Results for “fuchsia dunlop”
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My favorite things China

1. Novel: Soul Mountain, by Gao Xingjian.  Parts of Dream of the Red Chamber are splendid, but it is hard to keep track of the whole thing and also I wonder whether any of the available editions in English are satisfactory.

2. Movie: The Story of Qiu Ju.  A real charmer.

3. Comedian: Jackie Chan.

4. Movie, set in, but not a Chinese movie: How about TranssiberianShanghai Noon?  Are any of those old movies set in China any good?

5. Book, non-fiction: James Fallows, China Airborne.  I am also a fan of the book where the guy drives a car around China.  The Private Life of Chairman Mao is a stunner, maybe the best book I know on tyranny.

6. Book, set in, fiction (not by Chinese author): Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China.  Pearl Buck I find boring.

7. Sculpture: Tang horses, some images are here.

8. Contemporary Chinese artist: Cai Guo-Qiang, images here.  His one man show at the Guggenheim is one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever seen.  Try this video, apologies for the ad at the beginning.

9. Chinese traditional music: I am interested in Chinese opera, but don’t quite feel I’ve heard the real thing.  I once heard an electrified performance, but my sense is the music is all about the timbre and needs to be heard in an nowadays-almost-impossible-to-achieve setting, given that I am not a 17th century Chinese noble.  Any advice?  By the way, here is a good article on recent developments in Chinese (semi-classical) music.

10. Cookbooks: Fuchsia Dunlop’s two Chinese cookbooks are not only two of the best cookbooks ever they are two of the best books ever.

11. Best book about Chinese fiction: Sabina Knight, Chinese Literature: A Very Short Introduction.  This short book is a marvel of economy, substance, and style.

12. Pianist: Yundi Li, try this video of Chopin’s 2nd Scherzo.

13. Architect: I.M. Pei.  We have friends who live in a Pei-designed house, and it is splendid.

14. Movie director: John Woo was born in China.  The Killer might be his best movie, but Once a Thief is arguably the most underrated.  WindTalkers is quite good too and also underrated.

I am not counting either Hong Kong or Taiwan for these categories.  I also am not counting American-born, ethnic Chinese, such as Maya Lin.  And J.G. Ballard was born in Shanghai, but what category do I put him in?


The Economist has a new travel blog, the new Fuchsia Dunlop book is only "good," the first issue of Reason magazine under new editor Matt Welch is out (so far I like it; it’s less cultural, less left-wing and more current affairsy than before), finally I am into Wilco, Vishnu’s Crowded Temple is an interesting account of the blend between Indian politics and religion, Arthur Brooks’s Gross National Happiness argues that the traditional conservative recipe makes people happy, Ramon Llull is a much underrated medieval thinker, here’s a blog on giving away your rebate, and here’s Ryan Holiday on how to master what you read; his technique is the opposite of mine which is simply to read and move on.  And here is why congestion pricing died in New York.

Scream it from the Rooftops

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by Fuchsia Dunlop, due out in mid-April.

She is one of the writers I revere most.  And yes, I know she is usually a cookbook writer, but I do mean her writing, not just her recipes.  The more general point is you should expect to see many of the best writers, today, in new media and genres, not in the old.  I saw notice of this, by the way, in the vastly superior to almost anything else London Review of Books.

What I’ve been reading

1. Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop.  The other night I made a sauce with five chopped green onions, blended to a smooth paste with one tablespoon sichuan peppers (first dunked into hot water).  Add three tablespoons chicken stock, one teaspoon light soy sauce, one and one half teaspoons sesame oil.  Apply to cooked chicken.  More generally, buy Chinese cooking wine and black (Chinese) vinegar and you are almost ready to go.

2. Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, seventh edition.  This is not just a reference work, it is also the best book on jazz, period.  The main drawback is a lack of material on Norwegian jazz, a recent interest of mine.

3. This NYT article on previously-covered Dana Schutz.  Or try this article on nuns and the origins of reggae.

4. Recent books by Julian Barnes and Zadie Smith, while entertaining enough, won’t attract interest thirty years from now.  Question: What is the optimal lag time before deciding a work of fiction is worth reading?  Few novels require urgent reading, so how about fifteen years?  Why do I violate this rule so regularly?

5. Swallowing Clouds: A Playful Journey Through Chinese Culture, Language, and Cuisine, by A. Zee.  This unique book lives up to its subtitle; it teaches you how to make sense of Chinese characters, how the Chinese think about food, and how it all fits into a bigger picture.

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