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Anelise Chen

Anelise Chen is the author of So Many Olympic Exertions (Kaya Press 2017), an experimental novel that blends elements of sportswriting, memoir, and self help. She hails from Temple City, California, and received a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Fiction from NYU. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, NPR, BOMB Magazine, The New Republic, VICE, Village Voice and many other publications. She has received fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and she will be a 2019 Literature Fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. She currently teaches writing at Columbia University and writes a column on mollusks for The Paris Review.

Praise for So Many Olympic Exertions:

Anelise Chen is the rare kind of writer who can bring rigorous thought into fiction without compromising the humanity of her characters, who can delve into the emotional landscape of alienation and make you feel closer to the story that’s being told, who can describe a man running and make it mean more than you would ever have imagined. With its passionate and penetrating empathy, So Many Olympic Exertions is a book that will pierce you with feeling and leave you eager to read what she creates next. — Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine

Reading Anelise Chen’s debut is like being placed in a fast-moving stream it’s impossible to stop and you won’t want to. A rare joy. –– Ed Park, Author of Personal Days

Anelise Chen writes with sharp knowledge about compulsive endurance, a surprisingly familiar pathology that she slyly argues may be synonymous with our end-of-empire lifestyles. Equal parts panic attack poetry, unnerving research, and sculpted hesitation marks, So Many Olympic Exertions is a cool literature made from the hot stage fright of the children of immigrants on some live TV whizkid contest perhaps called Life Now. — Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs and The Strangers

Be yourself; fake it ‘til you make it. Never give up; quit while you’re ahead. Rise and grind; treat yo’ self. In world full of contradictory platitudes, how does one figure out what to do, how to excel, who to become? When should one push herself for once, and when learn to take it easy already? Anelise Chen’s semi-autobiographical debut novel takes on these questions with sly aplomb through a cheeky hybrid form. — Siel Ju, Los Angeles Review of Books

[A] thoughtful and inventive writer… the world [Chen] creates may remind readers of certain paintings by Gustav Klimt, wherein the characters are rendered in a doleful realist hand as their surroundings shimmer with gold leaf. — Max Ross, Electric Literature

Chen does beautiful, thoughtful returns in this book, looping around the connections between sports and life, sports and death, and the limits of those through lines. What motivates one to keep going despite death and the gruel, rote work of staying alive? Every sport, like life, appears Sisyphean from certain vantage points. The motivating action and the hard rules of a sport can seem so pointless if one isn’t a believer in the meaning attached to the game. — Yasmin Majeed, Ploughshares

so many olympic exertions

So Many Olympic Exertions

Kaya Press 2017

BUY So Many Olympic Exertions HERE!

Blending elements of self-help, memoir, and sports writing, So Many Olympic Exertions is an experimental novel that perhaps most resembles what the ancient Greeks called hypomnemata, or “notes to the self” in the form of observations, reminders, and self-exhortations. Taken together, these notes constitute a personal handbook on “how to live” or perhaps more urgently “why to live,” a question the narrator, graduate student Athena Chen, desperately needs answering.

When Chen hears news that her brilliant friend from college has committed suicide, she is thrown into a fugue of fear and doubt. Through a fascinating collection of anecdotes and close readings of moments in the sometimes harrowing (ie., bloody) world of sports, the novel questions the validity and usefulness of our current narratives of success by focusing attention on seemingly mundane, unexpected, or “failed” moments.

A deep examination of life’s epic and daily moments, So Many Olympic Exertions puts a spin on the auto-fiction trend in the vein of Sheila Heti and Ben Lerner to examine what counts as meaningful in the field of our lives. Is it “winning” goals, dominating others, acting upon unbridled ambition, or the relentless stockpiling of fame and validation? Or can meaning be generated in others ways, through moments of mutuality and shared practice? In her debut novel, Anelise Chen brings you a completely original take on the sports novel.


Anelise Chen news


On November 3, 2017, the Friday of homecoming weekend at USC, Kaya Press hosted its annual Visions and Voices event with Kaya authors Anelise Chen and Q.M. Zhang in conversation with Los Angeles–based writers Tisa Bryant and Chris Kraus around the topic of hybrid fiction. To usher in the discussion, each writer first read from […]

EVENT—Visions and Voices presents I Love Dick: Five Women Writers on Hybrid Storytelling

I Love Dick, Chris Kraus’s auto-fiction about the obsessions of a writer named Chris Kraus, has influenced a generation of writers to experiment with blurring fact and fiction as a way to claim radical subjectivity. The book has now been adapted into an Amazon Prime series produced by Jill Soloway (Transparent). In a conversation about how […]

LA Launch of So Many Olympic Exertions w/ Jarett Kobek

Kaya Press & ARTBOOK at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles are pleased to welcome Anelise Chen and Jarett Kobek for the release of Anelise Chen debut novel So Many Olympic Exertions, described as “formally unique and inventive” by Publisher’s Weekly. Blending elements of self-help, memoir, and sports writing, So Many Olympic Exertions is an experimental […]

Kaya at Smithsonian APA Literature Festival

Kaya Press is excited to be one of the partners bringing you the inaugural Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Literature Festival held in Washington DC at the Smithsonian, The Phillips Collection, Library of Congress and the Dupont Underground from July 27 – 29, 2017. Check out the full schedule of events here. Kaya Press will be […]