• Creative Works

    Into Dungeons Deep and Caverns Old

    Once in a while, I hear from somebody who has never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Maybe they saw the films and that was enough for them, or they couldn’t stomach the prose. This is indeed a sad thing. Looking back, I was at the time just a hobbit myself. My mother persuaded me to read The Hobbit when I was in the 6th or 7th grade (c. 1988). Having moved frequently, school to school, state to state, all I wanted to do was just hibernate in my bedroom. Every day of school was a day in Goblin Town. See David Foster Wallace’s “The Soul is…

  • Memoir

    Midsummer – Year of the Fire Rooster

    After seven years of teaching in China, I’m glad to return to America–for the time being–and enjoy some good old fashioned reverse culture shock. There’s music on the car radio I haven’t heard in years. Weekly trips to matinees showing current/uncensored films that do not require government issue IMAX 3D glasses. There’s fresh air and blue sky and green lawns. Even all the mass delusion here in the wilds of Make America Great Again seems quaint to me. And right now there is much to do. Books to read. Trails to hike. Old friends to visit. An action-comedy script in the works. And finally, it goes without saying that I must…

  • Book Review

    The Perfect Halloween Treat for Ghosts and Goblins and Gumshoes

    Got G.U.M.? What’s up with the NeverEnding Zombie Apocalypse in Hollywood? Why is China perpetrating celluloid genocide upon the Japanese (1 Billion + since 2013)? And why should one ever want to venture into The Vale of Shadows? Anybody who has the Sixth Sense will be able to figure out some possibilities to these vexing nether regions of the psychosphere. But for the rest of us, we’ll need Goggles of Umbral Moonshine. You can’t buy these Goggles at any store. They must be found or constructed. Which is why I highly recommend Nguyen’s insightful critique of the ethics and aesthetics of war stories, Nothing Ever Dies. Though focusing on the…

  • Rambling

    Feigning Blindness in a Forest of Bared Necks

    What does it mean when an elected official chooses to disbelieve in climate change? No doubt they believe they are following in the footsteps of Cato the Elder who once said, “It is sometimes the height of wisdom to feign stupidity.” And what a height we have climbed. Imagine two knights upon a great wall of ice. They quarrel over whatever the raven cawed. Meanwhile, winter is coming and legions of the undead march forth. We, the viewers, know the truth, but the knights know nothing. All we can do is watch in horror. A few us will get so upset we’ll throw the nearest object, maybe an ashtray, at…

  • Craft,  Creative Metanonfiction

    The Mitchellverse: A Primer on the Fiction of David Mitchell

    A Bloggy Introduction For many expatriate writers today, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein are still role models. And then there are the American MFA Programs, a host of which seem to be cranking out annual batches of Raymond Carver clones. Said one fresh-baked MFA clone from a prestigious fictioneering facility in Austin, Texas: “And they even taught me how to write the Raymond Carver story–it was required!” I can see his face now. A young Pakistani gentlemen who has a crush on Raymond Carver. Bushy black eyebrows, dark eyes, nerd glasses, the voice of a diplomat. Whenever we meet at the Bookworm café in Chengdu we talk shop, having forgotten…

  • Craft,  MFA

    Leave Your Darlings Alone

    At what point does murdering your darlings become genocide?   No idea, but why should anybody want to murder them in the first place? Writing advice like that was propagated in the lecture halls of Cambridge University over a hundred years ago. When Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch exhorted the writers of his day to murder their darlings in 1914, had he any inkling how many of his students and members of the university would join the infantry and be slaughtered in the following years? 2,470 to be exact. That such advice on style, On the Art of Writing, would be published the same year as the Battle of the Somme to me…