Saturday, April 29, 2006


Another Writing Scandal

So, what do I think about the 17 year old Harvard student who won a $500,000 advance for her first "novel," and who was recently discovered to have either copied or been inspired by -- depending on how you look at it -- a novel by the more established Megan McCafferty?

My first thought, believe it or not, is to wonder how I would ever have gotten into Columbia were I a student now. Yeah, I know that's a lame thing to think, but that was what first crossed my mind.

You see, I'm completely unsurprised by the idea that aspiring writers "internalize prose" to the point that they "might" accidentally plagiarize someone else, or that a 17 year old was considered a hot property by marketing forces; all writers worry about and want to outsmart the market. I am well aware of the fact that, at 35, I am in my last year of appealing to advertisers. After this year is up, it's on to middle age I go. (Hah).

What does stun me is the fact that the girl's parents hired a "coach" to get her into an Ivy League school (preferably Harvard), and that it was the coach's decision to contact an agent at William Morris. The agent then referred the girl to a book packager known as Alloy, which helped the girl "find her voice" and come up with a more sure fire plot than the manuscript the agent originally saw. The book packager contacted editors and, after much due diligence, a book was born. Plus, a $500,000 advance and entry to Harvard. There is just so much I could say about this, but since I don't really know who is reading my blog (and according to stats there are more of you), I will only say the following.

I consider my parents very devoted, and my mother in particular to have been a driving force behind my education. But a coach? And just what does such a coach do?

The project got its impetus from none other than Viswanathan's professional college packager. Katherine Cohen, a founder of IvyWise, a premier outfit that choreographs the college application process from ninth grade onward, and, crucially, helps produce essays that convey students' "passions."

I am dating myself here, but I remember my father getting excited during the summer of 1987 (I think) when the Princeton Review published it's first "Cracking the SAT" book. I sat out in the backyard in one of my ill-fated attempts to get a tan -- I don't really have the patience a native Californian should have for this kind of thing -- and studied the strategies. My scores shot up 200 points in the end. I thought this was fascinating and went to work for Kaplan after college (The Princeton Review never responded to my application).

In college I remember the university president addressing my class, and telling us just how many kids from Dalton and Horace Mann had been accepted to Columbia. I thought to myself: You mean, more than one kid from each school got in? There was more to the whole getting-into-college transaction than met the eye.

During the first few weeks I met people my age who had planned to apply to Columbia for years. It was expected. Planned. Some had had doctors declare them "dyslexic" in order to get unlimited time on the SATs. Even then I wondered if Columbia made a mistake in accepting me. I mean, I'd had a good education, devoted parents and a copy of "Cracking the SAT," but these things, I learned, were hardly sufficient to classify you as "savvy."

Back to the scandal at hand. I feel sorry for this girl. At 17 it seems to me it should have been clear that what was happening to her was wrong, but she certainly couldn't stop the process once it started. The goal was to get into Harvard, after all. I wonder: who gave her the books of Megan McCafferty to read? Was the the book packaging company providing her with "inspiration" to get her book done in the first place? Was it her own intellectual curiosity (! ) which led her to McCafferty? Did she discuss her "internalization" of the McCafferty's prose with any of the editors, and if so, what did they say to reassure her? What do her parents say now? Is she aware of what she has done, or just sorry she got caught? And I wonder if her parents feel like crap for having pushed her to the point that she did something morally wrong, just wrong?

Here are some similar musings over at Slate:

I don't mean simply to let Viswanathan off the hook, but her own book—indeed, its very copyright line, Alloy Entertainment and Kaavya Viswanathan—suggests a broader culture of adult-mediated promotion and strategizing at work. It's a culture, as her novel itself shows, that might well leave a teenager very confused about what counts as originality—even a teenager who can write knowingly about just that confusion. In fact, perhaps being able to write so knowingly about derivative self-invention is a recipe for being ripe to succumb to it.

