California Literary Review


100 Greatest Gangster Films: Infernal Affairs, #41


January 17th, 2013

Martin Scorsese used this movie as the framework for The Departed. And while Infernal Affairs has received high praise and dozens of awards, the feeling here is that Scorsese took an interesting plot and made it into a classic film.

Book Review: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng


September 10th, 2012

The Garden of Evening Mists is set in three inter-linked time frames. Past and present struggle to reconcile Yun Ling’s memories of wartime suffering and loss. But Yun Ling is faced by a cruel dilemma. Soon she will no longer have a future. Her brilliant, sensitive mind is slowly deteriorating from an incurable neurological disease. Oblivion will settle Yun Ling’s efforts to find inner peace if she does not achieve it first.

Art Review: Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery Princeton University Art Museum


August 6th, 2012

Zhang transformed Mr. Quaker into Chairman Mao five years after he emigrated to the United States. The birth of Chinese “Political Pop” took place in his New York studio. This is an ironical state of affairs, all the more apparent in Six Pack of Kekou Kele, created in 2002. Is Zhang commenting here on the way that China’s millennia-old civilization is being crassly mass-marketed to enhance its leading role in the global economy? Or is it a subtle indictment of the West’s heedless consumerism, so oblivious to culture that it can appreciate nothing unless it is a familiar brand product beckoning from the supermarket shelf?

100 Greatest Gangster Films: The Killer, #90


February 9th, 2012

To some fans, The Killer represents the apex of his career—before he went too commercial. It’s got a solid storyline and strong acting. But it’s mostly a lavishly staged ballet of bullets and blood. Guns blaze in slow motion. Bodies fly through the air. This is high-octane violence in a way that makes your typical Sly Stallone or Steven Seagal fare look like Mary Poppins.

Art Review: Two Chinese Exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum


January 3rd, 2012

This was a world in which the color of the glass finial on one’s hat indicated with precision one’s rank at court; in which the bird or animal embroidered in silk and gold thread on a silken badge indicated a civil or military official’s place in the hierarchy. (Degrees of civil officialdom were represented by birds such as cranes or pheasants, while military rank was indicated by fiercer animals, such as tigers, leopards, lions, and the legendary quilin.)

Theater Review: Chinglish


November 7th, 2011

Only whipsmart playwright David Henry Hwang could have written Chinglish, the new biting comedy of manners that depicts the gulf between Chinese and American cultures through the misadventures of language in translation.

The Travels of Marco Polo Translated by W. Marsden


July 14th, 2009

It seems that world is more fantastic than our own travel brochures today can suggest for comfortable tourists. There has never been such an extensive realm, nor one with such an incredible structure of rapid communication over thousands of miles. Commerce thrived from Persia to Java, and one reason that may account for it, was order — and a flat tax of 10%. The law was strict and strictly administered everywhere, which was a marvel to Polo, in comparison with fractious Europe.

Falling off the Edge: Travels Through the Dark Heart of Globalization by Alex Perry


February 16th, 2009

Perry describes a world without a middle class, a world in which, according to 2006 statistics, one percent of the world’s adults own forty percent of all global assets. The richest ten percent own eighty-five percent, while the poorest half own less than one percent.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor: Understanding India


October 8th, 2008

“India is a status-quo power: it wants nothing that Pakistan has. Pakistan’s rulers, however, are obsessed with Kashmir, which they have repeatedly tried and failed to wrest from India through war and militancy, and with a desire to “cut India down to size” by bleeding it through terrorism. What needs to happen is for a new political culture to prevail in Pakistan, one that privileges peace, dialogue, co-operation, tourism and trade instead of resentment, bigotry, militarism, intolerance and violence.”

High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed


May 15th, 2008

All of this pales in comparison to the obscene madness that has now become the fate of Base Camp at Mount Everest. The 8,000-meter peaks of the Himalayas have become the unfortunate repositories for what is repugnant about human nature with very little innate goodness surviving. Dying climbers pushed aside, ignored and denied medical help while their equipment is stolen, greedy guides unethical to the point of criminal, drugs, alcoholism, prostitution – hell this could just as well be inner city New York or Saigon as 20,000 feet above sea level in what used to be one of the most remote landscapes on earth. Everest has become the poster child for this debauchery.

The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction from Contemporary China


May 5th, 2008

Flash fiction, or the “smoke-long story,” or the “skinny story,” as it is sometimes called in China, is short, true. But as anyone who has tried to write a thank you card knows, brevity ain’t easy. Nor is it truly fair to view this book as a kind of primer on all thoughts Chinese. After all, one doesn’t expect E. Annie Proulx’s work to bear much relation to T.C. Boyle’s, despite the shared vocabulary.

Parag Khanna Discusses The Second World


March 4th, 2008

“Around the entire world what I see is Europe and China investing into and buying greater shares of foreign economies—and thus gaining significant political and even military leverage over them—at our expense. Power has to be a fair balance among a range of tools, including the military, in order to be used effectively. We’re not doing that now, and I don’t see a good strategy coming out of Washington as to how to do it better.”

Daughter of Heaven by Nigel Cawthorne


December 5th, 2007

In a shocking and vaguely incestuous move, she seduced T’ai-tsung’s son, the Emperor Kao-tsung, and from there used a combination of feminine wile and strong arming to claim the throne of one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen.

An Interview With Novelist Nicole Mones


June 20th, 2007

“I know food is hot right now – we have the Food Network – but believe me, in Western civilization we have never elevated cuisine historically to the level of art, to which it’s been elevated in China. But through learning about Chinese food, and through her encounters with this man and his family, and his effort to compete in an Olympics of cuisine, in the 2008 games, she learns about life.”

A Grand Tour of Asia – by Hania Tallmadge and Beverley Jackson


May 27th, 2007

I’m not sure what category A Grand Tour of Asia by Hania Tallmadge and Beverley Jackson should be put in. It’s certainly not a novel or narrative non-fiction or even a coffee table book (unless a downsized model). Other than the fact that it has a hardcover and pages inside, I’m not all that sure this one is really a book.

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