Category Archives: Interviews

Barret Baumgart: Navigating Climate Change with a Map of Dead Ends

By Landon Bates

I first met Barret Baumgart in 2007, when we were both undergraduates at U.C. Berkeley. Years later, when I was entering the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Barret had just graduated from it. He was waist-deep in the writing of this book. I’d sometimes see him around Iowa City in the evenings, after he’d spent 12 or 14 hours at his computer, having eaten little more than rice covered in barbeque sauce. He’d seem both rundown and wired, high from some discovery he’d made during the day’s research. The product of this labor is China Lake: A Journey Into the Contradicted Heart of a Global Climate Catastrophe. Continue reading

A Writer Living in a Strange Land: An Interview with Xue Yiwei

By Amy Hawkins

With an eye toward providing readers interested in both China and James Joyce with a fitting reading for the week in which Bloomsday falls, we are happy to have a chance to run an interview with Xue Yiwei, provided to by Amy Hawkins, a Beijing-based writer who happens to be that author’s niece.  The interview’s relevance to Bloomsday will quickly become clear below —Jeff Wasserstrom

For a writer who focuses exclusively on China, Xue Yiwei has become something of an alien in his home country. For the past decade, he has lived in Montreal, penning over 20 of novels set in China, which have only recently started to be translated into English. He has been described as a “maverick in contemporary Chinese literature” by fellow novelist Ha Jin, and as “Montreal’s Chinese literary secret” in the Canadian press. Earlier this year he was awarded the Diversity Prize at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival. His first work to be fully translated and distributed in English is Shenzheners, a collection of short stories set in Shenzhen, exploring the loneliness and “inner life” of different people lost in the urban environs. Inspired by James Joyce’s Dubliners, the book, fluidly rendered into English by translator Darryl Sterk, follows a recent spate of Joycean popularity in China. I spoke to Xue, who is also my uncle, about the influence of Joyce on Chinese literature and what the similarities are between the Shenzhen of today and the Dublin of a century ago. Continue reading

Crashing the Party: An Interview with Scott Savitt

By Matthew Robertson

Editor’s Introduction: The China Blog often publishes something at this time of year that looks back in one way or another to the June 4th Massacre of 1989, an act of state violence that curtailed a national movement whose biggest protests took place at Tiananmen Square.  This year is no different.  Our June 4th anniversary post this time takes the form of an interview with an eyewitness to the demonstrations and crackdown of 1989, Scott Savitt, who has recently published a memoir, Crashing the Party: An American Reporter in China, which deals in part with the dramatic events that convulsed Beijing and captivated television audiences around the world twenty-eight years ago. Matthew Robertson, a researcher and translator, conducted the interview, which begins after a brief introduction he provides to Savitt’s life and Crashing the Party, which Publisher’s Weekly describes as the work of a “smart, thrilling memoirist.” -Jeff Wasserstrom Continue reading

Eerie Changes in Emotional Timbre: Adam Morris on Translating João Gilberto Noll

By Nathan Scott McNamara

Brazilian writer João Gilberto Noll’s Atlantic Hotel is a surreal journey — by bus, foot, and wheelchair — around southern Brazil. The pages fly past in this short novel; the narrator travels from a murder scene in a hotel, to the beach, to a brothel, and through an apocalyptic storm, before waking up to the amputation of his own leg. And that’s just in the first half of this 140-page book. Continue reading

Ariel Levy and the Human Female Animal Experience

By Eleanor Duke

The best way to read Ariel Levy’s memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, is to barrel along with her at full-speed, not stopping for breath or losing momentum, until you emerge at the other end windswept, tears in your eyes from both laughing and crying, and cursing yourself for reading too quickly. It is a captivating story about the grief of losing the irreplaceable — a son, a spouse, a home — and the jarring realization that nothing can immunize us to the forces of nature, relationships, or the human body. Continue reading

On China’s Great Books: An Interview with Frances Wood

By Paul French

Retirement from her post as the Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library in London seemingly hasn’t done much to slow down Frances Wood’s output. She’s never been anything less than prodigious, and she has now assembled a collection of writing from China, going as far as 1,000 BCE and the anonymous Book of Songs (Shi jing) and finally finishing with Dai Houying’s Stones of the Wall (1981), which set during the Cultural Revolution. Titled Great Books of China: From Ancient Times to the Present (published by BlueBridge in the U.S. and Head of Zeus in the U.K.), her latest work contains over 60 excerpts, presented in rough chronological order, from novels, poems and philosophical works, each introduced by Wood to set them in context and explain their importance. The collection is at once a serious study of the progression of Chinese writing for the scholar and, for those less scholarly inclined, a fine miscellany to dip into at random given a free hour and a glass of something warming. Continue reading

Lost Girls: A Conversation About Fantastical Filmmaker Jean Rollin

By Ian MacAllister McDonald

If you were a horror fan back in the late ‘90s or early aughts then you may be familiar with the UK distributor Redemption Films, which specializes in movies with titles like Nude For Satan, The Sinful Nuns of St. Valentine, and The Rape of the Vampire. As a teenager, I was more interested in the Evil Deads and Re-Animators of the world and less in Redemption’s output; it wasn’t until recently that I gave them another look, and in so doing, discovered the hypnotic, strangely beautiful world of Jean Rollin. Continue reading

Stories Like a Bullet: An Interview with Osama Alomar

By Sam Jaffe Goldstein                                                         

Who among us is not spending most of her time trying to understand the complexities of the times? How can we even begin to grapple with it all? Is comprehension even possible? Osama Alomar’s very short stories (or in Arabic, “al-qisa al-qasira jiddan”) do not offer answers. What they do provide is a necessary reminder of the importance of protecting the human spirit — a worthy touchstone, when confronting darkness. Continue reading

Swimming in Hong Kong: An Interview with Stephanie Han

By Susan Blumberg-Kason

I met Stephanie Han at a literary event in Hong Kong back in 2014, but we didn’t get much of a chance to talk due to traffic delays, linked to the Umbrella Movement’s ongoing occupation of the financial district, making me arrive late. We connected a few months later when I Skyped into a memoir-writing class she was teaching on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. I only really got to know her, though, via a different sort of virtual encounter: reading and becoming absorbed by Swimming in Hong Kong, her new collection of short stories. Comprised of tales that previously appeared in periodicals and anthologies, it is published by Willow Springs Press. Here are some questions I emailed her, along with the answers she sent back. Continue reading