Archive for ‘books’

April 15, 2013

Hit or Miss, March 2013

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  It’s a smallish list this time round, mostly because I have several projects going on that require a lot of reading, and at a very slow pace.  I’m also very late in posting my March reading list!

Hits

  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • War Poems (Carl Sandburg)
  • When Dogs Cry (Markus Zusak)
  • The Hidden Reality (Brian Greene)
  • Other Voices, Other Worlds (Bruce Boston)
  • No Exit (onstage)

Along with the most recent issue of In Other Words

Misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • None

So how was March reading and viewing for you?

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March 21, 2013

Sketch

Celine Garb did this sketch of me earlier this week.  I liked how she framed it with my three poetry collections.

 

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March 3, 2013

Hit or Miss, February 2013

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  It’s a smallish list this time round, mostly because I have several projects going on that require a lot of reading, and at a very slow pace.

Hits

  • Spectre (Verena Tay)
  • from within the marrow (Yong Shu Hoong)
  • Future Cop (movie)
  • Twenty-One Novel Poems (Suzette Elgin Haden)
  • Cloud Atlas (movie)
  • Hiss of Leaves (T. D. Ingram)

Along with the most recent issues of Star*Line and Illumen

Misses

  • no misses!

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • Rush Hour 2 (movie)

 

So how was February reading and viewing for you?

February 5, 2013

Hit or Miss, January 2013

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.  It’s a smallish list this time round, mostly because I have several projects going on that require a lot of reading, and at a very slow pace.

Hits

  • Blood of Heaven (Bill Meyers)
  • Dreaming in the Days of Astophel (Lyn C. A. Gardner)
  • Les Miserables (movie)
  • Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)

Along with some back issues of the magazine Knowledge

Misses

  • no misses!

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • Flesh and Blood (Michael Cunningham)

(There was a lot I liked in Flesh and Blood, but also just enough that didn’t quite grab me to prevent it from landing on the Hit portion of the list.)

 

 

So how was January reading and viewing for you?

January 1, 2013

Hit or Miss, December 2012

Here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing for the past month.

Hits

  • The Garden of Evening Mists (Tan Twan Eng)
  • Unearthly Delights (Marge Simon)
  • 《死亡赋格》(盛可以,Sheng Keyi)
  • My Friend, the Poet (Terrie Leigh Relf)
  • Fish Eats Lion (Jason Erik Lundberg, ed.)
  • The Dragon Dictionary (Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo)
  • The Japanese Haiku (Kenneth Yasuda)
  • Dragon Soup (Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo)

Along with the most recent issues and several back issues of the magazines Illumen, Knowledge, The Martian Wave

Misses

  • no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • Rising Sun (Michael Crichton)
  • The Hobbit (movie)
  • Men in Black II (movie)

 

So how was December reading and viewing for you?

December 5, 2012

Northern Girls nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize

I’m pleased to announce that Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls has been nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

Congratulations, Sheng Keyi!

 

Time Out! Hong Kong’s coverage

December 2, 2012

Hit or Miss, November 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.)

Hits

  • The Master (Colm Toibin)
  • The Sun is Not for Us (onstage)
  • The Craft of Gardens (Ji Cheng)
  • Lao She in London (Anne Witchard)
  • Continuous Growth (onstage)
  • Interpreting Another Culture (an unpublished dissertation by Betty Barr)
  • In the Company of Heroes (Verena Tay)

Along with the most recent issues and several back issues of the magazines Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Micro Art, The World of Chinese

Misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • 《驴得水》

(both of these two got mixed reviews from me)

 

 

So how was October reading and viewing for you?

November 4, 2012

Hit or Miss, October 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.)

Hits

  • The Casual Vacancy (J. K. Rowling)
  • Van Helsing (movie)
  • Lust, Caution and other short stories (Eileen Chang)
  • Finding Neverland (movie)
  • Crossing Over (movie)
  • The Other Side of Light (Mishi Saran)
  • The Sheckley Trilogy
  • The Master (Colm Toibin) – not finished yet, but really enjoying it

Along with the most recent issues of several back issues of the magazine The World of Chinese

Misses

  • Friends with Benefits (movie)

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • Material Witness (Vanetta Chapman)  – it was OK, but not a real favorite with me

So how was October reading and viewing for you?

October 26, 2012

Fish Eats Lion

Fish Eats Lion is an anthology of speculative fiction published by Singapore’s Math Paper Press.  The anthology will include my short story “Rewrites.”  Unfortunately, I won’t be in Singapore for the launch on Nov 4, but if you are there, perhaps you’d like to stop in on the event.