My friend Kaytie says that the adults in this girl's life seem to have failed her and I tend to agree. There were . . . how many people involved in the generation of this book? At least a dozen, I'd say. How do you say "no" to 12 adults in your life pushing you to write a book?

How terrible, though, to learn at 18 years old that it is not okay to lie. How terrible to have been taught your entire life that it is okay to lie as long as you "win" in the end. It is much, much harder to learn to do something right once you are older than when you are still young. And for that, I definitely blame all the adults, any one of whom could have, at some point, put a stop to the charade.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Cherry Watch

Ahh. The cherries have opened! As you know, I'm quite obsessed to the point of being nervous about the cherry blossom season in New York. One bad wind/rain storm and you completely lose the chance to see them in their full beauty.

Here is the map as of last Thursday. As you can see, the trees on one side of the garden are blooming; there are many different varieties and they bloom at different times. My friend Kurt and I saw the other half last year, and wanted to see the early half this year.

There is a lovely Japanese garden here, landscaped by a Japanese gardener in 1915. The feeling is definitely authentic, and the water is populated by large carp, ducks and turtles. There is also a torii standing in the water, a small "temple" and a waterfall. This year I really wanted to see the flowers along the lake, and in particular wanted to capture the effect of light streaming through petals and across the water.

On the way to the Japanese garden (more in a minute) we passed these two trees: one white and one pink. I wish I could have photographed the trees in their entirety so you could see what they looked like, but both were simply too large to photograph. Standing under them, you truly had a sense of large waves crashing into each other, as the little flowers followed the curves of the branches which arched sharply off of their respective trunks, and into each other.

Little girls (whether adult or not) love to play with petals.

Here is the branch of a cherry tree as seen with the roof of the "temple" in the Japanese garden.

Branches from one of the many weeping cherry trees sweep the lake top; you can see numerous petals floating on top. Some of the koi mistook the petals for food.


Internet Detectives

Over at Japundit, I have posted the following:

Despite the success of the drama Densha Otoko in Japan, and the recognition that anime and manga are contributing to Japan's revived economy, the term otaku still has negative connotations in Japan. Why? Because the word got its origin when a serial killer in Japan during the 80s was found to have an obsession with manga and anime.

It entered general use in Japan around 1989, and may have been popularized by Nakamori's publication in that year of "The Age of M" (Mの時代, M no jidai), which applied the term to the (then) recently caught serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who turned out to be a loner obsessed with pornographic anime and manga (which is often called hentai in the Western hemisphere) and who lived out his rape fantasies on living young girls, attaching a huge taboo to a formerly innocuous term.

This week in the US, a man living in Oklahoma has been charged with murdering a 10 year old girl who was his neighbor. The coverage has been extensive and sensational; this was a fairly intelligent young man, who chronicled his depression and his interests in a Myspace (decommissioned, but you can download it), various blogs and an Amazon shopping list. And, as Huff's Crime Blog points out, the man, named Kevin Underwood, was a fan of anime and manga.

One would ask how he met her—a ready answer may be in his proximity to her home, but he also was a fan of anime and manga, Japanese cartoon art which is popular with people as young as 8 and many older than 26, as well. Unfortunately, pursuits like that are often latched onto by those who would prey on children as well, since they see the hobby as a logical way to get close to children without seeming too suspicious.

Am I drawing a conclusion between serial killers, sexual devience and anime? Of course not. I don't deny, however, that I immediately thought of Tsutomu Miyazaki when I read about Kevin Underwood. Do I think that anime and manga -- like tales of lost puppies and kittens told by a strange men to a child in a park -- are one way that these kinds of social deviants might win the trust of children? Of course. What I think will be interesting from the Japundit perspective, however, is if the anime/manga angle to this terrible story comes to the forefront of the mainstream media's coverage; I suspect it would in Japan.

That's one aspect to this story.

As sick as this whole thing is, I want to talk about something a little bit different here.

