Category: Books

  • Reading with Your Ears

    Reading is an act of concentration. To focus your eyes and all the powers of your imagination on the written page. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. For me, that’s whenever I’m in a moving vehicle. Or a train where there’s no room to sit, let alone open up my copy of War and Peace. …

  • Gulag with Chinese Characteristics

    Let’s blame the Russians. After all, they’re the ones who first lit the flame of Marxist-Leninist socialism. The 1917 revolution was just the start. Russians taught the world how to collectivize farms, quash dissent and foment worldwide revolution. As Charles Clover writes: Starting soon after the Bolshevik revolution [in 1917], Soviet leaders offered sanctuary and…

  • Skin in the Game

    Sensitivity readers are the new thing. At least, it was new to me when I read an article by Lionel Shriver entitled We need to talk about sense and sensitivity. Apparently, US publishers are sending out manuscripts for review by sensitivity readers. Their job is to check for any misrepresentations, stereotypes, inauthentic dialogue or anything…

  • House of Books

    My husband and I live in a library. We have books on all four floors, in the hallways and along the stairs, in every room of the house. Since my husband and I are both writers, we have plenty of piles, too. Books to read, to sell, to use in the writing of yet more…

  • Genesis of a Quartet

    Since the publication of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, people keep asking me: what’s next? They’re astonished to hear that I’ve got 3 more novels in the works. It’s all part of my master plan to complete The Shanghai Quartet. Was that the idea all along? Far from it. plotters and pantsers In 2011,…

  • The Art of War

    Sun Tzu is the name given to the author of the military treatise The Art of War. No one knows when the book was written or whether Sun Tzu is its true author. The name in the book is Sun Wu. He was a general and military advisor active during the Spring and Autumn period…

  • Lost in Translation

    When I first moved to the Netherlands, I worked as a translator. A catalogue for the Rijksmuseum, a Ph.D. dissertation on patients’ rights, an environmental law journal. I translated because it was a way for me to learn Dutch, word by word. It felt like an algebra exercise. Each sentence was an equation. All I…

  • The Sense of an Ending

    I think a lot about the craft of writing. The poem, the essay, the short story and the novel each have their own internal rules, all of which are to be broken if a writer wants to achieve something new. Lately, my obsession has become short form. The short story has all the same requisites as…

  • Through the Looking Glass: An Asian-American Identity

    Reading is a search for identity. We look for ourselves between the pages and sometimes we get lucky. For me, the first time was Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. It’s a mixture of memoir, Chinese myth and family tales of life in and outside of China. She called her style of writing talk-story: reminiscing about…