The launch will be a part of the Singapore Writers Festival, held on 4 November at 4:00 p.m. in the ilovebooks.com Pavilion. There will be five readers whose work appears in the anthology, Victor Ocampo, Andrew Cheah, Noelle de Jesus, Wei Fen Lee, and Marc de Faoite.

October 14, 2012

Shanghai Launch of Voices of the Elders

Voices of the Elders will be launched in Shanghai on November 3. The event will be held at Wharf 1846, at 601 Waima Lu.   The reading will begin at 4pm.

Feel free to come and bring your friends.  The event is open to everyone.

 

October 1, 2012

Hit or Miss, September 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.)

Hits

  • Zoheleth (J. Francis Hudson)
  • Northern Girls (Sheng Keyi)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
  • Icarus Airlines (Taylor Mali)
  • Vulcan’s Workshop (Harl Vincent)
  • The Plague (Albert Camus)
  • Hachi (movie)
  • From the Cables of Genoside (Lorna Dee Cerventes)
  • Source Code (movie)
  • Moneyball (movie)
  • Player Piano (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.)
  • White Deer Plain (movie)
  • Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (onstage)
  • Orlando (Virginia Woolf)
  • Edgar Allan Poe Collection
  • Six Degrees of Separation (John Guare)

Along with the most recent issues of several magazines, including:  Beyond Centauri, Star*Line

Misses

  • none!

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • The Future of Ice (Gretel Ehrlich) – this one is hard to rate, because there were things I loved and things I loathed

So how was September reading and viewing for you?

August 31, 2012

Hit or Miss, August 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.)

Hits

  • Winterflight (Joseph Bayly)
  • Vamps (James S. Dorr)
  • Falling Through Nothing (Scott Nicolay)
  • The Commentaries and The Gallic Wars (Julius Caesar)
  • Edible Zoo (David C. Kopaska-Merkel)
  • The City of a Thousand Gods (Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley)
  • Wild Hunt of the Stars (Ann K. Schwader)
  • The Devil’s Disciples (George Bernard Shaw)
  • 《独自上场》 李娜
  • Self-Reliance (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Along with the most recent issues of several magazines, including:  Beyond Centauri, Star*Line

Misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)

So how was August reading and viewing for you?

August 19, 2012

Review of Voices of the Elders

Malcolm Campbell has posted a review of my new poetry collection, Voices of the Elders, at his blog Malcolm’s Round Table.

I really appreciate the kind words he’s written.  It’s nice to know someone’s read and enjoyed the collection.

August 16, 2012

Get a 15% Discount

I’ve just ordered some books at Dark Regions Press, and they sent me a code that allows my friends to get a 15% discount when they order from the site.  You can click on this link to get your discount:  http://darkregions.refr.cc/KJL2R83

 

Enjoy!

July 31, 2012

Hit or Miss, July 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.)

Hits

  • A Distant Shore (John Houghton)
  • A Prisoner of Birth (Jeffrey Archer)
  • The Amazing Spiderman (movie)
  • The 2012 Rhysling Anthology
  • Signs & Wonders (Jennifer Crow)
  • How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction (J. N. Williamson, ed.)
  • Virgin of the Apocalypse (Corrine de Winter)
  • The Tortilla Curtain (T. C. Boyle)
  • The Poetry Home Repair Manual (Ted Kooser)

Along with the most recent issue of Dreams & Nightmares

Misses

  • There were no misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • None here either!

It’s always a good thing to post an all-hit list!

So how was July reading and viewing for you?

July 23, 2012

The Illustrated Man

I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, a book that has been on my TBR list for a while, but somehow kept getting pushed to the back of the queue as other things demanded more immediate attention.  When I first got back to Singapore from my most recent stint in Shanghai, I had put it back on the top of the stack, intending to read this summer.  That was more than a month before Bradbury’s death.  His passing perhaps made the reading of the collection all the more special to me, but I know I would have enjoyed the stories in this volume at whatever time I read them.  But it just happened in such a way that the reading of The Illustrated Man, coming when it did, felt like a celebration of the man’s life and work.  It is a masterful collection of short stories, with a framing story that pulls them all together into a tidy bundle.  There are 18 tales in all, several of which are chill-inducing.  All are enjoyable.