The point that I want to emphasize is the aforementioned Huff's Crime Blog. It turns out that there are a number of bloggers who, adept as they are on the Internet, have turned their skills into a crusade, mining the Web for information that will help catch killers. As I read this, I thought, "Well, duh, Marie. It's not just gossip, games and general self-expression that's undergone a revolution because of the Internet." How absolutely fascinating. How long until someone writes a best-selling detective series on this subject?

(Note: Just received an email from another Japundit contributor. It seems that the man accused of murdering the little girl did have an obsession with Japan, or what he thought of as Japanese. He was learning the language online, for one, and had bought a number of strange products from Japan which fueled his obsessions.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Name the Celebrity

Overheard while a certain celebrity was shooting a commercial for Nokia in front of the New York Public Library:

The twenty-somethings said: "Hey! That's Harry Potter's godfather. Umm. What's his name?"

The thirty-somethings said: "He was married to Uma Thurman, right?"

The forty-somethings said: "Wasn't he Dracula?"

Full credit if you answered Gary Oldman to all three questions (no, that is not Ethan Hawke). He was in town to shoot a commercial for Nokia, which involved holding a camera and spinning around in a circle.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Ninja Country

In April there is a ninja matsuri in Iga. Incidentally, I've been told that towns which end in "ga" are often towns in which the ninja lived. Interesting, eh?

As you can see, Helly Kitty has added ninja to her wardrobe. Not only is she a sacred deer, she is also a true ninja.

If you are a girl, you can go to the bathroom in this girl-ninja toilet. Sorry. No boys.

Not to be outdone by Miss Kitty, dogs have apparently taken up the ninja tradition as you can see in this photo. I guess this is another outfit for your dog, in addition to the doggie yukata. Oh. And the kids start training young too. Along with the requisite cartoon characters.


Happy Spring

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Neutralizing Sushi

Interesting article out in The Japan Times today, by writer Roger Pulvers. He notes, as many of us have many times on Japundit, the growing popularity of manga, anime, sushi and karaoke which he proposes to refer to by the simplified acronym MASK. He starts by pointing out how even government officials like Koizumi are well aware of the global appeal of these cultural forms. Then, he breaks out his basic thesis.

As proud as many Japanese are of their newly discovered universal culture, my belief is that the MASK bandwagon is, as taken up overseas, ethnically neutral. This culture represents a kind of pop vocabulary -- in pictures, design, cuisine and technology -- that has been borrowed, assimilated and localized by the foreign world. As such, its propagation is a great example of cultural marketing, and that is why politicians, who are first and foremost market followers, are attracted to them.

Basically, Pulvers is saying that the whole fascination with all things MASK (see how handy that reference is?) isn't really an obsession with all things Japanese. Once sushi goes overseas, for example, it is neutralized. I mean, most sushi places here in NYC aren't even made by Japanese (not that New Yorkers can acutally tell the difference unless, as it's been noted, they have a Japanese or half-Japanese girlfriend).

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, and once a week my parents took me and my brother to one of several Chinese restaurants -- all of them run by Chinese people and with menus written in Chinese and English. We had at the time, however, no interest whatsoever in China, nor did we ever find anything out about the people working at the restaurants or their culture. Eating Chinese food was an essential American ritual. Even my old kosher cookbook has a recipe for sweet-and-sour chicken (sorry, no pork). The mass phenomenon of Chinese food in America was totally divorced from anything to do with Chinese cultural influence, and I suspect the same is true today.

It's an interesting theory, and on the face of it, resembles numerous discussions we've had on Japundit; an obsession with anime and manga doesn't necessarily mean that someone is interested in the "true" Japan (whatever that is). But I don't agree. Yes, I get the analogy he is making with Chinese food, but I don't think it's a clean parallel; where in the 1950s, for example, were the Barnes and Nobles making more and more shelf space for the Chinese equivalent of manga books? Where were the ASK parts of the Chinese MASK?

