Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

Hit or Miss, April 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  (You can click on the links for short reviews or comments I’ve left elsewhere.)

Several were close calls for me, with a few of the things I ultimately ranked “Hits” being fairly borderline calls, and one of the “Neither Hit nor Miss” reads being a good candidate for an all-out miss.


Along with back issues of several magazines, including:  Chinese Newsweek, Aoife’s Kiss


  • There were no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

So how was April reading and viewing for you?

April 26, 2012

Recent Publication

My essay “Deep Pockets, Shallow Lives” appeared this past week in the online magazine Xenith.  It’s a “fragmented essay,” and it’s a piece that I have a real soft spot for.

Over the years, I’ve had a couple of other pieces appear in Xenith, including another fragmented essay and a translation of an anonymous Chinese poem.  Those two are also works that I have a real soft spot for — it looks like I’m seeing a theme for those pieces accepted at Xenith.

It’s always great to find a magazine that resonates for you, that seems to be a good fit for your own writing.  Xenith is exactly that sort of publication for me.  I hope you’ll pop by and see what all they’ve got going on there too.  Maybe you’ll find you like it as much as I do.

April 21, 2012


I’ve recently had a couple of poems appear at Eunoia Review.  “In Captivity, by the Streams of Babylon” is a reprint of a piece that was exhibited at Things Disappear in Shanghai in 2011.  “Random Access Memory” is published at Eunoia Review for the first time.

Both of these poems are in a form I call “erasure,” for reasons that will be clear when you have a look at them.  (Or, if it isn’t immediately clear, then highlight the text at those sites and you’ll see how the form works.)  I like how the form says something by taking away, how it speaks through the negative spaces.

I came to the form via Edwin Morgan, one of my favorite poets.  I don’t know that he ever referred to it as “erasure,” but it is what I call it.  His poem “Message Clear” is one that just floored me when I first read it.  He was not the only (nor the first) poet to write using this technique, but that particular piece made an especially deep impression on me, and it was the one that compelled me to experiment with the form myself.

I’ve experimented with erasure on several occasions, with varying degrees of success.  What I love most about it is the way it forces you to discover poetry in words not (at first) your own.  In doing so, it provides you with the opportunity to find yourself in the words of others in a unique way.

April 20, 2012

Busy Times…

It’s been a busy few weeks, a time frame which has included several walks through classical Chinese gardens (bringing people to the gardens, and also delivering a lecture on the Suzhou Garden for the Royal Asiatic Society earlier this week).  I always love the gardens, and spring and fall seem to be the times people most like to go, with the weather being as nice as it is during these seasons.  I have a liking for the gardens in autumn, but I’ve enjoyed my recent visits too.

I’ve posted some photos over at Tai Shan, my China-related blog at Sloth Jockey, and there will be a few more coming up within the next week or so, for those who are interested.

I find the gardens such an intriguing topic, with so much depth to be explored.  It’s been a busy few weeks… and very enjoyable too.

April 14, 2012

First Batch…!

I picked up the first batch of copies of Northern Girls from the Penguin office this week.  I’m really excited to see them available in shops in mid-May.


April 8, 2012

My Fill in the Gaps Watch

Since I will be making this my new blogging home, I will be using it as my main site for keeping up with my Fill in the Gaps List.  If you are not familiar with the idea of the Fill in the Gaps list, it’s a list of 100 books that a reader will read over a 5-year period (it began a few years ago and is supposed to end in 2012).  The books on the list should be those that fill in gaps between one’s regular reading responsibilities for work or school.  I’ve been keeping up with the list for a few years now, and think I will be on track to complete it by 2015.  I thought it wise to move the list over here to be able to keep track of it better, since my old site will fall by the wayside before long.

So, here’s my list.  I will move items up as they are either in progress or completed.  Those still to be read are on the lower part of the list.  Those on the Completed list are numbered according to the order I finished reading them.