Another perk of this reading experience grew out of the particular copy of the book that I happen to own.  I cannot remember where I picked it up, but it is an old beat up book I got second hand somewhere.  This Doubleday edition was printed before I was born, in its 9th incarnation.  The feel of the old volume, the crisp pages lying between battered covers, seemed like an especially appropriate treat with which to celebrate the lifetime of writing it represents.  It was a clear reminder of just how accomplished Bradbury was, drawing particular attention to the longevity of his outstanding career.

There are many Bradbury books that get more attention than The Illustrated Man, but this one is a good one.  I’m glad it was the book that turned out to be the one with which I was able to have my own private celebration of his life’s work.

July 1, 2012

Hit or Miss, June 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.)

Hits

  • The Cyberiad (Stanislaw Lem)
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
  • Shakespeare in Love (movie)
  • Puss in Boots (movie)
  • Black Maria (Kevin Young)
  • 《我的心中每天开出一朵花》畿米
  • The Personifid Project (R. E. Bartlett)
  • Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Legends of the Fallen Sky (Marge Simon and Malcolm Deeley)
  • The Civil Servant’s Notebook (Wang Xiaofang)
  • The Phantom World (Gary William Crawford)

Along with the most recent issues of several magazines, including:  parABnormal Digest, Scifaikuest

Misses

  • There were no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • 贴身感觉》张小娴
  • American Empire:  Blood and Iron (Harry Turtledove)

So how was June reading and viewing for you?

June 30, 2012

Voices of the Elders

My third poetry collection, Voices of the Elders, went on sale today at Sam’s Dot Publishing.  You can order a copy through their online shop.

June 8, 2012

Penguin at Singapore Expo

I stopped by the Penguin sale at Singapore Expo this morning, having a couple of hours free before I went to meet some friends in the afternoon.  I was there at opening time (10 am), and in the 2 hours I could allot to book shopping, I got through 3 rows of tables.  It looked to me like this was about one quarter of what was available in the hall.  Digging through the boxes, I was not able to be nearly as careful as I would have liked, but I still managed to find 35 books that I wanted to buy.  Most were selling for $4, though there were a few for $6 and a handful for $9.  I steered clear of those that were more expensive than this.   (I’m running out of shelf space and didn’t want to buy any really massive tomes, so that played a part in me ending up with some good prices.)

I found some really good deals, and came across a few titles that are not easy to find.  I even had one fellow come up to me and ask, “Hey, where did you find that one?”  (I think it was a Coetzee novel, if I’m not mixing it up with something else.)  That made me feel like I’d come up with at least one needle from the haystack.

Overall, I have to say it was a morning well spent.  Of the 35 books I bought, 5-6 were for friends, and the rest have already been put in place on my shelves.

The sale will last through this Sunday (June 10).  It is in Hall 6B.  If there’s a bibliophile in Singapore who hasn’t heard about the sale yet, this counts as your notice.  I think you’ll find making your way to Expo this weekend worth the time.

Next up… the National Library Sale (sometime late July or early August).

June 1, 2012

Hit or Miss, May 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.)

Hits

  • The Mark of a Christian (Francis A. Schaffer)
  • The Avengers (movie)
  • 《下面,我该干些什么》(阿乙)(What Should I do Next, by A Yi)
  • Beast (Erin Donahoe)
  • Selected Poems (Tony Harrison)
  • Through the Woods (Erin Donahoe)
  • Big Shot’s Funeral (movie)
  • Stellar Possibilities (John Dunphy)
  • Up is Down (Mikal Trimm)
  • Contemporary Haibun, vol. 13 (Edited by Jim Kacian, Bruce Ross, and Ken Jones)
  • Pitch (Todd Boss)
  • Men in Black 3 (movie)
  • The Case for Working with Your Hands (Matthew Crawford)

Along with back issues of several magazines, including:  Scifaikuest, The World of Chinese (x2), Star*Line (x2)

Misses

  • There were no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

  • 《1988: 我想和这个世界谈》韩寒 (1988:  I Want to Talk with the World, by Han Han)
  • The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (George Frederick Kunz)

So how was May reading and viewing for you?

May 23, 2012

Mind in a Material World

I’m about halfway through Matthew Crawford’s The Case for Working with your Hands.  I picked it up several months ago, but have been out of Singapore for most of the time since buying it.  I am glad I’ve finally gotten to start reading it.  It’s exactly my kind of book… smart, critical, and actually saying something.

