• Memoir,  Traveling

    On Muses

    Be patient with your muse, I was recently told. Maybe my mentor sensed my feeling of being time crunched and frustrated. Since working on my second creative portfolio I have bumped into too many false starts. And since I am the author of two forthcoming novels, Year of the Wood Horse and The Chimerican, due out 2016 and 2017 respectively, she may have detected my sense of urgency. While I do know patience is a virtue, I feel that I am running out of patience as I have been patient all my life it seems. So I work hard, studying the body of Alice Munro, hoping the nuts and bolts…

  • Book Review,  Memoir

    Returning to Sardinia

    This October I will return to Sardinia.   According to legend, the island was founded by Sardus, a son of Heracles. But who is Grazia Deledda? That is what I’d rather know more about as I read her 1913 novel, Reeds in the Wind.   Just beginning her novel, I am struck by its beauty–not that endorphin generating kind when one happens upon random aesthetically pleasing objects–but rather the kind that is a craft sublime, the prose seemingly aligned for our times, the kind Keats reminded us of his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”   Grazia Deledda speaks to us a one hundred and one years later: “Yes, man’s working…

  • Letters,  Review

    Open Letter to the Shade of Max Planck (RIP)

    You once said, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” But what if you are living in a Second Dark Age? I am writing you at a time when world leaders are moving forward with plans for yet another preemptive invasion of the Middle East, which reminds me of when I would go with my mother to the grocery store. Every time we went into the cereal aisle, I got my eyes bear trapped: bright cartons of cereal, their sugary rainbow bread…

  • Memoir,  Satire

    Subversions into the Green Hills of Songpan

    As a young boy, I only had two ambitions. The first was of being a cowboy in the Wild West, riding lonely mountain trails, eating peyote, consulting Navajo shamans, and pilfering forgotten ghost towns. The other was to go to China like Marco Polo exploring its wilds and cities along the Silk Road in search of the real General Tso, the great Qing Dynasty soldier-statesman made famous by Chinese takeout menus the world over. But never in my wildest, childish hallucinations could I have imagined that I would discover an amalgam of these in reality, as if a chapter in the story of my life became a chimerical tale of…

  • Metafiction

    Interview with Segrob Egroj on the Art of Metafiction

    (Excerpted from The Ministry of Foreign Languages Review): Interviewer: When did you begin to write? Did the olfactorory bulbectemy have any impact on the way you write? Segrob Egroj: After the Washington Mall massacre, I decided to stay in the E.A.R. but was befuddled beyond all comprehension as to how to make a living. By that time there were no jobs related to English, but for every one fast food or garbage collector job there where thousands of asylum seekers, most of whom had already undergone the procedures. I had made a journal of the last days before losing my sense of smell and taste. When the Inspector-General declared war…

  • Photos

    A Proposal at Jiuzhai Valley

    One day early that Year of the Snake (2013), we had chosen to get away from the daily grind and our bosses in Chengdu. We journeyed to the Jiuzhai Valley for the Ice Waterfall Festival somewhere over in the Tibetan regions of northwestern Sichuan Province.   Every Chinese New Year, the folk of that area make pilgrimage and wind their way counterclockwise around a peak sacred to the Tibetans. Long ago there was a peak named after the God of Many Mountains whose aid gave two lovers fighting the depredations of a demonic interloper a chance at living happily ever after.  People now call this peak Mount Zhayizhaga. At its…