WRITING ACROSS & THROUGH GENDER: Chang-Rae Lee at Stanford

This event is sponsored by the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford. It is free and open to the public.

The Clayman Institute’s Winter Artist’s Salon features novelist and Stanford professor Chang-rae Lee. Lee will talk about the women characters in several of his books, giving a short reading, followed by a discussion with the audience on a range of questions.

He will focus on June, the female protagonist in The Surrendered, and Fan, the female protagonist in On Such a Full Sea.

Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018
4:15 to 5:45 p.m.
Levinthal Hall
Stanford Humanities Center

RSVP to: gender.stanford.edu

 

Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

The Chang-rae Lee Version of Dystopia

This is from the review of On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.  The review appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The reviewer was Joanna Biggs.

“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ Chang-rae Lee writes in On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel.  “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.”  It seems doubtful, in Lee’s somber future.  Afflicted by swine- and bird-flue epidemics, and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups.  At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has controlled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages.  Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the ‘service people,’ who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.  ‘You better have it while you have it’ is the motto of the bartering, hardscrabble life there.”

District 12, anyone?  The twist is that the oppressed classes are “workers whose ancestors arrived from New China a hundred years earlier.”

Biggs then cites a list of dystopian narratives (which fortunately or unfortunately do not include anything YA), starting with “the math genius D-503, in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, who begins by designing the spaceship INTEGRAL . . .  to the fireman Guy Montag in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who starts out as a kerosene-wielding book burner and ends up harboring what may be the last copy of the Bible,” to Winston Smith, the “mid-ranking employee” of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

Self has read most of Chang-rae Lee’s novels.  She’s read Native Speaker, Aloft, and A Gesture Life.  Of all his novels that self has read to date, her favorite is still A Gesture Life.  Harrowing.  She’ll never forget it.

What she likes most about Lee’s writing is the quietness of the voice.  The restraint masks sheer agony.  All his main characters are tightly wound but restrained, almost to the point of lunacy.  Feelings are to be distrusted.  They are acknowledged only under great peril.  Which makes him sound, on the surface, like Kazuo Ishiguro.  But self finds Chang-rae Lee’s characters, almost all of them, to be deeply emotional and passionate individuals.  If they do harm, it is mostly to themselves.

She does have a copy of On Such a Full Sea, signed by the author himself after a reading he gave in Berkeley.  Self is sorely tempted to tote it along to Ireland, but it’s hardback.  And self has sworn she’s not going to burden herself with more than a handful of books this time.  The fee for mailing the books back home will be exorbitant, if what she paid after Hawthornden is any indication.  Oh what to do, what to do!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

About the End of Self’s New York Times Book Review Subscription

Self still has a huge backlog of NYTBR issues to go through.  She pulled them out of her hopelessly muddled “Pile of Stuff” and started to go through them.  The very first one she started to read was the January 5, 2014 issue.

Front page review of Chang-rae Lee’s science fiction novel, On Such a Full Sea.

Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more.  It’s a wonderful addition not only to Chang-rae Lee’s body of work but to the ranks of “serious” writers venturing into the realm of dystopian fantasy.

Lost self at “dystopian,” everyone’s favorite catch-all one-word description for the Apocalyptic Future, now swarming the world on hundreds of reviews of the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

American Booksellers Association Indie Choice Awards

From the ABA website:

The winners of the 2011 Indies Choice Book Awards reflect the spirit of independent bookstores nationwide and the IndieBound movement. Book of the Year winners and Honor Award recipients are all titles nominated by ABA member booksellers to the 2010 Indie Next List.

The 2011 winners are:

Adult Fiction: Emma Donoghue’s Room
Adult Nonfiction: Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken
Adult Debut Book of the Year: Karl Malantes’ Matterhorn
Young Adult Book of the Year: Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution
E. B. White Read-Aloud Award – Middle Reader: Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
E. B. White Read-Aloud Award – Picture Book: Peter Brown’s Children Make Terrible Pets

The prize for “Most Engaging Author” went to Laurie Halse Anderson, “for her exceptional involvement and responsiveness during in-store appearances and for having a strong sense of the importance of indie booksellers to their local communities.”

Runners-Up for Adult Fiction:

Runners-Up for Adult Nonfiction:

Late last night, self finished Ben Macintyre’s (absolutely fab) Agent Zigzag and began Laurence Bergreen’s Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: With The Most Gorgeous Sentence Encountered So Far in 2008

By Chang-rae Lee, from his novel Aloft.

“You haven’t been around lately, Jerome. You don’t know. You don’t know that this is the place where they make the world’s boredom and isolation. This is where they purify it. It’s monstrous. And what they’re doing to Nonna over in the ladies’ wing, I can’t even mention.”

Nonna was his wife, and my mother, and at that point she had been in the brass urn for five years. Pop is by most measures fine in the head, though it seemed around that period that anything having to do with mortality and time often got scrambled in the relevant lobes, a development that diminished only somewhat my feelings of filial betrayal and guilt for placing him via power of attorney into the Ivy Acres Life Care Center, where for $5500 per month he will live out the rest of his days in complete security and comfort and without a worldly care, which we know is simple solution and problem all in one, which we can do nothing about, which we do all to forget.

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