Crawford’s book deals with the changing world we live in, a world that disconnects us from the way our devices operate and making us less able to manage and maintain them, even as we become more dependent on them.  He starts out by focusing on the separation of manual and mental work, with the manual work having slowly become devalued over time.  Crawford’s argument is that the manual work that is often looked down on often involves a great deal of mental work, though this is often overlooked when discussing manual labor.  I think it is a very valid point — the mental effort it takes to solve problems and the creativity required to solve them is one of the most important aspects of manual labor of professionals such as auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and so forth.  The “automization” of our devices has only served to make these jobs more and more important and valuable in today’s world.

I did not expect it when I bought the book, but I’ve found that The Case for Working with your Hands share something important in common with Mary Midgley’s Science and Poetry.  I read Midgley’s book several years ago, and loved the message of it so much that I bought copies for several friends. Something about it seemed so revolutionary, even as it seemed so obvious / self-evident.  I was really blown away by that book, with its deconstructing of the mind/matter binary, and I find that Crawford’s writing seems to be continuing that process.

It’s always exciting to find a good book, and that is only magnified when you realize that it is continuing a process of recalibrating your thinking that was unexpected initiated by another, seemingly unrelated, book you’d read before.

May 13, 2012

Delays… the good and the bad

On my way back to Singapore from Shanghai this past weekend, I had a little delay at the airport.  It was not nearly as long a delay as some of my previous experiences with this same airline, but certainly quite long enough.

I did find there was a good side to the deal, though, which almost made up for the achy body and lack of sleep once I got to Singapore (though I don’t  think the friends who were waiting for me at the airport will agree that the good side was worth their wasted time).  The good bit was that I finished most of A Yi’s book 《下面,我该干些什么》, which was a  very gripping read.  And I made some headway in Tony Harrison’s Selected Poems.  I even came across one of his poems that dealt with one of my current obsessions, the Vulcan myth.  (That obsession is evidenced by my reading agenda for this year.)  It was one of those poems that made me think, “Why didn’t I write that.”

As I said, it doesn’t exactly make up for the inconveniences caused by the delay, but if you are the sort who likes to look on the bright side of things, I think this qualified as more than just a tiny glimmer.  At least for me.

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.

Hits

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

Misses

  • There were no all-out misses

Neither Hit Nor Miss

So how was April reading and viewing for you?

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

Completed

  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 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.

Hits

  • 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

Misses

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

Neither Hit Nor Miss

So how was March reading and viewing for you?

March 19, 2012

Repost: Coming in mid-May

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.


Coming in Mid-May 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

I’m very pleased to announce that my translation of Sheng Keyi’s novel Northern Girls, published by Penguin Books, will be on sale in mid-May 2012.

The blurb from the back reads:

China in the late 1990s is hit by a wave of change.  Droves of young people are making the journey across the vast country to the nation’s new cities.

Abandoning her Hunan village in the wake of a family scandal, sixteen-year-old Qian Xiaohong heads for the glitz and glamour of Shenzhen — a place she believes will be the perfect antidote for a young woman seeking to flee a stifling rural community.  But Xiaohong swiftly discovers escape brings its own dangers, and the dual threat of vulnerability and violence, which hangs over the arrival of exuberant young migrants, is brought into stark focus.

Solace and salvation appear in the form of Xiaohong’s fellow migrants — the ‘northern girls,’ also drawn by the neon skyline from China’s hinterland.  Without a safety net of education or state welfare, they must band together or face being sucked into the moral maelstrom that development has unleashed.

In working on the translation, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the characters Sheng has created and the struggles they face.  It is an eye-opening book for those of us who have never known the types of difficulties Xiaohong and her friends face.  Anyone who has the luxury of taking survival for granted  should be reminded, in reading Northern Girls, that not everyone in the world lives with this luxury.  It often takes some finagling just to keep one’s head above water, and those of us who take survival for granted are often quick to look down on those who are cleverest when it comes to finding some way or another to get ahead.   Xiaohong’s story is one that will make many of us think twice before making those snap judgments about others who make their way through life by whatever means they can.  And Xiaohong herself is a reminder that there is often a code of ethics underlying the actions of others that may not be evident to those of us on the outside of the realities of their struggles.

But that’s the heavy side of Northern Girls.  It is, even in the course of addressing this real life situation that many migrant workers in China face, a very funny book.  Sheng Keyi’s use of language is very clever, and her humor comes with a real edge.  Qian Xiaohong has her own way of looking at life, and there are times when her means of expressing those views will make you laugh out loud.  Those who like to read while commuting on the train, be forewarned — you’ll need your best poker face to keep from embarrassing yourself in the rush hour crowds during the commute.  The book is sure to make even the stoniest-faced reader crack a grin, at the very least.

