Tradition and spectacle

Uyen Hua’s debut begins emphatically, “today, Britain’s return of Hong Kong, to itself, makes you feel justified.” The empire is fading, China is rising, and this produces an emotive force. A/S/L is a whirlwind of early-2000s pop culture. Hua, a UC Davis graduate, consistently maneuvers through the verse by placing anachronistic pop stars in an abstract space between high tradition and endless spectacle, Paris and Google respectively. In a single poem she operates through “meryl streep/brittany murphy,” “harrison ford/ben stiller,” “haley joel osment [and] ike turner.” As a collection of hypermediated material and personal expression, Hua follows the accumulations of a media complex so self-involved it has sublimely overloaded the lyric speaker, manifesting in a curious desire to connect with distant people and abstract things, and immediately express to them what exactly this connecting feels like. This verse compellingly encapsulates our moment, these remnants and desires of a social-media generation in economic decline.