Author: Vi Khi Nao
The Vegas Dilemma, a collection of twenty-seven short stories, weaves a vision of contemporary America through the eyes of its outcasts. Set largely in Las Vegas, featuring a recurring character of a footloose, morose woman who likes to eat Cheerios in grocery stores, each story takes up quotidian concerns-staying in Starbucks past closing time, a visit to Hoover Dam, falling in love over Instagram-and mines them for their political and existential undercurrents, which fly off the stories like sparks from a pinwheel. A cycle of stories-"Pulverized Oat Wheels," "Mother Nature is Belligerent", "Symmetry of Provocation", etc.-make use of a vignette style to suture seemingly disparate scenarios and emotions. Thus, in "Not Capable of Giving her Leprosy" we meet a sexually exploitative American professor at a South Korean University; a reading group who meet in Starbucks to discuss the ethics of eating meat while reading The Vegetarian; palm trees that are mistaken for armadillos; and Walmart identified as a nerve agent. Other stories, such as "Your Sadness is Salt on Salt" and "In My Youth My Father Is Short and Poor," use a sparse first-person voice for more poetic effect. Connected by themes of alienation, bad romance, and microaggressions, The Vegas Dilemma combines the inventiveness of fiction and the richness of everyday life to show that such American tragedies as Trump's ascendency and the Weinstein scandal aren't divorced from everyday interactions, but arise from them.