He finished (and basically abandoned) the book, went back to work on mergers and acquisitions, and then happened to read a review of an Australian short story collection that mentioned the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the US. He Googled the program, discovered its deadline was imminent, and so quickly shipped off the first few chapters of his novel on what he calls "a whim."
The prestigious program accepted him and he's since won an armful of awards, published "The Boat" (reviewed here today for the Monitor by Heller McAlpin), and become the fiction editor of The Harvard Review (a job also held by 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz.) Oh, and by the way – Nam Le is not yet 30.
However, in an interview with online literary magazine Luna Park, he insists that – despite appearances to the contrary he is in fact "a dawdler."
"I've just gotten so good at [dawdling] that it now looks like something else," he says.