Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.
By Maruan Paschen
Translated by Amanda DeMarco
Muammer’s last day is my first day. I stand, eyes on the floor, in a classroom full of Arabs. Ms. Whyy from the Schiller Institute introduces me and immediately cracks a joke. Then another.
The new teacher has a really hard German name, she says, it’s hard to remember it: Said Maruan, she says and laughs, really loud.
Besides her, I’m laughing too, but not so loud.
I rub a piece of chalk between my fingers until it’s gone. A student in the last row understands the joke and grins retroactively. Ms. Whyy from the German Schiller Institute says her goodbyes and wishes me luck — don’t worry, the Arabs are a polite little tribe. Then she wishes the Arabs luck with me, but they don’t understand the joke, and neither do I. Continue reading
By Magdalena Edwards
It’s Wednesday again and I miss Cookie. I know I’m not the only one, given how Fox’s runaway hit show “Empire” increased its tune-in audience by 43.75% over the course of the season, from 9.9 million for the January 7th pilot to 17.6 million for its regular 9pm time slot during last week’s double-episode finale. The numbers are higher if you factor in DVR and Internet views. The show, featuring the roller coaster life of former drug dealer turned hip-hop mogul and CEO of Empire Enterprises Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his extended Philadelphia clan by business and by family, most notably his three sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), and his ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson), is not without its critics and controversy, which only adds to the fun. Even Alessandra Stanley, of The New York Times and the Shonda Rhimes debacle, deemed the season “pretty perfect.” Continue reading
By Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Many twelve-month periods witness the publication of one or two significant books by talented journalists with long experience covering China. 2014 was special, though, due to seeing not just an unusually large number but also a great variety of works of this sort appear. It was the year, for example, of Howard French’s China’s Second Continent, an ethnographically minded work based on interviews conducted with Chinese migrants in Africa, and also of the largely Beijing-set spy thriller Night Heron, by Adam Brookes. These two books have nothing in common save for the fact that both are by authors with a deep understanding of China, derived from their long experience covering the country — in French’s case for the New York Times, in Brookes’s for the BBC. And neither of those two 2014 publications were much like either of the ones flagged in the title of this post, which were part of the same bumper crop of China books. The first of these, by Louisa Lim, offers a detailed look at the legacy and contested memory of 1989’s protests and massacres, while the second, by Evan Osnos, provides a profile-driven survey of the current Chinese political and social scenes. Continue reading
This piece was originally published by LARB Channel The Offing.
By Paul Lisicky
I knew that it was going to be temporary: You could live almost anywhere if it was going to be temporary, especially if there was a gleam on the other side. I said no to the places that were too roomy, too ugly, too severe. I believed that by moving my chairs and bed into two white rooms I’d be inoculating myself against personality. It turns out it is impossible to escape personality, even when the floors beneath you are cold enough to numb your feet. In the apartment above me the man sang the songs of his youth — Cinnamon Girl, Landslide — accompanying himself on a badly amped guitar. His boot steps, his throat clearing, the taps of his razor against the bathroom sink — the essence of him resounded into my space as if there was nothing between us. Occasionally, when he was talking on the phone, he used the word faggot in a tone that implied he’d never had any truck with one. Outside, on the parking lot, a mother used the word fuck against her two boys. Two cars away, a young woman drove the approximately 200 feet to the dumpster, tossed in a dark garbage bag, and drove back to her parking space. This happened twice a day. As for the BDSM enthusiast whose bedroom window looked right into mine? Although he referred to himself online as a top, his eyes showed betrayal every time I backed out of his invitations to dinner. I pictured my wrists in restraints and tried to be excited by the opera of it, but it only felt redundant. That didn’t mean I wasn’t obsessed with the possibility of hurting his feelings. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Review of Books is happy to announce a new channel, The Offing, an online literary magazine publishing work in all genres. The project launched last week at theoffingmag.com.
The Offing will publish risk-taking work by new, emerging, and established writers and artists — with an explicit commitment to publishing diverse voices. To learn more about the magazine, its origins and its goals, we asked the editors a few questions.
The following is a brief Q&A with The Offing editor-in-chief (and LARB Fiction editor) Darcy Cosper and the magazine’s executive editors, Airea D. Matthews and Michael D. Snediker. Continue reading
By Austin Dean
The rhythms of social media are everywhere the same: a story goes viral, peaks, and fades away. A few weeks ago one of the biggest stories on Chinese social media was a comment made by Wang Sicong, the son of one of China’s wealthiest men, Wang Jianlin. When asked about what kind of person he hoped to find as a girlfriend, the younger Wang replied that he really only has thing in mind: she must be quite buxom.
Even though Wang Sicong quickly dismissed the comment as a joke, it did not take long for Chinese media to pounce. The next day, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, posted a less-than-cryptic message that complained, “There are certain celebrities that recklessly disseminate vulgar information … from the worship of money to sex and violence.” They seem to have had the younger Wang in mind. Soon thereafter the scandal had a name: “Buxomgate.” Several days later the elder Wang wrote off his son’s comments as a function of spending so much time living and studying outside China: “He went overseas to study at grade one and he has a Western-style of thinking,” said Wang. “Maybe after spending five or eight years in China, he will truly become Chinese.” Meaning, presumably, either less appreciative of women’s breast size, or less apt to comment publicly on his admiration of it. Continue reading
By Andrew M. Butler
By now, of course, Death is almost an old friend. You’ll know him when you see him—tall chap, skeletal, scythe, black cape, a BOOMING VOICE, rides a pale horse called Binky… and he’s a recurring character in virtually all of the Discworld novels written by Sir Terry Pratchett, who has died at home on March 12 2015 from a chest infection caused by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In an early volume, Mort (1987), Death moves from cameo to secondary lead, perhaps even antagonist, as he takes young Mort on as an apprentice. Whilst Mort struggles to carry on the work, Death finds work as a short order cook in a tavern and begins to get to know living people. The novel echoes earlier works featuring Death—Alberto Casella’s play Death Takes a Holiday (1924) and the films The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) and Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975)—but it is not just a parody: it explores the nature of work. A few books later, in Reaper Man (1991), Death is made redundant and seeks work on a farm as an odd-job man, only to find his traditional scything skills are threatened by threshing machines. The novel is a comedy, but it is also about stuff. Continue reading
By Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
It’s not every week that China-and-India-watchers have parallel stories to chew over, but that’s what’s been happening for the last few days. In both countries, a documentary film about an important social issue has provoked government censorship. Neither film reveals anything that most people didn’t already know, to some degree. So why are the Chinese and Indian governments going so far to limit access to these movies? Continue reading
Lois Conner is known for her large-scale panoramic photographs relating to a global landscape. Her pictures are characterized by their narrative sweep, a sense of place, and their implicit attention to history and culture. Many of her projects have an arc of decades, including her work in China, on the Navajo Reservation, and the American West.
Conner has been awarded numerous awards, including an Anonymous Was a Woman fellowship, as well as grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts. Continue reading
By Faheem Haider
SOME 20 YEARS AGO, while living in a small village near Goshen, New York, I got my first driver’s license at the Orange County Government Center, the Paul Rudolph–designed Brutalist marvel of concrete blocks outfitting the space around me, tracking my every step. Back then, I didn’t know very much about the provenance of the building, but I thought it a weirdly lovely structure left alone in a staid Victorian village. Since then, after many years away and a move back home, I’ve visited the “Rudolph building” to get other documents and a number of passports. Each time, I entered the building through an uncouth side entrance off a pedestrian parking lot. Some part of the dingy interior was always cordoned off, and buckets lined up in multiple rows to catch the sedimented leakage. Continue reading