I don't have the resources to set up a full sociological study to test out my feelings, but my sense is that by eating sushi, singing karaoke, watching anime and reading manga (and practicing martial arts, and absorbing so-called Asian inspired home decor, people (and here is the important part) think they are adding a dash of Asian spice to their lives. That's the whole point of buying bamboo printed bed-spreads to add feng shui into your life and eating in a restaurant with red Chinese paper lanterns (that one might make the mistake of thinking are Japanese). The cultural association with Japan (and the rest of Asia) that sushi and celadon colored plates make is important to the purchaser. For you Japanophiles (whoops, bad word) out there, you've probably had the experience a million times where someone says to you; "I love Japanese food! I love sushi!" And then you have to explain that Japanese food is much more than just sushi.

You would need to spend considerable time here in the States watching shopping trends and merchandising decisions and listening to party gossip to see this first hand. The popularity of yoga and its ability to impart "Eastern" healing to the Western body is another example of how perception does go a long way to contributing to a trend).

Here is perhaps an even better analogy. Hip-hop is a cultural trend which originated in one country (the US) and has now gone global. I regularly take hip-hop class with a pretty well-known instructor; he was there when the movement started and is loads of fun to talk to about how it has spread around the world. Recently, he returned from a teaching trip to Siberia (the guy goes everywhere, yes, even Japan). He often laments to me that hip-hop is no longer a form of expression limited to Black youth and in many ways he feels it has been neutralized; but the perception among kids who love hip hop is that they are associating themselves with the origins of the movement, ie. Black and Latino kids in the Bronx. Is Siberian hip-hop the same as it is in da Bronx? Uh, nyet. But the Siberian kids still identify with it and feel as though they are expressing something which originated north of Manhattan. Does this mean that hip hop has changed and been appropriated? Absolutely. But neutralized? I think that's in the eye of the beholder.

I go back to a point I made last week; I still hope that this interest in perceived things Japanese does lead more and more people to discover aspects of the culture which are more traditional and deeply rooted in history. Perhaps this is an idealist's hope, but I'm sticking with it.
One final note: Pulvers makes this incredibly interesting concluding note that I will expand on in a later post; the Japanese government is trying hard to capitlize on the world's interest in MASK. He points out that the last time in history the Japanese government tried to capitlize on a similar cultural outpouring, things didn't end so well.

The Meiji Era (1868-1912) and the decade succeeding it saw a grand outpouring of Japanese culture, with the unique Japanese sense of design, color and form -- in the woodblock print, in the kimono and in every variety of craft -- having immense influence on the arts and cultures of the East and West. People around the world at that time knew where that culture originated, and they held its creators in the highest regard. It wasn't until Japanese militarists manipulated and later destroyed their contemporary indigenous culture that the world, as a result, lost its enthusiasm for its rich gifts.


(Post first appeared on Japundit where you can read comments).

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Judas Gets a Gospel

I love the show "Jesus Christ Superstar." It isn't just the music, or the incredibly tight plotting that I admire. I love the reimagined world in which JC has fallen prey to too much PR, in which the apostles get drunk as though they are at some writer's workshop, and Judas is tormented that JC's faith is no longer as "core" as it once was. I find all this if not probable, then certainly human. Here's one of the moments of tension in the show.

Peter will deny me in just a few hours.
Three time will deny
me--and that's not all I see
One of you here dining, one of my twelve chosen
Will leave to betray me --

Cut out the dramatics! You
know very well who--

Why don't you go do it?

You want me to do it!

Hurry they are waiting

If you know why I do it . . .

I don't care why you do it!

To think I admired you
For now I despise you

You liar -- you Judas

You want me to do it!
What if I just stayed here
And ruined your ambition?
Christ you deserve it!

Hurry you fool, hurry and go,
Save me your speeches, I don't want to know -- Go!

I've been waiting for someone to do a production in which Judas and Mary Magdalene are both women . . but I digress. The point I was trying to make was that in this show, Judas is reimagined as someone who is actually doing what Jesus wants. I mean, Jesus is not exactly happy that he is going to be sacrificed, but he knows it is coming and he wants Judas to carry out the deed.

