December 31st, 2013

bookworm

RL updateage

(crossposted from FB)

1) Mischief managed on the bank snafu. At least for now. I got a new sheet of checks, corrections made to the lovely lady's account the check was pulled from along with a promise of a letter explaining the situation and apologizing to her, a letter for *my* roommate which she can show to her bank and hopefully get her overdraft fee waived, and a lollipop. Because they asked me if they could do anything else for me and I felt a bit self-indulgent.

2) Walking around Manhattan today was actually nice. Central Park, Lincoln Center, the nice old neighborhood over by Sloan-Kettering. Even after just a few weeks away, it feels like I've lost a bit of my connection to the place, and I needed to pound the pavement a bit to get it back in my bones.

3) Did some grocery shopping back in my neighborhood. Produce and dairy, mainly. I have some ground sausage and tortillas in my freezer which I need to use before they go bad, so I'll probably whip that up into some kind of taco/burrito/thing. And as I came in a neighbor gave me a generous slice of cake that looks truly scrumptious: gingerbread layers with cream cheese + ground peppermint filling. It's testing my willpower to set it aside until after I've eaten.

4) Speaking of willpower, I've set a new year's resolution: no soda in the apartment. I'll buy it when I go out, but I'm spending too much money on dentistry to mess around with acid on my teeth.

5) And not strictly RL (not RL at all actually), but here's a video to remind those of us seeing "The Empty Hearse" tomorrow of just why we love BBC Sherlock too much. Nothing on the plot so much, but just why the characters are so awesome.

bilbo

on writing a green sun

ch cartoonOver at the Opinionator, Virginia Pye recently asked an interesting question: can you — or should you — write a book about a place you’ve never visited?

China of My Mind

In her own words:

When I tell people that I have recently published a novel set in China, one of the first questions they ask is whether I’ve been there. My response seems to be a letdown. The expectant look on their faces shifts as they wonder why I chose to write about a place I’ve never visited. Sometimes I sense incredulity. What makes me think I can write about China?

She then goes on to describe her own family’s experience with China. Her grandfather was a missionary who was kicked out of China in the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, and her father was what she calls a “China watcher,” an American professor (a political scientist, I believe) who observed China and worked with it but for years was prohibited from actually living there because westerners weren’t allowed to visit. He finally did travel there in 1972, but even then he doesn’t seem to have lived there. Virginia Pye says she never visited herself, and she’s also aware of the danger of appropriation and imperialism that she thinks characterized her grandfather’s efforts there (though she does say he developed a genuine connection with the land and culture).

Pye is very upfront with the fact that she doesn’t know China as an actual Chinese person would. She says she didn’t inherit some special connection with the place just because her grandfather had lived there and her father had visited. She grew up among relics from pre-communist China brought back to America by her grandfather and the “cheap red and gold Mao buttons, quilted jackets in workman’s blue, olive green caps and the most ubiquitous souvenir of the time, Mao’s Little Red Book” her father brought back from his research trips. As the descendant of German immigrants I appreciate this: I grew up on stories of my great-grandmother’s life in Germany under the Weimar Republic, and felt a deep kinship with the country before I ever saw it. I get that. I also get that the connection I had before seeing those places pales beside what I felt after actually standing there. I think Ms. Pye gets it too. She certainly understands there’s a gap between her experience and the experience of someone from China.

So the question becomes: is the connection Ms. Pye has enough? How much do we have to know a situation before we should write it?

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Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.