The Book the China Crowd Missed – Lawrence Osborne’s The Ballad of a Small Player

By Paul French

Every so often, a novel that captures the essence and flavors of the modern China experience is published — yet seemingly totally escapes the attentions of the devoted China reading crowd. They praise and discuss, absorb and dissect other, often distinctly inferior, novels, while Lawrence Osborne’s The Ballad of a Small Player has attracted no attention and fallen through the cracks of the Sinology drain. Yet Osborne has written an acutely observed novel detailing one part of the contemporary China experience and he deserves to be widely read. In fact, I’m going to just go right on and out and say it — Osborne’s novel is the best on contemporary China since Malraux’s Man’s Fate (which, rather depressingly, means we might have to wait another 80 years for the next one!) Continue reading

Haiti: Then and Now

The following are selections from a photo essay by Allison Shelley titled “Haiti: Then and Now,” documenting Shelley’s time both covering Haiti on location in 2010, and then just recently, 2015 during her trip back there. The photo gallery includes 32 photographs presented in pairs: one from 2010, another from 2015, typically of the same scene or subject. The full photo essay, along with an essay by Allyn Gaestel titled “Still Fissured: Haiti’s Health System, Five Years After the Earthquake,” is located on our main site. 

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A water tank in a tent camp behind the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Catholic church sports a message from its inhabitants, in Port au Prince, Haiti, Friday, February 26, 2010. ©Allison Shelley

 

Five years after the quake, a tent camp behind the Notre Dame de l’Assomption Catholic church still houses the displaced, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 4, 2015. ©Allison Shelley Continue reading

Je Suis Charlie

The following piece is a reaction to the events on January 7, 2015 in France by Martina Sternfeld. Martina can be reached at martina.sternfeld@gmail.com. 

last night we had search and rescue missions running over the English channel and most especially right at the beach outside our door.  the helicopters were at my window level blowing the tree tops in my buildings garden.  the coast guard was on the water with lights strong enough to make it feel like we were in the middle of the afternoon.  it made me incredibly sad because I thought back to when the children would wake me up in the night and I would sit with them through a feverish period or a bad dream and I reflected that here I am and always have been a liberal minded woman.  I don’t believe in God or religion.  I don’t believe in luck or dreams coming true.  I don’t believe in the death penalty.  I am the daughter of a soldier who died in his prime as a direct result of his service to our country where he fought so that we could be free.  all of us.  to practice whatever human ritual we wanted to.  I lived in that world for my whole life.  every mother wakes up to the fevered scream of their child in the same exact way that I did and yet now, today, I can feel it when I walk past my head shrouded sisters on the streets that a stake has been driven into the ground between us.  the people who did this have become virtual movie stars, their faces on the front pages of all our papers and each and every one of our many means of communication.  they are nothing more than publicity hounds who make the suffering of ‘everyman’ so much more profound on the planet.  the horrible conditions that our fellow human beings live in all over the world, which should be the true subject of our attention pales in comparison to the car chase and shoot ’em up action these egotistic savages perform on the worlds stage.  they add nothing.  they help no one.  no matter where we are in the world, our children will all wake in the wee hours with the same feverish cry.  that is the one we should answer.  we need to listen to the light in our hearts.  it is still there, burning brightly in our children.  we must stand together and fight for them to have the world they deserve and which we are capable of giving them.  ‘hands across the world’. today I will try harder to wish my neighbour well.

This Week’s Triptych Artist: Samara Golden

Samara Golden (b. Michigan, 1973) received her MFA from Columbia University in 2009, and her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2005. She has exhibited extensively in Los Angeles, at Night Gallery, LAXART, Various Small Fires, ACME, and MOCA, and in 2014 was included in “Made in L.A.,” the Hammer Museum Biennial. Samara’s solo exhibition “The Flat Side of The Knife” will be on view at MoMA PS1 through September 2015. She has also recently shown at CANADA, Rachel Uffner Gallery, Marlborough Chelsea, Derek Eller Gallery, and On Stellar Rays in New York, as well as at The Suburban in Chicago, and Loyal Gallery in Stockholm. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

Images courtesy of the artist and Night Gallery

ACTIONS REFLECT, 2014 Installation view

MASS MURDER, 2014, Installation View

 

MASS MURDER, 2014 Installation View

ACTIONS REFLECT, 2014, Installation view

Essays That We, As Ladies of Early Middle Age, Would Like to See Written*

Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Avidly

“Witty Meeting Comebacks that Indicate Your Displeasure While Concealing the (Professionally Discrediting) Whirling Dervish of Your Rage”

“Throwing Money at Problems: A Justification”

“Is This Sex Position Degrading or Just Uncomfortable?”

“Age-Concealing Procedures: Talking to Someone While Pretending They Haven’t Had One, or, Injectables: Agreeing to Disagree”

“Strangely Funny Moments in The House of Mirth

“Women Who Take Care of Too Many People and the People Who Take Care of Them, i.e. Other Women”

“How to Get your Eyebrows Done Without Feeling Weird About It”

laura petrie“Rules for Wearing ‘Challenging’ Clothing Items, Ankle Boots Specifically”

“I Don’t Know Why I Asked You if You were OK a Third time, Perhaps Because I am Dissatisfied with Your Answer of [Shrug]?”

