Fact, Fiction, or the Gospel Truth?

Let’s talk about bells for a minute. We all have some experience with bells. I know of a little glass one, for example, that was rung discretely at a Central Park West dining table to beckon the servant. And another that jingled so engagingly when a particular pastry shop door opened on the Left Bank […]

Be Doing

It isn’t true, as some maintain, that the Chinese language has no tenses. I could, if I wanted, and especially if I studied harder, convey my sentiments of past events or future expectations. But the tense I particularly admire, and an easy one to use, relies on uses the word zai, said like you mean […]

What’s Important?

At the café the other day, a writer-friend of mine named Bill noted the approach of his 65th birthday and announced that it was time to let go of everything except what was valuable. If it didn’t have value, he didn’t want to do it anymore. This made very good sense to me and I […]

What’s in a Name?

The novelist, film director, and screen writer John Sayles once told me that if he had his way, he’d name all his characters Ed. It’s so short, he said. He had things to say. Why type out a Sebastian or a Giancarlo when you just want to get to it? Compare this to the experience […]

Three Writing Principles a Long Way Downstream

There is a certain amount of wisdom in this life that filters in from the strangest, least anticipated directions, and even more surprising, ends up informing one’s work. I have come by three writing principles this way, through tributaries that emanated from a single wellspring, a man I met in pre-Tiananmen Beijing: Mr. C. C. […]

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