Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Beauty And The Wonder

Tai Dong Huai keeps a low profile, and has no blog or website that I could find. Her work stands alone, and it’s really something. I’m a long-time fan of her writing, and enjoy returning to her stories again and again. Read one of my favorites here.

There seems to be some affinity between Irish and Chinese writers and their diaspora? I’m also thinking of Yiyun Li, a formidable woman and writer. She often credits Irish writers, William Trevor in particular, as being major influences on her work.

Country and family are central to Irish and Chinese stories. Our stories try to force answers and demand accountability from both. The Irish and Chinese also share haunted histories and reticent cultures. We try to unlock all of that too in our work.

The Irish reticent? We’re largely known for our hospitality, merry-making, smooth-talking, and wicked sense of humor, but that’s a persona. At heart, we’re a reticent culture. I point to my recent attempt to hug my dad on first seeing him in Ireland last month. He met me at his front door, and as I reached for him, he turned away and continued down the hall. I’d have felt hurt, only I knew his reaction had nothing to do with me and everything to do with his inability to show affection. And he’s the norm versus the exception, at least of his generation. A garrulous generation, but never about matters of the heart.

Years ago, at the end of another visit, I summoned the courage to tell my dad that I loved him. He said: “you’re living in America too long.” Now that delivered a sting, but again I knew not to take it personally. He loves me (as best he can). Yet I will never hear him tell me as much. That’s just the way it is.

Not sure how I got from Tai Dong Huai to my dad, but isn’t that the beauty and the wonder of writing?

Speaking of beauty and wonder, PANK just announced their Best of Net 2009 nominations, a list that is delightfully poet-heavy, and which also includes the rocking writers Tania Hershman and Tim Jones-Yelvington. Fantastic. Congratulations one and all.


  1. Probably one of the most haunting -- and tear-producing phrases in the English language is "as best he can." We can never expect for more than a person can give, but oh, do we hope and long for it.

    I feel all too keenly that sting.

    Thank you so much for the introduction to Tai Dong Huai. From the story you linked, I went on to this one, and -- wow. Some good stuff.

  2. Hi Tanita, thanks as always for everything. So glad I introduced you to Tai Dong Huai. Both she and Thieves Jargon are fearless :-)

  3. Tai Dong Huai is really good. And you're absolutely right: We Irish are reticent, but writing is at least an attempt to burst through the cocoons we weave around ourselves...

  4. Hi Eric,

    "but writing is at least an attempt to burst through the cocoons we weave around ourselves ..." Nice. True.

  5. Thanks, Ethel, for the mention! Congrats all!

  6. You're so welcome, Tania. Well done!