Archive for November 2011

[translation] The Chinese Restaurant

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 § 0

I've posted a translation, by yours truly, of a humorous short story by Sanmao (三毛), a famous Taiwanese writer (links go to English/Chinese biographies).  She lived an exciting life, albeit one that ended in tragedy, and she wrote about a lot of it in clear, clever prose.  This short story, "The Chinese Restaurant In The Middle Of The Desert," comes from a time that she was living with her husband, Jose, in what is now the Western Sahara.  An excerpt:

The first course I made was chicken soup with vermicelli. Whenever Jose came home he'd always yell "get something going, I'm starving!" In the end, the sole result of his years of devotion was a daily demand for food without even a glance towards his beloved spouse -- though this did mean that I didn't need to trouble myself over any possible loss of looks after matrimony. Anyway, as I was saying, the first thing I made was chicken vermicelli soup. He drank some and said, "Huh, what is this? Chinese noodles?"

"Would your mother-in-law mail noodles from so far away? Of course not."

"What is it? Give me some more, it's great."

I picked some up with chopsticks. "This here is called 'rain.'"

"Rain?" He looked at me blankly.

Like I said, my philosophy is to pretty much do as I like in marriage, so I just said whatever inspired me and came to mind. "See, these are formed from the first rains in spring that fall in the high mountaintops and freeze there. People who live there pick the rain and carry it down the mountains in bundles and trade it for rice wine. It's not that easy to buy, you know!"

Jose stared at me blankly some more. Then he peered at me, then at the "rain," and said, "Do you take me for an idiot?"

I kept my face blank. "Do you want some more or not?"

"Yes I do, you goddamn liar."

Since then he's eaten quite a bit of "rain," and I still think he has no idea what it is. Sometimes I ponder to myself that Jose is kind of dumb, and that does make me a bit sad.

You can read the rest of "The Chinese Restaurant In The Middle Of The Desert" (2300 words) here.  If you catch any mistakes or have any comments, please feel free to comment and let me know.  Thank you for reading!

it gets harder (to write)

§ 0

Most writers'/authors' blogs actually give writing advice, and I figured that I should probably do that too - give back to the people who've inspired and given me advice by passing it forward. But most of what I know has, of course, already been covered 1000000x on the internet and I don't think anybody wants to see it here again.

I do have a little bit of advice though that I think bears repeating, and that I don't see all the time.

The better you get at writing, the harder it becomes. You see all your pitfalls and mistakes (past and present) that much more clearly, and you feel that much more pressure to fix them, and that much more grief that things just don't seem to be as good as you know they can be.

But this is a good thing, because if you stop being able to see what's ahead of you, then that means you've gone as far as you can. Not that I think anybody ever needs to worry about reaching that point.  Remember what Murakami said: there exists no such thing as a perfect sentence. Just as there exists no such thing as perfect despair.

It gets harder, but it comes with the guarantee of getting better.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go beat my head against my laptop. Cheers!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011 § 0

I've updated my website with a page linking to some fiction that's been posted online.