Enter the whole Da Vinci Code law suit and sudden interest in 2000 year old documents. Enter the publication of the Gospel of Judas, which has been known to have existed, but was only discovered 30 years ago. And what do we learn?

In this text, scholars reported yesterday, the account of events leading to the Crucifixion differs sharply from the four gospels in the New Testament. Here Jesus is said to entrust Judas with special knowledge and ask him to betray him to the Roman authorities. By doing so, he tells Judas, "you will exceed" the other disciples.

"You will be cursed by the other generations, and you will come to rule over them," Jesus confides to Judas in the document, which was made public at a news conference at the National Geographic Society in Washington.

Can there be a better time than now for a story of moral ambiguity to emerge?

(Ed. 4/9 -- Check out this MSNBC article which gives a good summary of the Judas Gospel. Hee hee. I love a little chaos).

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Banana Japan

The term "banana" means lots of different things to Asians in America. "Twinkie" would be a slang synonym, as in both the banana and the twinke are: "white on the inside and yellow on the outside." This was the kind of terminology that cropped up in the 90s during the height of PC an identity politics.

When I first saw the novel Kitchen for sale, and saw that the writer's name was Banana Yoshimoto, I thought that maybe she was American, and that she was simply trying to be ironic. But, as fans of popular culture know, Banana turned out to be Japanese. As she says on her site, she chose the pen name Banana because:

Just because I love banana flowers.

And, if that wasn't enough, there is this revelation:

I have one (tattoo) of banana on my right thigh and another one of Obake-no-Q-Taro on my left shoulder.

On a recent trip to Japan, I was lucky enough to visit the birth place of the very famous poet Matsuo Basho, commonly referred to as Basho. His poetry is highly regarded and often read in translation by readers who love the level of intimacy and beauty they find in his work. Basho was a lover of travel as this little bit of poetry demonstrates.

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home."

Basho is actually a pen name, meaning "banana tree." It turns out that someone -- a disciple -- planted a banana tree outside of Basho's hut. Because the climate was too cold for the tree to bear fruit, it took on a kind of useless appearance. It's said that Basho took on his pen name because a poet is similarly useless, or because he wanted to show his affection for similarly useless things. In the picture above, I'm standing by the banana trees planted at Basho's home in Iga.

Basho nowaki shite
Tarai ni ame o
Kiku yo kana

A banana plant in the autumn gale -
I listen to the dripping of rain
Into a basin at night.

Coincidence? Hard to tell. I couldn't find anything which said that Banana Yoshimoto thought of Basho when she chose her name; I only found quiet denials. But the similar tribute to bananas is certainly intriguing.


Top 100 Most Beautiful Women of All Time

Some silly list compiled by "New Woman."

Audrey Hepburn is #1.

And there is exactly ONE Asian person on the list -- the lovely Lucy Liu.


Blood Type

Here is one thing which irritates me.

You meet someone casually and you find that you have some sort of "spark." After a little bit, the other person asks, "What's your sign?" as though by revealing this information, you are going to answer all the questions they have about you and account for your instant chemistry. What a turn off.

I'm a Capricorn, which by all accounts is the least romantic sign. I used to have this friend who would say, "Hey! Don't worry! Capricorns achieve their peak late in life!" As though this is any kind of consolation for a present setback.

I find astrology ridiculous. I think in theory it is an interesting way to examine personality types, much as Tarot cards reveal storylines in a person's life. But I do not think that Astrology is science, or that it is rooted in anything factual. For God's sake, the gravitational pull of the doctor next to your body when you are born is stronger than some planet thousands of miles away.

Astrology is less of a big deal in Japan. Blood type, however, is very important. On this last trip to Japan, I kept hearing people say things like, "Yeah, well, he's such a type A." Or, "Well, that's because he's a type B." I was told that Japan is 40 percent type A, and 30 percent type O. The worst thing to be is type B.