Part of what I love about Northern Girls is how it brings the indomitable nature of the Chinese mindset to the foreground.  For all the myth of inscrutability that the Chinese have been labeled with by many in the West, they are a quick-witted people who have a real awareness of the humorous side of life’s ironies.  They love to laugh, even in the face of a rather bleak situation, because after all, “Life Goes On” (as the book’s subtitle reminds us).  Northern Girls is awash with this particular aspect of the Chinese psyche.

I am looking forward to mid-May.  I am eager to hear feedback from English-speaking readers when the book is released.  I think the tale Sheng Keyi has woven together is one that will both surprise and delight English-speaking audiences.

© 2012 Shelly Bryant

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
silken
congratulations!!
Friday, March 30, 2012 – 08:32 AM
Shelly
Thanks, silken!  I’m excited about it.
Friday, March 30, 2012 – 08:40 PM
February 29, 2012

Repost: Hit or Miss, February ’12

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.


Hit or Miss, February ’12

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February has been a pretty good month of reading and film for me — not a long list, but mostly good stuff.

 

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing over the past month…

 

 

Hit List

 

  1. •Fishbone (Sheng Keyi)
  2. Wreckage (Ha Jin)
  3. •The Heart of Haiku (Jane Hirschfield)
  4. •The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins)
  5. •Apolocyntosis (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
  6. Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
  7. •Northern Girls (Sheng Keyi)
  8. •Between Lions and Lambs (N. T. McQueen)
  9. •Bolt (movie)
  10. Crimes of the Heart (Beth Henley)
  11. Antony and Cleopatra (onstage)

 

 

 

 

Magazines:

Aoife’s Kiss (back issue)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss List

 

  1. •salt (Mani Rao)
  2. The Truth About Jesus:  Is he a myth? (M. M. Mangasarian)

 

 

 

 

 

Neither Hit nor Miss

 

  1. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  2. •Oedipus of Thebes (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

 

 

 

 

A bit of a mixed bag this past month.

 

I’m glad that I managed to make something of a dent in my Fill in the Gaps list.

 

 

So….

what have you been reading and watching for the past month ?

 

 

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
silken
salt?! I wonder if that is the same book my son had to read a few years ago for school. it was a miss with him too. I think I read it. very dry but some interesting tidbits throughout. though not really a HIT in the reading. it is no longer required reading at school either!
Thursday, March 1, 2012 – 11:51 AM
I don’t think this is the same one.  I remember talking to him about that one.  This was a poetry collection, kind of.  Some of it was just too random to seem like poetry though.  (And that coming from someone who is very open to all sorts of styles of poetry!)
Thursday, March 1, 2012 – 12:51 PM
February 13, 2012

Repost: Filling in the Gaps, update 2012

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.


Filling in the Gaps, update Feb 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

I started participating in the Fill in the Gaps 100 Books reading project in 2010.  The idea is to come up with a list of 100 books that will “fill in the gaps” between the reading you “have” to do for one reason or another (like work or studies) until 2015.  I have continued to post my list on the right edge of each entry I’ve made at this blog ever since I started on my Fill in the Gaps list, updating it as I go along.

So far, I’ve found that I tend to make good progress on the list for a while, then lag for a while, then make good progress again.  For some reason, it just seems to go in spurts for me.

From late last year until the beginning of this, I hit a real slow period.  It took me more than three months to read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I think.  After that, though, it sort of took off, and I’ve read a couple more titles on my list since I got back to Shanghai at the beginning of this month.  (A long delay at the airport on the way here helped me finish Crime and Punishment.)

I thought it might be fun to post some thoughts (not reviews, just ramblings, really) about the titles I’ve read recently.  It might also motivate me to keep moving ahead with the list.

Crime and Punishment, for some reason, didn’t work well for me.  I’ve read other works by Dostoyevsky and generally like reading him.  While The Brothers Karamazov is a favorite of mine that really engaged me as I read, Crime and Punishment had exactly the opposite effect.  I labored through it, and found my mind wandering as I read.  I was disappointed with that, because it was one of the titles from my list that I’d really looked forward to tackling.

