things of little relevance

a professional spinner of lies
March 2, 2009, 11:31 am
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“I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. The purpose of a story is to sound an alarm, to keep a light trained on the System in order to prevent it from tangling our souls in its web and demeaning them. I fully believe it is the novelist’s job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories — stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.”

Haruki Murakami


still hung updike
February 2, 2009, 12:33 am
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In 1999 I was ten-years-old, which explains how I missed John Updike naming Gish Jen as his literary successor, which also explains why Lisa Ling was the only female Chinese-American role model I had growing up. In an article in The New Republic, Jen regrets never having asked him, “Why me?”

For me, Updike’s decision foreshadowed America’s burgeoning multiculturalism. If Updike’s writing—particularly the Rabbit series—captured the average American’s existence from the 1960s on, then Jen’s novels and short stories about immigrants are representative of America’s ever-increasing ethnic pluralism. Yes, white men are still extremely visible in the mainstream, but the Rabbit Angstrom’s are on the downswing. Picking Gish Jen demonstrates that Updike’s careful attention to America transcended his observations of middle America as he recognized that (so-called) “ethnic literature” (household names like Jhumpa Lahiri, Maxine Hong Kingston, etc.) constituted a redefinition of the “American” novel.

This is why I am so torn between Renaissance and Asian-American literature.

This is also why I am still devouring every posthumous John Updike article.

In which Lucy catches up on internet reading, about reading
January 4, 2009, 9:52 pm
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A few months ago, I went through a phase when I was dead set on being a humor scholar. This period dovetailed with (and was probably spurred on by) the release of Jim Holt’s Stop Me if You’ve Heard This: A History of Philosophy and Jokes. Paper Cuts has a short interview with Jim Holt up, definitely worth a quick look-see:

“Whose books are generally shelved around yours in bookstores? How does it feel to be between them?

My book “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes” ends up either in the humor section or the philosophy section. If it’s humor, I’m shelved next to books with titles like “Hot Chicks With Douchebags” and “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” which makes my heart sink a little. If it’s philosophy, I’m flanked by Hegel, Heidegger, Hume and Kant — which is absurd, of course, but at least I can console myself with the thought that I’m less boring than three of the four.”

As inspired by Jim Holt, new year’s resolution addendum: less internet and read Andrew Sullivan’s blog.

One of my favorite Guardian features is Writers’ rooms. A surprising number of these authors don’t actually write on computers, opting instead for longhand or typewriters. New year’s resolutions addendum #2: write less on computers. I need to make more use of my typewriter anyway.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s description of a library in Brooklyn is pretty entertaining. I tried to work at the Morningside Heights and Lincoln Center public libraries a few times. My experience at the Lincoln Center library was really horrific; the old man sitting next to me yelled at some business man for using a laptop under the premise that the library is a place for books, not computers.

December 11, 2008, 1:22 pm
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“When I decide to finally crawl into bed with one, I want it to be fun to look at and nice to stroke. It is not always easy to find the right match.”

This is why I generally prefer them older.

Continue reading

beata beatrix
November 15, 2008, 8:11 pm
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Beata Beatrix

Right now I’m writing an Art Hum paper about Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s most famous painting—Beata Beatrix. During my research for this paper, I came across the most engaging biography, Rossetti; it was such a narrative! I actually spent an hour reading it before I realized that none of what I had read applied to my paper. Being a nerd, I usually enjoy reading scholarship but I was thoroughly engrossed by this biography. Then I looked at the author’s name—Evelyn Waugh. No? It couldn’t be! Turns out Rossetti was his first book. Of course, it makes total sense. The very man who wrote about all those dandies just wrote about a real one this time around. Unfortunately Rossetti is out of print, but it is still available at Barnard library or Columbia Rare Books.


“Biography, as books about the dead are capriciously catalogued, is still very much in the mode.”