There are four blood types, and each is supposed to correspond to a different personality. I actually don't know what my blood type is -- I think it's AB. When I asked Japanese friends what blood type I had, they said, "Oh, well, you obviously have some A in you, but you are a brighter character than we are, so you must have some B mixed in as well." As an outsider, this kind of thing is really amusing -- much in the way that it must be amusing for outsiders to Astrology to watch people get hot and bothered about earth signs and moon signs, etc.

However, blood type can be taken so seriously in Japan that it leads to discrimination, proof, in my book, that humans are dangerous when they take to believing bizarre things.

During World War II, the Japanese military used the notion to assign
soldiers to tasks most appropriate to their personalities.

So, there's your historical context. In popular culture, blood types are often seen as the motivations for tragic flaws.

The concept is so popular it was turned into a hit romantic comedy film last year in South Korea, "My Boyfriend is Type-B," about the turbulent times between a Type-A university student and her moody and destructive Type-B partner.

And here's this tidbit.

But a backlash has grown against blood-type characterization after reports of Type-B children bullied at school.

The Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization, an industry group, called on broadcasters to tone down their programming after complaints by parents and teachers.

"Categorizing people by their blood types -- about which individuals cannot do anything -- can lead to discrimination. Adults may laugh it off as entertainment. But it is not necessarily so among children," it said in a request to member broadcasters.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


More Sad Endings

Piggybacking on the previous entry in which I told you about the termination of Chris Burke from Tuesday's Children. Newsday has an article on the same subject today.

So far, I think PR has handled the situation really well. There is a striking phot of Chris alongside photos of his brother. Again, I will make very few comments about this story, though this article is different from the Times' in very interesting ways. Here are quotes from the Newsday article.

Yesterday, Barnett said the organization had moved swiftly to assure donors and recipients that financial safeguards had been put in place.

"This was uncovered by our employees," said Barnett. "To withhold donations would be to punish the families."

Here is an article on Tuesday's Children published last September, just before the anniversary of the attacks.

Two weeks after the attacks, Burke formed Tuesday's Children, a nonprofit organization that helps 9/11 children and their surviving parent focus on the future instead of dwelling on the past. "With four young nephews, it became painfully clear that the lives of thousands of others like them had been altered forever by the gaping hole left by the loss of a parent," Burke said. "I couldn't leave these kids out there on their own."

In Tuesday's Children, they found a much-needed friend.

In fact, the children have a network of friends who mentor, encourage and assist them in their educational and career pursuits and help create social outlets for them. More than 1,000 families in the metropolitan area have benefited from the multitude of organizations that have thrown their support behind the organization, Burke said.

We'll see if other media outlets pick it up, and how the story differs as it shifts from reporter to reporter.


A Sad Ending

Friends and family know that I used to work for an organization called Tuesday's Children. The stated aim of the group was to aid the family members who lost someone in 9/11. I workd with a few of the children, overseeing a mentoring program.

Yesterday, I saw the following article in the New York Times, titled: "Behind Relief to 9/11 Families: A Man's Flaws." Here are some salient bits.

For a while, it sent children of 9/11 victims to baseball games, where they
had their pictures taken with Joe Torre or Mike Piazza. It sent them to Broadway shows and to Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Tennessee. It even had Rudolph W. Giuliani as a guest of honor at one of its annual dinners.

But, in time, some donors' checks went astray. An internal investigation was begun, and Tuesday's Children fired Mr. Burke in January after he acknowledged that he had improperly diverted some $311,000, at least some of it, charity officials say,
for his personal use. Tuesday's Children turned over its findings to Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer's office. Mr. Burke was treated for substance abuse. His parents, with one son dead and another facing public shame, dug into their savings to pay back the money.

I don't want to say too much about this, except that it is very, very sad. Chris Burke, the fired founder and director is very candid in the article.

Mr. Burke said in the telephone interview that, in addition to his work for Tuesday's Children, he had set out to raise about $60,000 for a friend, a quadriplegic who needed a specially equipped van. Mr. Burke said the money had come from 40 people, and he needed a place to deposit it.

