., is a corporation formed under the laws of the State of Mississippi, a territory of the United States of China, and a wholly owned subsidiary of The Acme Widget Company of Ohio.
  • Thank You | Page: 182
  • What has come over me? Murray wonders, and it occurs to him that searching frantically for an exit is perhaps exactly what someone in Murray’s situation would be expected to do. That’s what Murray has been doing all his life. Getting up when the alarm goes off. Going to work. Coming straight home from work. A drink or three in the evening, and do it all over again.
  • Thank You | Page: 204
  • Straight ahead, plodding along with the plot. And now he has signed up for more of the same, wanting a little taste of what other people had, lured in by the promise of two bedrooms and two bathrooms with shiny fixtures and baskets of individually wrapped soaps, all of the shiny products just part of the larger one, the largest one, a way of life, life itself as a product.
  • Thank You | Page: 205
  • This is it: his all- time high point. The apex of his trajectory, his moment of total freedom, the moment that Murray has been waiting for his whole life. To feel completely free and real and himself.
  • Thank You | Page: 205
  • Content pipelines productive as ever, churning and chugging, pumping out the content day and night, conceptual smokestacks billowing out content- manufacturing waste product emissions, marginal unit cost of content dropping every day, content just piling up, containers full, warehouses full, cargo ships full, the channels stuffed to bursting with content. So much content that they needed to make new markets just to find a place to put all of it, had to create the Town, and after that, another Town, and beyond that, who knew?
  • Thank You | Page: 209
  • What were the limits for American Entertainments, Inc., and its managed- narrative experiential lifestyle products? How big could the Content Factory get?
  • Thank You | Page: 210
  • This is what Rick is offering: a sound- tracked life. Life as a story. A story as a product. Is this really the best he can hope for? Is this all there is?
  • Thank You | Page: 212
  • Behind Murray is his backstory, his life. In front of him is who knows what. But how does he just go on now, having seen what he’s seen? The guts of it. The gears. The machinery of production of his reality. His existence as a customer. As a paying customer in a managed lifestyle experience. This is what it is, what it has been for some time now. The only difference is that now he knows it.
  • Thank You | Page: 212
  • Not enough for a story, Murray thinks, here at the edge of his own story, but it will have to do, somehow it’s going to have to be enough, and somehow it is. It’s enough.
  • Thank You | Page: 214