My Fill in the Gaps Watch


  1. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
  2. Woman to Woman and other poems (Agnes Lam)
  3. The 8th Habit (Stephen Covey)
  4. Mortician’s Tea (G. O. Clark)
  5. Poemcrazy (Susan Wooldridge)
  6. Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)
  7. Velocity (Dean Koontz)
  8. The World is Flat (Thomas L. Friedman)
  9. A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
  10. Rip Van Winkle – Washington Irving
  11. Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
  12. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
  13. Brighton Rock – Graham Greene
  14. Ancient Skies – oino sakai
  15. House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones
  16. Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster – Mark McLaughlin and Michael McCarty
  17. Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls – Yuri Rasovsky
  18. Relativity:  The Special and General Theory – Albert Einstein
  19. Catch Me if You Can – Frank Abagnale, Jr.
  20. Streamers – David Rabe
  21. Marco Polo Sings a Solo – John Guare
  22. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult – Joseph Bedier
  23. Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory
  24. Bush at War – Bob Woodward
  25. The Consolation of Philosophy – Boethius
  26. Wings – Arthur Kopit
  27. Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis
  28. Holy Ghosts – Romulus Linney
  29. The Waters of Babylon – John Arden
  30. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  31. Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You – C. Durang
  32. Looking Backward – Edward Bellamy
  33. A History of the Middle Ages – Crane Brinton, John Christopher, Robert Wolff
  34. Atlantis – Greg Donegan
  35. A Descent into the Maelstrom – Edgar Allan Poe
  36. The Thorn of Lion City – Lucy Lum
  37. The Lake of Dead Languages – Carol Goodman
  38. Six Characters in Search of an Author – Luigi Pirandello
  39. The Castle – Franz Kafka
  40. Daughter of the River – Hong Ying
  41. Tomorrow When the World Began – John Marsden
  42. The Dragons of Eden – Carl Sagan
  43. Paul – Walter Wangerin, Jr.
  44. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  45. Inkheart – Cornelia Funke
  46. Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope
  47. The Stolen White Elephant – Mark Twain
  48. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  49. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  50. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  51. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  52. The Truth About Jesus – M. M. Mangasarian
  53. Crimes of the Heart – Beth Henley
  54. Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs
  55. The Twelve Caesars – Seutonius
  56. Nanjing 1937 – Ye Zhaoyan
  57. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
  58. Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  59. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life – Walter Isaacson
  60. The Mark of the Christian – Francis Shaeffer
  61. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  62. The Commentaries – Julius Caesar
  63. The Plague — Albert Camus
  64. Startling Moon – Liu Hong

In Progress

  • The Dining Room – A. R. Gurney
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne

The Rest

  • The Kite Runner – Khalad Hosseini
  • The Sayings of Jesus – Anna Wierzbicka
  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
  • Catch – 22 – Joseph Heller
  • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  • Candide – Voltaire
  • Ben Hur – Lew Wallace
  • Toilers of the Sea – Victor Hugo
  • Finnegan’s Wake – James Joyce
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  • Paradise – Toni Morrison
  • Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  • The Decameron – Boccaccio
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Human Comedy – William Saroyan
  • The Beautiful and the Damned – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Scenes of a Clerical Life – George Eliot
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Ragged Dick – Horatio Alger, Jr.
  • The House of the Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Bedknob and Broomsticks – Mary Norton
  • Deltora Quest – Emily Rodda
  • When the Gods are Silent – Jane Lindskold
  • The Pickwick Paper – Charles Dickens
  • Brazil – Annette Haddad, ed.
  • The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Painting Churches – Tina Howe
  • The Orthodox Way – Father Kallistos Ware
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – August Wilson
  • The $30,000 Bequest – Mark Twain
  • An Ideal Husband – Oscar Wilde
  • Zhao the Orphan – Ji Junxiang
April 3, 2012

Announcements and Apologies

Announcements first…

I’ve finally got my website going in the direction it will take for the foreseeable future.  The new URL where you can find me is:


And now for apologies…

It appears that my old site might disappear altogether in the very near future.  (Thus the need for the above announcement.)  I’m migrating my old posts, comments and all, over to my new space.  If you got an early jump on following my blog (because demand will be so great for it, maybe?), I have to say sorry for the overload of emails you might have received today.  And for those that will be coming soon as well.  I’ve managed to migrate all of the posts from 2009 over to the new place, but still have to do 2010, 2011, and 2012 up till the most recent posts.  Because of the nature of the old blog’s content, this all has to be done manually.  So, if you are following the blog, it will send you emails as I continue this process.

Again, my apologies.  It’s a hassle.  Please bear with me.  I’ll try to finish it as quickly as I can.


April 1, 2012

Hit or Miss, March 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  (You can click on the links for short reviews or comments I’ve left elsewhere.)

Several were close calls for me, with a few of the things I ultimately ranked “Hits” being fairly borderline calls, and one of the “Neither Hit nor Miss” reads being a good candidate for an all-out miss.


  • The Red Room (H. G. Wells)
  • Kylie’s Kiss (Delia Latham)
  • Nanjing 1937 (Ye Zhaoyan)
  • The Dream of Reason (Anthony Gottlieb)
  • Becoming Madame Mao (Anchee Min)
  • The Apartment (Greg Baxter)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (onstage)

Along with back issues of several magazines, including:  The World of Chinese, Newsweek, Aoife’s Kiss


  • There were no real misses, though “The Ice Palace” came close.

Neither Hit Nor Miss

So how was March reading and viewing for you?