“Am I the Only One Not Enjoying Delightful, Airy Chitchat with my Hair Stylist? An Investigation”

“Ten Satisfying Ways of Letting Your Enemy Know That You are Ignoring Her, While Still Ignoring Her.” Continue reading

Kongfuzi: The Other Chinese Website You Should Know About

By Austin L. Dean

By now you have probably heard of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company that had a gargantuan $21 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September. You might have seen an interview with Jack Ma, the former English-teacher and CEO of Alibaba, as he made the rounds of the American business media. You might have even read stories about the vast number products for sale of Alibaba’s website: cherries from American farmers, freshly caught oysters from off the coast of New Zealand. Everything, it seems, is available through one of Alibaba’s online marketplaces—one of which, Taobao, was described in detail in Alec Ash’s post for this blog just last week. The company, or at least their public relations materials, claims it is bringing the world to China and China to the world. Continue reading

Marginalia’s Most Read Articles of 2014

Below are the Top 10 most read articles of 2014 published by LARB Channel Marginalia

1. The Vanishing Jews of Antiquity — Adele Reinhartz on the question of translating the Greek term ioudaios, June 24
2. The Arabic Bible before Islam — Claire Wilde on Sidney H. Griffith’s The Bible in Arabic, June 10
3. Genius Denied and Reclaimed: A 40-Year Retrospect on Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam — Bruce B. Lawrence celebrates Hodgson’s moral vision, November 11
4. To Speak Truly about God — Rowan Williams on Kevin Hector’s Theology without Metaphysics, May 27
5. Traveling to Acquire Knowledge — Daniel Majchrowicz on Houari Touati’s Islam and Travel in the Middle Ages, May 27
6. The Multiple Ideas of India: Narendra Modi and the Meaning of Indian Secularism — Benjamin Siegel on Narendra Modi’s election as the 16th Prime Minister of India and the “idea of India”, May 27
7. The Presbyterians and I — Shaye J.D. Cohen’s op-ed on the PCUSA’s divestment decision, July 22
8. fergu(losta)son: mourning michael brown — J. Kameron Carter performs a commentary in verse on Michael Brown and Ferguson, August 19
9. Psmith’s Art of Cool: War and Zen in P.G. Wodehouse — Ted Scheinman on Psmith as philosophe and his spiritual calm, July 22
10. The Problem with Identity in Late Antiquity — Todd Berzon on Aaron P. Johnson’sReligion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre: The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity, November 11

The Mailman Cometh: A Door-to-Door Taobao Delivery

By Alec Ash

Anyone who lives in China orders a lot from Taobao, the online shopping hub owned by the recently listed company Alibaba. The last dozen items I purchased from it are: foam ear plugs, a wooden moxibustion set, USB speakers shaped like a panda head, a hemp cushion with a Union Jack design, a laptop stand, a wireless keyboard and mouse, a piano stand clip-on light, a fridge magnet that you can snap open bottle caps against, a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky, a portable iPhone battery charger, and a tai chi sword. I have just revealed too much about myself.

It’s an impressive site. First of all, Taobao has everything. Pining for Marmite from mother England? Taobao has it. Think sending live scorpions in the post is a bad idea? Think again. Want a pony instead? Happy birthday. Continue reading

Letter from Editor-in-Chief Tom Lutz

Dear LARB supporter,

I know you are getting a lot of emails like this, as am I, as many nonprofits rush to meet their goals.

We are very close to securing all the funds for this, our most ambitious matching grant fund drive to date. All we need to do is match what we raised in the last two days of our drive last year – and so if you gave last year and haven’t done so yet this year, we urge you to chip in what you can; if you’ve been thinking about becoming a member, or re-enrolling at a higher level, do it today or tomorrow and we get two bucks for every one of yours.

During our fund drive campaign, you’ve heard from Margaret Atwood about why she supports LARB. You’ve heard from James Ellroy, Reza Aslan, Janet Fitch, Jamie Wolf, Albert Litewka, the LARB staff themselves, and so many more.  Now it’s time for us to hear from you.

Click here to donate. Whether it’s $25, $50, $150, $200, or more, make a statement that you support Los Angeles Review of Books‘s mission to keep critical thinking alive and well in this increasingly atomized digital age.

This is your Review – we wouldn’t be here without your support, and we won’t continue to be here without it. To everyone who has given, thank you so much for bringing us this close. I’m proud of what we accomplished this year, and we hope, with your help, that next year will be even better.

Thank you so much,

Tom Lutz

The LARB End-of-Year Editor Interviews: Michelle Huneven

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, their work depends on the generous support of everyday readers who keep LARB going;  we hope you’ll consider giving this month for our winter fund drive. Here we present Michelle Huneven, a Senior Fiction Editor. 

Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?

I had been eyeing LARB since its inception, and finally asked if I might step into the drink. I am a Senior Fiction Editor, which means that I assign essays about fiction, reviews of fiction and interviews with fiction writers, which I then edit and, eventually, shepherd into production.When I am not editing and shepherding, I am trying to write fiction. I also teach creative writing at UCLA.  Continue reading