Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics

Third Class Superhero

Third Class Superhero (Harcourt, Inc.)

Charles Yu

The characters that populate the stories in Charles Yu's debut collection are all painfully lonely, going through intense identity crises and unable to communicate with their loved ones. Instead of illustrating these human foibles with your usual literary song and dance, Yu inhabits the language of corporate America ("We do vertical integration, storage solutions, industrial automation."), standardized testing ("A and B are sliding down a frictionless inclined plane. They are accelerating toward the inevitable. Domesticity.") and RPG games, as in the story "Two-Player Infinitely Iterated Simultaneous Semi-Cooperative Game with Spite and Reputation." Yu's at his best in the title story, "Third Class Superhero," where the pathetic but believable Moisture Man faces a real dilemma about choosing between good and evil. His deadpan humor and unrelenting linguistic logic come through in stories like "My Last Days as Me," about an actor playing Me on the hit show Family and his problems with the new woman playing My Mother. Even though the cleverness sometimes gets the better of the situation at the sacrifice of character, Yu's work leaves a lasting impression. After reading this, I've found that thinking about my personal relationships in terms of mathematical equations is kind of comforting. -Neelanjana Banerjee

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