Feb 242018
 

I stumbled across the name of this book and its author in the opening anecdote of a magazine article a couple months ago. I’d never heard of either, but the odd context of the reference made me curious. So I stopped by Indigo the next time I was downtown and, after some confusion over which name was used to file the book—Cixin or Liu—found a copy.

The book was wildly disorienting because I know nothing about Chinese history that can’t be captured in the broadest of strokes. The footnotes saved me in this regard. By the same token, character interactions are clearly stylized here but they are done in a manner different from what I’m used to. The differences weren’t enormous and I adapted, but they were enough initially to make it quite hard to peg characters down. I don’t know enough to say what precisely these differences amount to. I am conscious of difference, but is it a product of a) my cultural distance, b) an unexpected generic variation, c) a purposeful narrative choice, d) the translation, or e) some combination of these? I don’t know.

What I do know is that the book is tightly constructed. Without generating much tension or suspense and without giving the impression of holding back secrets, the plot slowly, methodically unfolds piece-by-piece until in the end everything is backwards and inside out compared to what it was on page one, and this despite the fact that in fundamental ways, nothing has changed except the state of my understanding. I’ve learned what happened before page one—like in a mystery—and that knowledge makes all the difference. It’s an impressive feat of storytelling.

 February 24, 2018  Book Logs Tagged with: ,
Feb 222018
 

Imagine:

Blue lines and mottled yellow planes,
A horned block of red capped in brown,
Framing the pale face and rouged cheeks
Of a boy. He stands still and blank,
Eyes unfocused, hand perched on hip, posed
Yet not posturing, neither there nor still
By choice. He waits for sitting’s end,
Running already, free and laughing
With friends across plains of yellow grass.

 


Image: Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 – 1906 ), Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888-1890, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art

 February 22, 2018  Moments Tagged with:
Feb 192018
 

It’s been quiet around here the past six months but I intend to start rambling about books and movies again.

Ideally, I’d chip away at the pile of notes I kept but never wrote about from the second half of last year’s lists. I’ve got high hopes, but we’ll see how it goes.

Worst case scenario: I pick up with the new stuff, go with it, and just let the past be past.

We’ll see.

 

 February 19, 2018  Moments