The Truth About Jesus (M. M. Mangasarian) was another title that didn’t do much for me.  Unlike Crime and Punishment, I know exactly why this book didn’t work for me.  It comes from a time and a mindset that always seems to rub me the wrong way, a time when everything seemed to be expressed in such black and white terms, and when everyone seemed so certain of everything they thought they knew.  (Yes, I am exaggerating.)  I don’t have any problem reading books that express views opposed to Christianity, or that present good arguments that are meant to demonstrate that Jesus was not who Christians claim he was.  Mangasarian’s approach, however, seems to me to meander across too broad a range of things that he considers “Christian” to be of any real value (at least to me).  He conflates issues of what church fathers, church practice, the Bible’s writers, the copyists, and Jesus himself have all done, lumping them together as if they are one organism.  (In fact, reading texts written to address religious debates from an Enlightenment perspective, it starts to feel a lot like the contemporary political arena in America.  Yawn.)  No matter which side of the debate the writer stands on, it’s just too easy to find holes in all that he says, especially because the tendency in these texts is to take what one representative of “the other side” (which is defined in its broadest possible terms) has said and then tear it to pieces.  It’s easy to make a case against a movement if you choose one of the crackpots within that movement as the spokesman for it.  And really…. what movement doesn’t have its crackpots?  Anyway, just to be fair, I’ve read plenty of debates from the Christian perspective that were written during this same era and from the same perspective, and I find them equally irritating and demeaning of “the other side.”  Every now and then, I convince myself that reading another book from this paradigm will somehow be good for me, maybe even challenge my own thinking in some way.  Upon finishing those texts, I usually end up wishing I hadn’t bothered.

Crime of the Heart was the definite highlight of this batch of titles from my Fill in the Gaps list.  I really enjoyed reading the play, and would like to see it performed.  It was funny, and it was poignant too.  I liked the characters, and I liked the way the tension unfolded.  There is much in Crimes of the Heart that scratches the reader in me just where she itches.  I have never had the pleasure of seeing it onstage, but if I get the chance to, I will jump at the opportunity.

Tarzan of the Apes is what I am working on now.  I’m about a third of the way through it.  There’s a lot in the book I enjoy.  I like Tarzan, and it’s fun to see his story play itself out.  There are other things in the book, however, that grate on my nerves.  I’ve had my fill of the superior attitudes of colonialism in recent months, but here I am reading Tarzan of the Apes, which just oozes with that exact attitude.  It’s not even presented subtlety.  The book just blatantly says that Tarzan is endowed with an extra (I’m tempted to call it superhuman) measure of intellectual prowess and moral virtue because he is, by blood, an English lord.  He’s so innately clever that he teaches himself to read English — which he’s never heard spoken — simply by poring over the English primer he finds in the hut where his parents had settled when they were abandoned in the coastal jungle by the pirates.  Oh. Brother.  But still… I have to admit that the story is rather fun, if you can ignore the pompous superiority.  Burroughs always writes a good, action-packed tale, and there’s a reason Tarzan has been such a well-loved character ever since he appeared on the page.

That about does it for my recent burst of energy in pursuing the titles on my Fill in the Gaps list.  If things carry on as they have in recent weeks, I should finishTarzan of the Apes in the next few days, and then I’ll decide what I want to move onto next.

February 1, 2012

Repost: Hit or Miss, January 2012

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here.  I’ve listed it here under its original date.


Hit or Miss, January ’12

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January has been a pretty good month of reading and film for me — not a long list, but mostly good stuff.  I especially enjoyed reading Sheng Keyi’s short story “Fishbone,” which I translated for a magazine in Beijing.  It’s a good story.

 

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading and viewing over the past month…

 

 

Hit List

 

  1. •Fishbone (Sheng Keyi)
  2. •up against the window (Jim Kacian and Bruce Ross, ed.)
  3. •The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook (Suzette Haden Elgin)
  4. •Courageous (movie)
  5. •Cat Country (Lao She)
  6. •Psychoentropy (Julie Shiel)
  7. •Disturbed (Julie Shiel)
  8. •Celestial Bodies (Keith Sikora)
  9. •The Tin Men and other poems (Kendall Evans and David C. Kopaska-Merkel)

 

 

 

Magazines:

Beyond Centauri (the most recent, and 1 back issue); Star*Line; Aoife’s Kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss List

 

  1. •No misses this month!

 

 

 

 

 

Neither Hit nor Miss

 

  1. •Idylls of the King (Tennyson)

– I know, I feel terrible!  It was more about my mood than the book, obviously.

  1. •It’s Complicated (movie)
  2. •War Horse (movie)

 

 

 

 

Another no-miss list.  I love that!

 

So….

what have you been reading and watching for the past month ?

 

 

2 Comments Manage Comments for this Entry
silken
got mine posted. mostly hits this month
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 – 10:33 PM
Shelly
Good stuff! I will go have a look.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 12:40 AM