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
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
By Ting Guo
It is March in Beijing. Many local friends tell me that it is the loveliest month here, as one can see, smell, and feel the change of seasons coming after a long smoggy winter: The day is warm and the golden sunlight streams brilliantly on a blue sky — so blue that it seems as if it had been washed by the Dragon King, the deity for water and weather in Chinese folk beliefs. Plum and apricot blossoms and willows glow with life. Indeed, the divide between all the four seasons is more distinct here in the north than in Jiangnan, the southern region by the Yangtze River where I grew up, echoing loudly the 24 solar terms. After the Rain Water (yushui 雨水) reaches Equinox, then it arrives Clear and Bright (qingming 清明), the day when people sweep the graves of their ancestors. Ancient solar terms such as these figure centrally in Ian Johnson’s new book, Souls of China, which includes sections named for them, one of the first things that intrigued me about his approach to the topic of the revival of religion in the PRC. Continue reading
In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.
I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading
By Sam Ribakoff
Daniel Botkin is a world-renowned ecologist and professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara’s school of Environmental Studies, who has worked on many conservation efforts around the world, including at California’s Mono Lake and Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. He’s also a published author with a knack for poetic titles; The Moon in the Nautilus Shell, Discordant Harmonies, and Beyond the Stoney Mountains all invoke the beauty and complexity of nature and the environment. Continue reading
Nicola Maye Goldberg’s new book, Other Women, is a delicate, feminine bildungsroman that follows a young woman from New York City to Berlin and back again. The protagonist — nameless, sensitive, brilliant — wanders in a ghostly fashion through the city streets, reflecting on her life and the decisions she has made. Other Women is a brilliant little novel (little in physicality and length at 164 pages), brimming with obsession, vulnerability, and heartbreak. It is at once dark and bright — morbid without being turgid, specific without being pretentious. Continue reading
Oxford historian Peter Frankopan’s much-praised book The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, first published in the UK in 2015 and just out in paperback in the United States, is already available in various languages other than English and is getting reviewed and talked about in the press on several continents. One tangible indication of its reach is that, when I flew home from the Shanghai International Literary Festival Sunday, one of the last things I saw in China was a Chinese language edition of it displayed in a Pudong airport shop, while one of the first things I saw once back in America, as the photograph accompanying this interview shows, was the English language edition prominently featured on the shelves of an SFO bookstore. Silk Roads is a sprawling, engagingly written, comprehensive effort to pull the loci of world history east to the networks of political, economic and cultural exchange that have connected Europe with Asia for centuries. For Frankopan, these early trading routes form the basis for understanding the geopolitics of our time. I caught up with him via email to quiz him on various things relating to the present as well as the past. Continue reading
By Chloe Chappe
Laura Wright is the creator of the Saveur Magazine award-winning blog The First Mess. She hails from southern Ontario, Canada, where she still lives and cooks, in her creative and striking style. Laura crafts mostly vegan and gluten free recipes, packing in as much flavor, warmth, and nourishment as she can. The First Mess Cookbook, out March 7th, features many of her unique, innovative recipes, including Creamy Quinoa and White Bean Risotto with Crispy Brassica Florets, as well as a Earl Grey Tiramisu. We discussed the stress of working on a cookbook, the community in the wellness cooking blog world, and her lineup of female culinary idols.
In 1979, Joan Didion proclaimed, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Eula Biss brings this certainty back from the brink of truism by asking: what are these stories? Where do they come from? And what do they mean for the way we live? Dissecting the myths that determine the way news is covered and the world is conceived, Biss employs the personal, the philosophical, the linguistic, and the historical to reframe moral and political dilemmas. Continue reading