Personal, Poetical, Political

Nick Stember asks Christopher Doyle about The Hong Kong Trilogy

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of your work, but I wonder with something so politically charged if you feel like people expected you to be giving answers? You know, Christopher Doyle makes a big statement, like Michael Moore or someone like that.

The point is to embrace the image: whether it’s the image on has of oneself or where one hopes to arrive – as an artist, a banker, a good mother, or whatever. It’s not how society and the tabloids need to “closet” you: it’s a volition, hope, and intention to be more than you would be alone that allows a public persona to help you to hurdle through to a very free and giving space.

Chinese Corner

Riddle Me This

Chinese word puzzles - Nick Stember

Can you read this?


This is an example of “See the Picture, Guess the Phrase” (kàn tú cāi chéngyǔ 看图猜成语), a kind of Pictionary for language nerds. If we translate the emoji into Mandarin we get “horse horse tiger tiger”… or mǎmǎhūhū 马马虎虎, which means “careless” or “so-so,” depending on the context.

My own path to this wonderful corner of the Chinese internet started with a simple, seemingly unrelated question: Are there Chinese crossword puzzles? How would that even work?


I Can Only Go by My Gut

A conversation with Singaporean novelist Jeremy Tiang

Nick Stember: You’ve said before that you dislike talking about your work, and I guess this is a little bit of an ironic or awkward place to start an interview, but I wonder if you could elaborate on this.

Jeremy Tiang: I think the work should stand on its own, and by the time it's out in the world, I don't have much more to say about it. I also don't like talking about work-in-progress, because I believe that if you say something out loud too much, it starts to feel limp and worn out by the time you come to write it. Really, I'd be much happier if author panels could just consist of me showing the audience pictures of my cat.


Mountain and Forest

The Tao of Ursula K. Le Guin  — Nick Stember

Memorably described by China Miéville as an ‘unflinching radical, literary colossus, comrade, a giant of modern letters,’  tributes to Ursula K. Le Guin’s legacy have come from far and wide — to list just a few, Stephen King, John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemison, Naomi Klein — with many more doubtless to come. While Margaret Atwood has (rightly) pointed out the prescience of Le Guin’s 1969 novel, The Left-Hand of Darkness, readers might be surprised to learn that this book was inspired in part by ancient Chinese thought.


The Plight of Writing

An undelivered speech by Jia Pingwa

"Facing eternity, or the lack of it, each day."

It is strange to think that these words, spoken by a foreigner so long ago, could describe our current situation so well.

When an author first starts writing, they value craft and skill. Eventually, though, stamina – and things learned from personal experience – are what really matter. Today a writer’s vision is more important than ever.