"About the Work" with Han Chang
In our "About the Work" series, Natalie Tombasco asks recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Han Chang's story, "Uncle! Uncle!," in SER Vol. 39.2.
This story, Uncle, Uncle!, began with a few vague, piecemeal threads: Uncle Tsai in the low-res, cropped-out photo, with his darkened photochromic lenses and his signature tight-lipped grimace; Lincoln watching his dad and uncle riling each other up with their drunken, heady bombast (white Hanes tank tops and white stackable lawn chairs, late summer dusk); the strangely salient Land Before Time scene; the Red Baron Meat Trio; the 27” Zenith; the Super K-Mart.
More than anything, I’d been thinking about Uncle Tsai (and his ilk) for quite some time. Uncle himself is a bit of an amalgam of people I knew growing up—these self-effacing, plainspoken people who were spirited and manic and, sometimes, devoted and serious in a way that made them feel a little bit doomed. But I didn’t have a story to fit him into.
It wasn’t until reading a collection of Feynman’s letters—when I came upon his quote about this “intense beauty” seen only by physicists—that a story began forming. It was that exalted way in which Feynman talked about it—that intense beauty—how the great tragedy was that not many would live to know about it. But then I wondered, what if, maybe—maybe maybe maybe—there was a sort of tragedy in knowing it, too? Of being consumed by it? What of those people?
HAN CHANG is a designer and writer. His work is also in World Literature Today.