Cover image for Fixer Chao
Fixer Chao
Ong, Han.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
Physical Description:
377 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
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A picaresque first novel about love, revenge, art, and Feng Shui. When William Narciso Paulinha, a Filipino street hustler, meets Shem C, a disreputable and social-climbing writer embittered by his lack of success, the Feng Shui scam of the century is born. Under Shem C's guidance, Paulinha assumes the persona of Master Chao, a revered Feng Shui practitioner from Hong Kong. Distorting the Eastern concept of Feng Shui -- the mystical Chinese art of creating a harmonious environment, promising its adherents peace and prosperity -- to accommodate Western demands, they peddle their peculiar brand of this holistic philosophy among New York City's elite.As this latter-day confidence man cuts a swath through upper-crust society, his biting observations form a comic portrait of class resentment and revenge. An auspicious debut, Fixer Chao raises questions of race and privilege, character and identity, and of what it means to be Asian at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Author Notes

Born & educated in the Philippines, Han Ong came to the U.S. as a teenager, & was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship in 1997. He is the author of several critically acclaimed plays. "Fixer Chao" is his first novel.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Building from an amusing satirical premise, Ong's quintessentially of-the-moment debut expands into a scathing commentary on life in contemporary New York. Gay Filipino hustler William Paulinha stops turning tricks in the Port Authority Men's Room after he meets Shem C, a failed writer who wants revenge on the Manhattan upper crust who have spurned him. Under Shem's plan, William pretends to be Feng Shui expert Master Chao and preys on Shem's unsuspecting victims by demanding royal payment for the marvelously nonsensical advice he gives to perpetually disenchanted wealthy homeowners. Inevitably, he is found out. Written with acidic wit, Ong's novel is sharp and savvy, smashing sacred cows casually but forcefully. When William is verbally assaulted by a client who has discovered the scheme, he responds in kind, asking a moneyed but miserable homeowner, "Did you think that Feng Shui could repair your ugly soul?" The narrative paints painfully contrasting pictures of privileged society and New York's underbelly, of which Ong offers an invigoratingly clearheaded view, as William encounters numerous loners in his forays into their seedy milieu. Ong also brings the Asian perspective into his work with considerable subtlety. Although William frequently feels watched and suspected, he does not allow racial prejudice to hinder him as he moves through the Caucasian world; Ong seems most concerned that his readers awaken to the world's hypocrisy. 3-city author tour. (Apr.) Forecast: MacArthur Fellowship winner Ong's stage plays, Dark Bakersfield and Middle Finger, have already earned him an audience among young people on the scene. This hip, unsparing tale has word-of-mouth potential. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Recently, feng shui the Chinese art of arranging a living space in such a way that good fortune is induced as a result has begun to infiltrate American public consciousness. It was only a matter of time before the concept appeared somewhere in our literature. Fortunately for us, playwright Ong puts feng shui to good use in this superb and scathingly satirical first novel that paints a fiercely condemning portrait of a shallow and overprivileged upper class. Set in the always class-stratified Manhattan, this novel tells of William Narcisco Paulinha, a Filipino male prostitute who is offered the opportunity to escape his wretched existence by Shem C, a writer bent on revenge owing to his lack of success. At Shem's insistence, William assumes the role of Master Chao, a feng shui expert, and the two begin to rob New York's superwealthy of both their money and their well-being by "fixing" their homes. As William moves through the class spectrum of Manhattan, he offers sardonic and keen observations about social, racial, and cultural distinctions and privileges. Ong's strong writing keeps the plot moving at a good pace, and his abilities as a playwright serve him well in rendering excellent dialog. Highly recommended. Heath Madom, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.