"I simply marched into the bank," he said. "I merely stated I needed to open an account, and they opened the account. They assumed it was a Tuesday's Children account."

And then later,

Alone in the office at the end of 2004, Mr. Burke was sifting through Christmas cards when he came across an unsolicited check for $250,000.

"I realized as I sat there with that $250,000 check in my hand, I was the only one who knew anything about it," he said in the phone interview, "and I could direct it as I saw fit."

I feel terrible for his parents. Donors must be angry. Wouldn't this make you sad?

Saturday, April 01, 2006


What is a Quiet Book?

Can anyone tell me? And what is a "loud" book? I just hear this term "quiet" used a lot and it mystifies me. As my friend Kaytie said, isn't all reading quiet (unless you are at one of those Barnes and Noble readings with a microphone, but that's not what I'm talking about)?

Gilead: A Novel Marilynne Robinson
A Review by Ron Charles
"There is a balm in Gilead, and I hope many people find it. For a country dazzled by literary and military pyrotechnics, this quiet new novel from Marilynne Robinson couldn't be less compatible with the times -- or more essential."

Hunger: Lan Samantha Chang
Chang beautifully conveys the pressures on these bewildered immigrant parents, whose aspirations are rarely matched by reality, and their quietly rebellious children. And while Tian remains far more frightening than likable, his long-ago escape from mainland China instantly humanizes this paternal despot:

Hunger: Lan Samantha Chang
Lan Samantha Chang's writing is like a Chinese brush painting: delicate, spare, and deceptively quiet. The tumult of emotions not expressed seethes beneath the tranquil spaces, pressing against them, and the effect in the reader is like a series of silent implosions. These are poignant and haunting stories.
Janette Turner Hospital, author of Oyster

The Namesake: Jhumpa Lahiri
The result is a seemingly quiet, almost undramatic novel whose characters and incidents continue to leap freshly to mind weeks after reading it.
Bookpage Interview

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere: ZZ Packer
ZZ Packer has a way with words. She has a talent for writing restrained stories that catch the reader off guard. Her tales seem so understated, but her skill is in the way she can target those very human moments of fragility, those quiet, unnamed uncertainties that we can never quite admit to, and certainly can’t find the words for.

Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
Ishiguro's prose has never failed to dazzle me, and this novel is certainly no exception. With a near stillness, a quiet passivity, Ishiguro's narrator tells the story of her and her two friends' eerie predestined fate; a fate that echoes throughout novels such as The Handmaid's Tale and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. What is revealed here is an important, wistful meditation on life and society. His books are marvels — astonishing works of art.

Sigrid Nunez: The Last of Her Kind
And now we have THE LAST OF HER KIND, which continues to draw on the 60's with quiet sorrow.

Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries
Shields's quiet touch, gossipy and affectionate, re- creates Daisy's poignant decline and death with dollops of humorous distance, including obituaries, recipes, and overheard snippets of conversation.

Margaret Atwood: The Tent
As Atwood looks back over her career, what she sees is less the authority of her own voice than the quiet dignity of stories. The stories -- any stories -- would be great, she seems to say, if it weren't for these damned humans always getting in the way of things and mucking about.

Colson Whitehead: Apex Hides the Hurt
In a world crowded with big, bossy novels insisting on taking us to the ends of the earth, Colson Whitehead offers a short, quiet invitation to bum around town.

Jamaica Kincaid: Lucy
JAMAICA KINCAID'S new novel, "Lucy," the first-person narrative of a young woman coming to America, runs like a quiet brook, rising and falling over rocks and gullies, brushing past places it has run before but never resting, never latching onto anything in its path.

Joan Silber: In My Other Life
This book is in part a series of gentle shocks and reminders of those former lives, before rehab, before sanity, before equanimity took over. In its quiet way, this book is about the secret life of an entire generation of urban Americans."

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