Using Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Key, Jianan Qian examines the differences between how stories are structured and celebrated in Western and East Asian cultures.
Steve Paulson interviews Teju Cole about why he left Twitter, his photographic inspirations, how he delights in the beauty of sentence fragments, and his meditative approach to combining text and photography in his book, Blind Spot.
An essay about the end of a relationship and the daunting experience of apartment hunting in Brooklyn.
The writer reflects on the difficult relationship between her grandmother and mother, and how it has shaped her relationship with her mother:
“No wonder I’ve preferred not to think too much about what my grandmother and I share, but listening to all those eulogies, and spending three days with my mother in a tiny Swiss hotel room, I had to. She was Eurasian; I’m Eurasian. She was a writer; I’m a writer. In one of her memoirs, published when I was twelve, she writes, ‘Karen is so very much like me in some ways that it is almost unbelievable.’ What could she possibly have observed in pre-teen me to allow her to make that claim? Since her death, it’s occurred to me that those aspects of a mixed-race identity — her protean nature, her desire to control information and the narratives made from it — that served her have served me, and may have enabled the least appealing parts of ourselves. Turns out it’s not just my grandmother who deserves my ambivalence.”
The strange story of Martin Amis’s lost book, Invasion of the Space Invaders, which offered tips on how to play video games like PacMan:
“He is almost as enthusiastic about PacMan, although you get the sense that he sees it (in contrast to Space Invaders) as a fundamentally unserious endeavor. ‘Those cute little PacMen with their special nicknames, that dinky signature tune, the dot-munching Lemon that goes whackawhackawhackawhacka: the machine has an air of childish whimsicality.’ His advice is to concentrate stolidly on the central business of dot-munching, and not to get distracted by the shallow glamor of the fruits: ‘Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.'”
A few weeks ago I took a break from reading Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities to visit the block of Hudson Street in Manhattan’s West Village where Jacobs lived when she wrote her classic book on urban planning. One block over, on Bleecker Street, the storefronts bear the names of some of the most iconic brands in fashion – Steve Madden, Juicy Couture, Coach, Michael Kors – but Jacobs’ old block of Hudson between Perry and West 11th retains its scruffy charm, mixing small residential buildings with restaurants, a bar, a nail salon, a bodega, and a dry cleaner.
I went back to work. Just about a year later, I sent out another story. Again, I sent it to the New Yorker. This time, someone wrote on the post card rejection: “Strong writing. Thanks.” Then, in November, I received a two-sentence letter from C. Michael Curtis at Atlantic Monthly: “‘A New Year’s Resolution’ starts out promisingly, but we think it veers into improbability (emotional) and something like melodrama. You’re awfully good, however, and I hope you’ll try us again.” It’s no exaggeration to say it: This letter kept me going for years.
It was midday on a Monday in early August of the year 2000. … The previous Friday, bidding on my first novel had reached six figures, then paused for people to track down more cash. I’d later learn one editor spent the weekend trying to reach her boss on his Tanzanian vacation, finally getting through via the satellite phone of a safari boat on the Rufiji river, but that he wouldn’t OK a higher bid because he couldn’t get the manuscript in time. I was 32. I’d never made over $12,000 in a year.