Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Willis Wu is a first-generation Chinese American whose dream is to become a movie star. Not just any movie star, but the role of Kung Fu Guy—the pinnacle of Asian acting, according to childhood memories. It turns out those memories weren’t so off-base, at least in Hollywood, and Kung Fu Guy is hard to get as it is. Wu soon finds himself in an uphill battle to escape the role of Generic Asian Man, stuck as Guest Star in a crime TV series called Black and White with no room for Asian leads. Meanwhile, he watches the people in his life—father, mother, girlfriend—morphing between different roles and stereotypes, trying to find a good life for themselves and their families.

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October Catch-Up

It’s October already, one of my favorite months! And yet I feel its arrival with a mild dread….

To get the elephant out of the room: my blogging has been really sporadic this year, which I feel bad about. A combination of amping up my YouTube channel + shutdown + quarter-life crisis really threw me off track. I’ve also been working on my writing again (more about that soon!!), which is going to take a lot of time as well.

Recent Reads

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham – Often compared to The Great Gatsby, this novel is about a young man’s spiritual journey in the midst of mass consumerism and interpersonal drama, post-WWI. This was a great book. Very painful—gut-wrenching—but very great. The writing was not quite as tight as Gatsby, but I liked the quasi-realism of the narration, where Maugham inserted himself as the narrator and related the events in a very down-to-earth way. I plan to write one or two follow-up posts about The Razor’s Edge soon.

Kristin Lavransdatter, Book I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset – Another coming-of-age story, this one is about a young girl growing up in 14th-century Norway. I was underwhelmed by this novel and its characters, but it was pretty well-written historical fiction nonetheless. I will post a YouTube review this evening.

Current Reads

The Idiot (re-read) by Dostoyevsky – I have barely made any progress here, focusing more on Kristin and other books.

The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino – A collection of short stories; just started this one, too.

Maybe: Middlemarch by George Eliot – A few readers on YouTube/Instagram are reading Middlemarch this month, and I’d love to join in if I can find time…


My goal for the rest of the year is to just read more and focus on books I already own. Maybe I’ll even finish that Nikola Tesla biography. 😳

Along with that, I will post more book reviews and other blog topics!

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The Last Chapter – A Poem for Frodo

One of the things I owe to Tolkien is inspiring in me a love of poetry. Before I read The Lord of the Rings, I had little interest in reading poetry, let alone writing it. It was the poems of Middle Earth that changed my mind…the way he used poems and songs to emphasize the emotional moments just made it “click” for me.

Early during my poetry exploration, I wrote this poem about Frodo in Mordor. It’s not really how I write poetry anymore, but it was definitely inspired by Tolkien. This seems like the right time to share it. 🙂

The Last Chapter

I wander through this valley of gloom
Seeking the mountain of death
Where has fled my strength, I wonder?
Uttering life’s last breath

So close around is darkness
It is all I understand
The mist around me, in my eyes
The stench of evil land

My greatest hope is victory
A sunrise for my kin
White daisies in the pastures
And gentle summer wind

Nearer and closer have I come
The slopes are at my feet
Somewhere a tower looms in dusk
Waiting for my defeat

If I can but reach that summit
And set my people free
Then I shall die, content and ready
To face the silver sea

Marian H. Rowe
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Tolkien Blog Party 2020 – Tag!

It’s that time of year again—the annual Tolkien Blog Party hosted by Rachel at The Edge of the Precipice blog! I checked and the last time I participated was in 2017. 😮 I’m super excited to join in again this year with some Tolkien-themed posts, starting with this questionaire:

1. What Tolkien character do you think you’re the most like?
Probably Faramir. I can relate to his love of books and music but also having to do things in life he really doesn’t care for. I’m also very loyal, perhaps at times to a fault.

2. What Tolkien character do you wish you were more like?
I would like to be more like Bilbo! He’s got his life sorted out…well, at least till Gandalf showed up. And then after his adventures he comes back rich and settles down reasonably well. If that isn’t life goals, I don’t know what is.

3. What would your dream home in Middle-earth be like?
I would love to live in a tree house in Lothlorien as described in the books. It sounds so stress-free and peaceful! Also I don’t know why they made it blue and gloomy in the movie. It’s described in the book as all golden:

‘There lie the woods of Lothlórien!’ said Legolas. ‘That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey. So still our songs in Mirkwood say.’

The Fellowship of the Ring

4. You get to make a movie of the story of Beren and Luthien!  Who do you cast as the leads?
I have to admit, I have yet to read the book, and I tend to picture them as Aragorn and Arwen. 😉 But I would love to see Mia Wasikowska in a Tolkien film, so maybe I would cast her as Luthien. Unsure about Beren…

5. Have you ever marathoned the LOTR or Hobbit movies?
Not that I can remember, although that would be fun! I have watched them across several days though.

6. Do you have a favorite song or track from the movie soundtracks by Howard Shore?

I love the soundtracks so, so much, and it’s hard to pick one! The ring theme, however, is probably my top favorite. It’s so gorgeous and heartbreaking and mysterious all at once.

7. Which of Tolkien’s characters would you like to be best friends with?
I think Samwise is the obvious choice here!

8. Who of the people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?
Oh boy. 😆 Well, I love my family but I sure don’t want them to get hurt, so I would have to leave them behind. Of my friends… I guess I’d choose whoever can stand eating lembas for months! (Bonus points if they can speak Elvish.)

9. Have you read any of Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth works?

I read his Father Christmas letters years ago and found them delightful. I’ve also read his poem The Fall of Arthur which was really good!

10. Is there a book by Tolkien you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Pretty much all the remaining Middle Earth books. So far, I’ve just read LOTR, The Hobbit, and The Children of Hurin. I have The Fall of Gondolin on my shelf, though, waiting to be read!

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Lincoln in the Bardo (2017)

February, 1862. As music plays downstairs for the Lincolns’ party, “Willie” Lincoln lies in bed in the White House, slowly succumbing to a sudden fever. His father, tormented by the loss of his young son, begins to visit Willie’s body after it is laid to rest in the churchyard. What Lincoln doesn’t realize is that a crowd of departed souls is watching him—from a waiting place known as the Bardo—and moved by the love that is shown to the boy who has left the living world outside the iron gates. Thrown into action by the chance of returning to society, if through the grief-stricken Lincoln, the host of the ghostly figures attempts to bring about his intervention in their present circumstances, while reminiscing about the lives they left behind.

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