Category Archives: Literature

Dumplings, Dictators, and Daoists — Six Book Recommendations

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

I wrote the first draft of this post on the final day of 2016, and then revised it on the first day of 2017, so it is fitting that it will be divided between backward looking and forward looking halves.  In the opening half, I will provide micro-reviews of two worthy but dissimilar 2016 books.  They explore, respectively the cuisine of the Jiangnan Region of China that includes the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, and Hangzhou, and the puzzle of how China’s Communist Party keeps outliving predictions of its imminent demise.  I thought at various points that I would work extended discussions of these 2016 publications into piece I was writing, but that never happened.  I am glad to at least be able to give them short shout outs here.  Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Literature as Japanese Colonialism Fell

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

What He Believed: Revisiting E.M. Forster’s Defense of Liberalism

By Rhian Sasseen

“I do not believe in Belief.” So goes the first sentence of E.M. Forster’s 1939 essay “What I Believe,” written against a backdrop of ever-increasing global fears. “I have, however, to live in an Age of Faith,” he later goes on to say, “the sort of epoch I used to hear praised when I was a boy. It is extremely unpleasant really. It is bloody in every sense of the word. And I have to keep my end up in it. Where do I start?” Continue reading

More China-Focused Suggestions for the Bookish People on Your Holiday Lists

thesBy Jeffrey Wasserstrom

In this follow up to our December 7 post, two China Blog regulars, Alec Ash and Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, recommend a quartet of titles.  These titles, which deal with everything from down-and-out residents of contemporary Beijing to a pair of American journalists who fell in love while covering World War II in Asia, would make excellent last minute presents for others — or enjoyable items to buy for yourself with any gift cards you get. I didn’t get a chance to do a full write-up for my own selections, but will slip a plug for them into this intro without extended explanation.  I’ll just note that former BBC reporter Adam Brookes is two-thirds of the way through what will eventually be a trilogy of novels of intrigue that move between China and other parts of the world, and both Night Heron and Spy Games, each now available in paperback, are unusually well crafted page-turners.  (For more about each book, see these LARB reviews of them, here and here.) Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Literature Under the Japanese Occupation

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Against the “Must Read”

By Nathan Scott McNamara

I don’t know where the term “must-read” got its start — if it goes back ten or 100 years, first showed up with booksellers or critics, or if “must-see” movies preceded “must-read” books — but I do know that I see a lot of it lately. With a quick search, I found a Newsweek list of the “must-read” books in the age of Donald Trump, and a Wired list of the “must-read” books of this past summer. Vulture and Flavorwire both publish a “must-read” list every month, featuring 7-10 books each. There are listicles across the internet that indicate some set of five to 20 “must-reads” for world-travelers, geeks, or “overwhelmed stepmoms,” for people interested in capitalism, Broadway, China, or almost anything you can think of. Continue reading

2016 Releases from Dorothy, a Publishing Project

By Emily Wells

October was a thrilling month for Dorothy, a publishing project, a small press focused on publishing “fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women.” Dorothy releases their entire annual catalogue in October, in this year’s case, two small volumes: the first English translation of Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger, and a collection of short fiction, The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George. The two books compliment each other well. Both are unconventional forays into the burdens of womanhood and storytelling, and are desperately concerned with what it means to be female and unfulfilled. Continue reading