Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Friend Alicia Gifford's Erotic Courtyard and Story

I figured if Susie Bright could publish Alicia's story "Surviving Darwin" in Best American Erotica 2008, I couldn't go too far wrong posting an analogous view of her gorgeous courtyard. The pictures themselves are more exotic than erotic, but I couldn't resist the title. :-)Actually, like the courtyard, "Surviving Darwin" doesn't exactly belong to the erotic genre. It is a much more complex personality story. The female narrator isn't your usual sympathetic character, and doesn't do much to make the reader sympathetic. Still, the protagonist and her brief redemption are treated so masterfully, I was completely drawn in. Alicia wields a poised pen with words flowing from an intelligent and nimble mind. As another writer friend puts it, "I wish I could write that well!"

My question for the reader: Would you like a story with a dislikable main character? Why or why not?

So, bring a cup of coffee, sit in Alicia's spring courtyard, enjoy the company of Jim the handsome dog, and get lost in "Surviving Darwin."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dialogue between Karl Iagnemma and Brian Knep

One is a fiction writer and a scientist at MIT; the other is an artist and a researcher at Harvard. The concept of a conversation between these two is particular attractive to me. I don't know Brian, however I have (sort of) known Karl since I first went to his reading at Newtonville Books in 2001. Karl's stories are often complex, and he has a unique way with language. He is one of the contemporary writers whose writing I truly admire – see my review for his debut story collection, "On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction." I look forward to reading his new novel The Expeditions.

Karl is not only talented but also a very kind person. I remember when I first started writing in English after 9/11, I was clueless about story submission and publication, being trained as an engineer. I wrote Karl out of blue and asked many newbie questions, including how his first story was published. He replied to this stranger right away, in a very helpful long email.

One question I asked him was, "Which one do you like more, doing your lab research? or writing a story?" And he said, "Boy, the research/writing question is difficult. I suppose I like writing more, because it's it's just more _fun._ But research is satisfying in a very different way. . .it's a good feeling to solve a problem, and of course I've always been interested in science and technology, since I was a boy. . .which is probably why the characters in my stories are often scientists or engineers! But it's hard to compare the two, since they're very different things." It is hard to achieve excellence in either field alone, and he has succeeded in both.

MCC's idea for having dialogue between artists of different disciplines is a good one, and as the first installment, this one was interesting to read. However, there seems little interaction between the two. It is hard for a discussion to reach certain depth without an interactive discourse. #

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Is in My Yard

Does this have the flavor of a Chinese yard? A little bit? (We planted all those spring-flowering trees by ourselves, one or two every year.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

VSC Open Studios: Artwork-in-Progress

One thing I enjoy the most about a residency is the interaction between writers and visual artists. The visual artists never fail to impress and inspire me with their sheer creativity. The variety in their choice of art form is so great, it makes me wonder why they have larger freedom of choice than us writers.

Here is a small sample of work-in-progress I saw in VSC's open studios last week.

Right: Laura Scandrett's black dogs (painted with ink on paper)

Left: G Todd Haun's landscape painting

Right: Shari Schemmel's collage

Left: Chihiro Ito and his face on the wall

Below: Cathryn Aison's block print with a real wasp

Below: Lalie Schewadron's digital projection with enamel on clayboard

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Johnson, Vermont: War Dilemma

The slogan on the flag reads: "WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS / Hang a Yellow Ribbon for Your Soldier"

I asked a few writers and artists if they thought supporting our troops was the same as supporting the war. The answers were divided.

Friday, April 4, 2008

DON NOBLE: "Short-story collection is a winner"

Today Google alert brought me a pleasant surprise: a review for Tartts Three, a short story anthology that includes my story "Pivot Point." Here is what the reviwer, Don Noble, has to say about it:

"Xujun Eberlein is a story writer who grew up in China and came to the United States in 1988. Her collection won the Tartt Award. Her story in this volume, 'Pivot Point,' has the wonderful, nearly invaluable advantage of having a setting unfamiliar to the reader and dealing with issues unknown to the reader. (Hemingway was similarly lucky, or wise, when he set stories in East Africa and on charter fishing boats in the Gulf Stream.) Eberlein's protagonist is a 26-year-old single Chinese woman who had been sent to the country for 're-education' at the tail end of the Cultural Revolution. She is in love with a married man — not a rare situation — but in China conditions for romance are claustrophobic and stultifying. The young woman, living in a tiny room in her parents' apartment, cannot get housing of her own; there is no privacy to be had. The affair takes some predictable turns but ends, as a story titled 'Pivot Point' should, with a twist. She will go west, not to die — as the folk adage has it — but to study philosophy in America."

It is also interesting Don Noble says later in his review that "There are no bad stories in this volume, amazingly, but there are some problematical ones." Continue to read the review here>>