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Pop Quiz: Yiyun Li Excerpt or Emo Lyric?

See if you can distinguish the East Bay author's prose from that of angsty indie rockers.

MacArthur Genius Yiyun Li

MacArthur Genius Yiyun Li

The newest novel by Oakland–based MacArthur Genius Yiyun Li, Kinder Than Solitude, is the kind of book that makes casual reference to “the profound and perplexing loneliness in which every human heart dwells.” While it’s a truly great book—expertly crafted and deeply human—we couldn’t help noticing how much some of its prose sounds like lyrics from emo bands of yore.

See if you can distinguish li’s writing from that of angsty indie rockers.

A “There will be no planets to align. Just the carcass of the sun and those little painted marbles spinning senseless through an endless black sky.”

B “It is easier to hold a person accountable for a tragedy than to hold fate, which defeats everyone impartially, accountable.”

C “Hope dangles on a string,like slow-spinning redemption.”

D “Bad things happen—wars, plagues, parents abandoning their children, the heartless preying on those with hearts—and no one, not a human or a god, will intervene.”

E “You have destroyed my flower-like life,not once—twice.”

F “The best life is the life unlived.”


Answers: A: Lyric (Bright Eyes, “From a Balance Beam”) / B: Excerpt (Page 138) / C: Lyric (Dashboard Confessional, “Vindicated”) / D: Excerpt (Page 181) / E: Lyric (The Smiths, “Miserable Lie”) / F: Excerpt (Page 7) 


Originally Published in the March Issue of San Francisco

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