THURSDAY

Chang-rae Lee is the Bruce Lee of modern American literature: always in perfect form, a perennially fresh-faced precisionist who pleases all his critics all the time. But he’s also a bit of a James Bond of interior landscapes. In his first novel, Native Speaker, he wrote into existence Henry Park, a man who has difficulty articulating himself to those he loves but writes lyrical dossiers about the Korean-American politician he’s been hired to spy on. His followup, A Gesture Life, displayed the author’s William Gibson–esque ability to interpret the life of an emotional deaf-mute, Doc Hata, whose wry, eloquent, first-person narrative draws readers close even as he remains aloof and guarded with the characters in his life. Now, in his new novel, Aloft, Lee positions himself as the Walt Whitman of our modern miscegenous modes. The narrator, Jerry Battle, is a retired Long Island landscaper and the father of two grown half-Korean children. Unsurprisingly, though he has great trouble expressing his affection for his estranged Puerto Rican girlfriend and his kids, his melancholy, often sarcastic, and sometimes wonder-struck tone secures him a foothold in the reader’s mind. One of the producers of The Royal Tenenbaums (and, alas, The Hours) has already bought the movie rights, but Aloft is successful in a way that only books can be: It embeds us deeply in someone else’s habits of thought and leaves us moved by his feelings. Lee reads at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 25, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 2111 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 525-4227. (Bidisha Banerjee)